Fri, 27/03/2015 - 13:05
Current Issue 54
Refined Focus for Niche Underwriters
After identifying a gap in the South African market for short term insurance, Natsure has a solid business strategy that will take the UMA to new heights
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Callum Philp
Natsure is a niche, specialist short term insurance business that operates predominantly through Underwriting Management Agencies (UMAs), with roots tracing back to underwriting in the hospitality and homeowner industries. The company has changed its whole structure from Natsure Insurance eight years ago to address a gap in the market for short term underwriting, which is an area that Executive Director, Tersia Davey believes is one of growing interest.
“In South Africa, you have the opportunity to be an underwriting manager and we do this via our wholly-owned Guardrisk Cell Captive arrangement, which means we can inject our own style and formulate our own risk appetite into our product offering. We are also tribunalised by Lloyd’s and an underwriter for two Lloyd’s syndicates, Amlin and Marketform,” explains Davey.
The company has a myriad of niche insurance products including; aviation, engineering, renewable energy, construction guarantees and bonds, general and professional indemnity liability insurance, personal accident, goods and transit, marine, court bonds, liquidation bonds, cyber liability, short term rental deposit guarantees and insurance for the leisure vehicle owner (caravan and content insurance).
Due to changing legislations in insurance practices across South Africa, some companies are choosing to change their strategy towards UMA models including divisionalising these UMAs. However, Natsure holds a strong belief that backed by its principles it can strategically enter the right markets and do what others cannot. “We want to breathe fresh life into the industry, giving entrepreneurial UMAs the chance given the capital and framework to succeed.
“We focus on the niche business because the commoditised business in South Africa is mainly driven by short-term insurance aggregators and direct business models. We believe that with specialised insurance solutions you need skill, complimented by good quality and experienced underwriters that can provide brokers with a comprehensive all-encompassing risk solution for each niche area of insurance. We support our brokers to enable them to give sound advice and to make sure that clients receive the best quality offering at the correct risk rate. Our products are not an ‘off the shelf’ offering or a ‘one size fits all’ offering; it is all quoted, rated and worded to suit each individual insured and its needs,” adds Davey.
The biggest success story for Natsure has been in the renewable energy sector, which has really begun to gather pace in South Africa. The company is seeing great returns in this industry and has underwritten 70 percent of the market share in round one of bidding and 40 percent in round two, celebrating a leading position in this sector. “The fact that we offer a cradle to grave solution and that we can offer the highest capacities in South Africa, makes us a true market leader,” she explains.
Moreover, Natsure has experienced great success in the aviation industry, rising to profitable levels in recent years.
Key business areas
In 2012, Natsure expanded its operations into neighbouring Namibia in order to test the waters across a wider geographical footprint. In general, due to differences in underwriting legislation, entering a new insurance market can be a challenge as Davey explains: “Every country has different legislation, and company and statutory requirements can vary. South Africa’s is particularly strict; changes in remuneration have undoubtedly impacted the business and the operating model of an underwriting manager.
“On the other hand, these strict policies and our adherence to them strengthens our reputation when we look outside South Africa for business; it shows that we can adapt and not fold under the pressure, and that our business is built on strong sustainable and ethical work practises,” highlights Davey.
These niche markets operating in a highly regulated environment can be tricky to understand, which is why Natsure invests time and money into acquiring only the most talented and skilled staff that have a passion for the job, something which Davey says makes them stand out from the market. “Having the knowledge of the specific industry you are dealing with helps us manage the business better and makes for a better relationship with our brokers,” she says.
In South Africa, attracting the best and brightest young people to the underwriting industry is challenging due to it being a niche market, which has resulted in an ageing workforce, which Davey hopes will change going forward.
“Qualification requirements are now much higher and people entering the industry needs to first acquire training, qualifications and in a number of instances needs to work under supervision which in turn once again place additional compliance and additional operational cost pressures on the business.”
More and more international insurers view Africa as an area of potential growth, which means there is additional influx of international capacities which increases competition and drives down the insurer rating/pricing. These all have an effect on the sustainability and growth of the UMA market and future competitiveness.
“For Natsure it is crucial to limit these risks in our business by making sure we always offer innovative insurance solutions, based on strong underwriting principles and good qualified, and experienced staff. We focus on continuous training not only for our staff but also for our brokers and therefore continue to contribute to the maintenance of the professional standards of our industry,” Davey further explains.
Insurer relationships and success
Davey says the key to identifying the right partners, or insurers to work alongside, is to develop not only a mutual understanding of each other’s businesses and regularly interact, but to also focus on securing long-term partnerships which must be based on strong relationships and profitable business growth for each partner. “We are in constant communication with our insurers, on a local and international level to ensure an understanding of our business strategy, which is to provide a platform for our UMA partners based on our four C’s: Capacity, Capability, Compliance and Capital.
“Further to this, once a year we attend a partner conference where we outline our strategy and give our partners the opportunity to interact with each other, to leverage each other’s business models or focused areas,” she comments.
As a reputable and longstanding South African company that is backed by good principals and ethics, and the best highly skilled individuals deployed across all its operations, Natsure’s focussed UMA approach for the future is designed to make the company better than ever before; even implementing new technologies including a brand new interactive IT platform. “By streamlining the organisation we will become even more competitive, efficient and subsequently this will benefit our brokers and insurers,” Davey summarises.