The closing of a calendar year often sparks a period of widespread optimism. Whatever happened over the past 12 months, January 01 is a fresh start and an opportunity to breathe new life into a business. And for some in the US insurance industry, 2020 promises to be a fruitful and exciting year.
It’s widely accepted that the US property / casualty marketplace is somewhat firming, more so in sectors like property, general liability, and certain financial and professional lines. As standard lines carriers tweak their risk appetites, this is creating opportunities for excess and surplus (E&S) lines players to step in, provide additional capacity, and find unique insurance solutions in an ever-evolving risk landscape.
Northfield Excess & Surplus Lines, a division of Travelers, is one such E&S provider targeting growth prospects through 2020. The opportunities for growth are plentiful, according to president Eric Blecker, in terms of geography, class of business, insurance distribution, and finding new solutions for emerging risks like the sharing economy, the gig economy, and so on.
He told Insurance Business: “We certainly look at the market as an opportunity for us to grow. With Northfield being part of the broader Travelers organization, we have access to a lot of support, stability, financial wherewithal, a fantastic claims organization, and a fantastic risk control organization. To some degree, we’re a little underpenetrated in the E&S space, but we’ve been actively looking to grow our business over the last three or four years, and I think we’ve been successful in doing that.
“We’re principally a commercial property and GL market today. In the confines of those two lines of business, we see growth opportunities in a lot of places. We’re looking at things like pricing and policy terms and conditions to see if we can add business to our books that will be profitable in the long-term. The opportunities to do that are all over the place. It’s geographic; it’s class of business; and our success will revolve around the blocking and tackling of how we win that business.”
Achieving successful and sustainable growth in a firming marketplace requires “a systematic approach,” according to Blecker. He stated simply that if Northfield doesn’t get the rate or the terms and conditions that they want for a specific risk, they’ll step away or will accept being less competitive in those environments than other players.
“The general feel in the market is that rates probably need a bit of upward movement,” Blecker added. “We certainly support that, and we’re not the only folks that are talking about a need for some firming in the marketplace. Moving forwards, we hope that our competitors take the same thoughtful approach in how they go to market.
“At the same time, it’s important to set expectations with our distribution partners so that there aren’t any surprises as the market changes. At Northfield, we try to be as transparent as we can about our view of the world. We try to be a transparent market and a responsive market for our distribution partners. We want to deliver a sense that we’re a customer-centric and solution-oriented company, and we’re open to having candid conversations with the wholesale distributors that we transact business with.”