Building "a fine-tuned Swiss watch" of a specialty insurance business

Building "a fine-tuned Swiss watch" of a specialty insurance business | Insurance Business America

Building "a fine-tuned Swiss watch" of a specialty insurance business

“If people want to come to a fine-tuned Swiss watch, this is probably not the place to be. But if they want to help build a fine-tuned Swiss watch, this is a great place to be.”

That’s how Lisa Davis (pictured) refers to Canopius Group’s burgeoning USA business, which recently secured an agreement with Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance (SFMI), Canopius Group’s substantial minority shareholder and business partner, to underwrite US admitted business on its highly rated A++ paper.

This is the latest milestone in Canopius USA’s quick evolution since Davis joined the firm as president and chief underwriting officer in September 2020. A 30-year insurance veteran and experienced leader in the US specialty insurance industry, Davis was hired with the remit of bringing Canopius’s existing US business units together, and building a specialty insurance company with a flexible and entrepreneurial spirit, backed by the strength and stability of multiple world-class insurance platforms.

Prior to Davis’s appointment, Canopius was operating in the US via two distinct platforms: Canopius US Insurance, Inc. (CUSI), an insurance company licensed in all 50 states that writes excess and surplus (E&S) lines binding authority business through select distribution partners; and Canopius Underwriting Agency, Inc. (CUAI), an MGA, underwriting solutions for open market property, ocean marine, management & professional lines, and cyber business.  

“There was not a lot of interaction between the organizations [CUSI and CUAI], and as we look to grow in the US, we identified a need to bring everything together,” said Davis. “That’s what I was hired to do. We’ve been working on that for the past year, and I feel like we’re in a really good spot in terms of connecting all the dots together.”

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Over the past few years, Canopius USA has achieved significant growth in gross written premium (GWP), jumping from approximately $100 million across CUSI and CUAI in 2019 to $200 million by the end of 2020, and the business is now on track to close 2021 with about $400 million in GWP.

“We’re in the process right now of putting together our full five-year plan for the US that will encompass additional growth, with a goal of getting us to somewhere around $1.5 billion or $2 billion GWP over the next five years. So, it’s ambitious,” Davis told Insurance Business. “[At present] we’re tiny in the US, but that really opens up a lot of opportunity because when you’re small, there’s a lot of things you obviously haven’t explored yet.

“We’re in the process of exploring: How do we grow the lines that we’re currently in? Are there adjacent lines we can add to that? Are there things we can do more on admitted paper that we haven’t really had the ability to do in the past? It’s a combination of all those three things that [will enable us] to make that real growth trajectory.”

As a first step under the agreement with SFMI, the ocean marine and management & professional lines teams of CUAI will write admitted business using SFMI’s paper. This complements Canopius USA’s existing ability to write non-admitted business through CUSI and Canopius Lloyd’s Syndicate 4444.

“My vision for Canopius USA as an organization is really to be able to write on Lloyd’s paper, other non-admitted paper, as well as SFMI paper,” said Davis. “I think it gives us a really distinct opportunity in the specialty market to really have multiple platforms, multiple distributions, and really concentrate on following and finding solutions for different niche areas.

“We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We’re really trying to set up something that’s a little bit more boutique and focused on specific risks. What we’re looking to do, and what we can do, is build really deep expertise in a few areas, and then use that as our base jumping off point [for] adjacent lines of business. We differentiate ourselves by being nimble, responding quickly [to the market], and developing products in partnerships.”

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The finalization of the admitted partnership with SFMI will fuel Canopius USA’s plans to expand its offerings in the specialty insurance market. Currently they include open market property, ocean marine, management and professional and cyber business distributed through a broad range of insurance market intermediaries including retail and wholesale agents and brokers. Canopius USA also supports additional lines including property, general liability, auto and surety through partnerships with specialized MGAs.

While Canopius USA is a relatively young firm in the grand scheme of things, Davis insists it is not a start-up. “We’re not starting from scratch like so many others in the class of 2020,” she said, referring to Canopius USA’s parent company Canopius Group, a global specialty (re)insurer with underwriting operations in Australia, Bermuda, China, Singapore, the UK and US, as well as its relationships with Lloyd’s and established partners like SFMI.

“We already have a strong base, and now we’re ramping up what we’ve been doing with more focus. I think that that gives us a little bit of an edge over some of the other folks out there that are trying to make every step all at once,” said Davis. “We’ve already made the baby steps, and now we’re looking to really accelerate and grow.”