A 22-year veteran of RPS, Duffy was RPS’s vice president of market relations before taking on his latest role. Therefore, retail brokers should not expect a radical change in strategy under the new head of the division, with former head Chris Leis heading to Nationwide earlier this year.
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Organic growth, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), operational efficiency and culture will remain high on the RPS Signature Programs agenda.
“If you take any strategy that we’re going to put together to grow our business, it’s going to fit into one of those four,” Duffy said. “If you stick to this knitting of yours, it will generally work out.”
Over the last 18 months, the business, part of the brokerage giant Gallagherhas developed four new and two related programs – a “pretty good” number, according to Duffy – and they cover the spectrum of professional liability lawyers, errors and omissions insurance agents and brokers (E&O), real estate agents E&O and appraisers E&O, with the addition of new carriers for professional liability lawyers and social services.
“We have invested in this area [of program development]working with our subsidiaries or with retail customers who have experience and want to work with us,” Duffy said.
E-commerce has been a hit for the business, with $400 million in premiums placed through it since launch and two of the latest RPS Signature Programs products available online.
“I’m not big on distribution,” Duffy said. “We can just look at a product and say, ‘OK, this is a friction-filled transaction, so let’s see if we can put it in e-commerce and get rid of the friction,’ or there’s just a place where you go, ‘It’s a smaller premium player, so we need to be able to turn it without friction,” so we like it.
“But we also know that part of the programs is to bring underwriting experience to carriers that don’t have it and to customers that don’t have it, so it’s much more traditional delegated authority — I don’t care, frankly, either one is fine “.
RPS’s software business has a $1 billion premium to look at when thinking about developing a product for classes or niches, and it can draw on information from its subsidiaries, but ultimately decisions need to be taken into account the client, and this in part, relies on its customer relations team to “pump data” back to help find gaps in the market.
“You have to be able to understand what your customer needs at the moment,” Duffy said.
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With inflation, the affordability of reinsurance, nuclear verdicts and the risk of catastrophe increasing pressure on the broader market, there is no shortage of challenges facing insurance companies today.
“[For] All of these factors, as they are a challenge for program industry operators and administrators, are important to make sure you are adequately getting the right rate,” Duffy said.
“The other thing probably has to do with the terms you offer – do I offer something that will protect me in the event of a claim, or do I limit and tailor the coverage […] or I offer something so broad that it doesn’t really matter what the claim is – I pay for it.
“What you’re seeing is obviously the rates are going up, the terms and conditions are definitely getting tighter; this is the only way some risky actors can expand their opportunities.’
Another challenge for any buying business is competition, which remains fierce in the specialty insurance M&A industry.
Duffy, however, was confident that RPS would continue to be attractive to future sellers.
“I can build on my company, which has M&A in its DNA,” Duffy said.
Buyers flocked to the market while multiple stocks were “extremely competitive”.
“Ten years ago, you could work with five or six people; now there can literally be 12 qualified brokers or buyers,” Duffy said.
Not every potential acquisition target is created equal, and those that have already proven they can attract capacity after an operator exits may prove more desirable to a mature buyer such as RPS.
“Some of these new program managers are pretty new; one of the things i would like to say is that they haven’t even gone through their first operator change, that means the operator decides to leave [and they have to replace them]”,
“To give multiples of 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 times and maybe not have a track record — we’re going to be conservative on some of them.”