AFRICAN REINSURER ONE RE ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF NICHOLAS DAVENPORT AS CHAIRMAN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. HE SUCCEEDS GILLES BONVARLET WHO, AFTER SUCCESSFULLY STEERING THE COMPANY THROUGH ITS START UP PHASE, HAS DECIDED TO STEP DOWN FROM THE BOARD.
Nicholas Davenport spent nearly 30 years at Willis, where he was a board member of both group operating companies, wholesale and retail, as well as a number of overseas offices. He was a director responsible for Africa for 10 of those years. More recently he was a board member of Chubb Europe. In addition to his role at One Re he is currently Chairman of a Lloyd’s managing agent and Board member of a French Insurance Company.
He has a particular affinity for both Francophone and Anglophone Africa, having travelled extensively across the continent in the early part of his career as a reinsurance broker.
CEO, Andrew Lewis, said “following a successful 2017 renewal season we are delighted to have Nicholas at the helm to steer us through our next phase of growth which we anticipate will be significant in the next few years. Nicholas has an unparalleled knowledge of Africa and many of the friendships that he has forged in the continent over the years have remained strong to this day.”
Mr Davenport paid tribute to his predecessor, Gilles Bonvarlet, for guiding the company through the tricky start-up phase and for laying such a solid foundation upon which the company can now build. He said “I am excited about the prospect of working with the One Re team as I can see enormous potential for a new entrant African specialist reinsurer in the coming years”.
LONDON, 1st November (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has assigned UK-based One Re Ltd (One Re) an Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) Rating of ‘BBB-‘ with a Stable Outlook.
KEY RATING DRIVERS The rating reflects One Re’s strong capitalisation – which Fitch expects to be maintained – a strong regulatory environment in the UK and the company’s experienced management team with a strong track record in the African insurance markets. The rating is limited by the company’s start-up nature, small size and scale and weak profitability, which Fitch expects to improve as the company grows.
One Re is a small, specialised London-based reinsurer underwriting short-tail non-life risks in sub-Saharan-Africa. It began underwriting in 2015 following the approval of its licence in the UK.
One Re CEO, Andrew Lewis, said, “we are encouraged with this rating which indicates our strategy of being London based is working, giving us the financial credibility and transparency which is lacking on the African continent.
We believe this rating puts us in an excellent position for considerable growth in the 2017 underwriting year and we look forward to working closely with our African Cedent Partners and our brokers to provide secure Reinsurance support.”
MANY POSITIVE SIGNS
ALEX ST JAMES,
Chief Operating and Underwriting Officer at One Re, London
The outlook for Africa’s economies and for its insurance industry does not appear to be particularly bright at the moment; however there are many positive signs for the continent’s economies, the local insurance and reinsurance markets and the international reinsurance industry.
Despite a worldwide softening of the market, due to a benign natural catastrophe experience and a glut of global capacity fuelled by a lack of investment return in more traditional markets, insurers and reinsurers are able to produce respectable underwriting results and growth. Merger and acquisition activity is high in the international insurance industry, however this activity is, rather than a means to realising cost savings, driven by a need for growth and distribution channels and platforms giving access to new markets. As Europe implements Solvency II, and the rest of the world implements similar risk based capital assessment regulations, international insurers and reinsurers are focused on not only the quality of new business they write, but the quality of the companies and markets in which they do business.
CHANGE OF FOCUS
For African firms, the introduction by African regulators of solvency tests using risk based capital models, as is the case in South Africa with SAM, besides improving the transparency of local insurers’ balance sheets, will require a more international view of the approach to risk transfer and the quality of reinsurance protection these companies acquire. In addition, this has the effect of introducing a time consuming client approval process, enhanced due diligence checks, sanctions screening of directors and shareholders, politically exposed persons, through a risk averse compliance department and where reinsurers view the political risks, security risks and default risks as high. The seeds planted in the African economy over the last 15 years appeared to be strongly rooted in fertile soil, and therefore Africa was seen to be resilient to external and worldwide market forces. However, Africa must now contend with a global commodity price downturn alongside crippling power shortages, political uncertainty and instability, high levels of foreign debt and currency devaluations. The outlook for Africa’s economy and growth from rating agencies, fund managers and economic analysts seems to be entirely negative.
WHAT THEN FOR THE AFRICAN (RE) INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
The Sub Saharan Africa reinsurance space is characterised by a high level of competition amongst both local and regional reinsurers for what business they can secure locally, through either compulsory cessions or minimum local retention requirements on the part of the cedents. The benefits of Africa’s growth over the past 15 years, largely fuelled by a resource boom, and the absence of any significant catastrophe losses has also benefitted the African insurance industry as a whole. Over the past few years African reinsurers in search of additional growth and portfolio diversification have expanded their territorial underwriting to include countries such as the Middle East, India, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Nepal. Increasingly, African reinsurers are looking to become global reinsurers. However, poorly conceived underwriting strategies on the part of these reinsurers has not produced the desired underwriting results, with the result that well written and profitable African business has become tainted by exposure to catastrophe exposures not considered in either their pricing models or retrocession purchase costs.
MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS
Insurers too have looked to show increased growth through the expansion of territorial underwriting scope by offering facultative inwards shares of business across borders and into neighbouring territories. The larger insurance groups, who wish to establish a truly Pan African footprint, are acquiring operations in new countries at an unprecedented level and paying unprecedented premium values to do so. However, the differing regulatory approaches across many markets, various capital and solvency requirements, compulsory retentions and cessions means that there is seldom a one size fits all operating standard, underwriting approach or group reinsurance arrangement. The lack of a vast pool of industry professionals puts a high cost burden on companies to introduce best practice standards across their undertakings.
African insurers and reinsurers have suffered from credit control problems for many years, which has in many markets had immediate impact on insurers who have been forced to write off large amounts of uncollected premium as new accounting standards and legislation are introduced. International reinsurers, besides finding reinsurance premiums difficult to collect from African cedents, are also being affected by the illiquidity of foreign exchange reserves across Africa, with many local insurers finding it almost impossible to obtain sufficient forex with which to meet their reinsurance treaty and facultative obligations.
African governments have a mandate to increase the level of local inclusion in trade and industry, create jobs and distribute wealth locally. Insurance and reinsurance is not seen as a special case requiring a separate approach to achieving this and the transfer of risk and premium externally from African markets is seen as an undesirable export of hard currency, job opportunities and corporate tax that is vital to the local economy. Regulatory supervision and enforcement is increasingly moving towards ensuring wider market stability rather than acting upon the individual transgressions of insurers. New premium collection rules, rating tariffs and steering committees, regulatory approval of reinsurance contracts, severe regulatory fines and sanctions for regulatory transgressions for both local and international insurers and reinsurers, and perhaps most importantly the emergence across Africa, following South Africa’s lead, to a risk based approach to solvency. The hardening of the African regulatory environment is a force for good, ensuring that local markets are protected against their own
competitiveness which is necessary given an oversupply of local insurance that is evidenced by the number of insurers operating in relatively small markets. New entrants to the markets, particularly international companies with deep pockets, are now unable to loss lead in order to gain market share and are forced to compete on a level playing field. International insurers who provide global programs to large multinational organisations may decry the interference by regulators in local risk placement where minimum retentions are set and in many cases, compulsory reinsurance cessions are required, before international reinsurance is approved and authorised by the regulators. Nevertheless, there is a need for this level of regulatory oversight as African insurance markets have for many years accepted fronting arrangements on large risks in return for a small fee or a commission with little or no participation in the risk itself. Global reinsurers are operating under decreasing operating margins, with investment income curtailed, and increased competition from new capacity providers, however reinsurers are still maintaining positive growth and producing solid underwriting results in what is viewed to be a soft market. Whilst It is true that there is an unprecedented supply of capacity for global natural catastrophe protection, and such supply has caused a softening in global reinsurance markets, this seems a logical development in a world of increasing urbanisation, higher than ever concentrations of people and property in mega cities that are themselves expanding to become vast metropolises, and an increasing certainty that natural catastrophes will be of a greater magnitude in terms of financial impact in the future. Therefore, as the global economy grows, so too must global reinsurance capacity.
International reinsurers and insurers looking to do business in Africa have to be aware of local insurance legislation and the impact of contravention for both them and their clients. The compliance requirements of sanctions checking, enhanced due diligence and Anti Bribery & Corruption policies make client approval processes more extensive than ever before. The UK modern slavery act, has implications for UK domiciled insurers and reinsurers insuring the extraction or shipment of minerals whose provenance is uncertain. For African insurers, awareness of regulatory changes in international markets is equally important. For instance when contracting with UK domiciled firms, amendments to the Insurance Act 2015 set to be implemented in 2016, will require a greater burden of disclosure on the part of reinsureds choosing to enter into reinsurance contracts which are subject to English law and jurisdiction. The economic outlook for Africa, despite strong headwinds such as the continued devaluation of local currencies and the threat of sovereign downgrades, remains positive. Africa’s growth forecasts are still higher than those in the developed world and infrastructural investment, despite slowing, has not stopped all together. The levels of foreign investment into Africa have continued to grow steadily year on year and ever larger levels of investments and project values will require ever increasing access to international capacity. In the short term, the outlook for 2016 reinsurance is business as usual; global reinsurers are increasingly looking to enhance their distribution channels across emerging markets.
Africa remains an opportunity to acquire business that is often better rated than that in more developed markets with a larger demand for proportional facultative capacity. African insurers who have remained focused on their core markets and have consistently produced profitable accounts will continue to be attractive propositions to treaty reinsurers. The increasing awareness of aggregated exposures, and risk based capital, will drive a heightened demand for capital protection in the form of non-proportional risk and catastrophe treaty reinsurance.
The outlook from One Re’s point of view remains entirely positive, Africa is where our home and hearts remain and, as an entirely African focused reinsurer, the stability and resilience of the African insurance industry is a vested interest. The benefit of twenty years of ownership and operation of insurance and reinsurance companies across Africa means that we are all too aware of the significant challenges, obstacles and risks that both our clients and we face when operating in this environment.
Having experienced many of these challenges ourselves and paid our school fees along the way, we are
able to appropriately calibrate our risk model to see far more opportunity than threat for the future.
As published in the December 2015 issue of Cover Magazine.
London, 2015 – Castel Underwriting Agencies (Castel), the MGA platform has today launched its first corporate underwriting cell, working with One Re, a specialist African focused reinsurer, to target facultative reinsurance business across Sub-Saharan Africa.
One Facultative Acceptances will be underwriting property and engineering facultative reinsurance portfolios for African-domiciled businesses.
The capacity is led by A+ security rated XL Re Europe SE (an XL Catlin reinsurance company) and supported by international company market security with a minimum rating of A+.
Mark Birrell, Chief Executive Officer of Castel, said: “One Facultative Acceptances marks an important strategic development for Castel. The launch of our first corporate underwriting cell is evidence of the robustness of our model and the appetite we have for growth across a variety of MGA underwriting businesses.
“With the support of our capacity, One Facultative Acceptances will look to take full advantage of the demand for reinsurance in this fast growing part of the world.”
Andrew Lewis, Chief Executive Officer of One Re, added: “Africa offers excellent opportunities if you know how to operate in its unique environment. The launch of One Facultative Acceptances combines our 20 years’ of African experience with exceptional global capacity and security, offering the London market a unique African risk solution, reaffirming our commitment to supporting Africa’s continuing success.”
David Watson, Chief Executive, Reinsurance, EMEA and International Casualty at XL Catlin added: “We see Africa as a dynamic and growing marketplace. To develop this business with experienced professionals such as Andrew and the team at One Re is a unique opportunity for us as we continue to build out our geographic footprint.”
One Facultative Acceptances will sit alongside Castel’s established underwriting cells Altitude Risk Partners, Newbridge and Medical & Commercial International.
One Facultative Acceptances is a division of Castel Underwriting Agencies Limited. For more information visit www.oneacceptances.com
Castel Underwriting Agencies Limited, a member of the Barbican Insurance Group of companies, is a managing general agent (MGA) and club-style MGA formation platform focused on achieving success and driving innovation through collaboration. It provides experienced and entrepreneurial underwriters with stable capacity and a fast-track route to creating their own businesses. Castel is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
About the XL Catlin Reinsurance Operations
The XL Catlin reinsurance companies are among the world’s leading reinsurers. They offer products that include aerospace, property, casualty, marine and specialty. The world’s top insurers choose XL Catlin to help move their businesses forward. To learn more, visit xlcatlin.com.
About XL Catlin
XL Catlin is the global brand used by XL Group plc’s (NYSE:XL) insurance and reinsurance companies which provide property, casualty, professional and specialty products to industrial, commercial and professional firms, insurance companies and other enterprises throughout the world. Clients look to XL Catlin for answers to their most complex risks and to help move their world forward. To learn more, visit xlcatlin.com.
Reinsurance, facultative, Africa, property, engineering, Castel, MGA