Axis’ Wordekemper: Wholesale financial lines insurers primed for dynamic conditions “as usual”

Amid deep uncertainty around the future of the economy owing to issues such as geopolitics, the environment and social unrest, pressure is mounting on companies to steer a steady course through an increasingly unpredictable risk landscape.

Despite the vast amount of data at our fingertips, the pace of change created by digital technology often makes it more difficult, not simpler, to have a clear view of the world. For board members and executives, confronted with a tsunami of intangible risks – including cybercrime, weakened supply chains and the scrutiny of corporate behaviour by a more socially and environmentally aware public – challenges and priorities are changing fast.

With no sign of the pace of change slowing down, the D&O insurance market remains primed for these dynamic conditions to continue “as normal”. Specialist carriers including Axis are leaning more closely into the areas that play to the strengths of their underwriting and claims acumen, in which they can carve a niche and develop the specific coverages that pressurised customers need.

Where to focus capital and resources becomes a question of identifying: where do our real strengths lie, where can we offer customers value through our differentiated product and service, and where will this enable us to build sustainable, profitable business with our broking partners, and help to bring consistency in a turbulent market?

Renewed wholesale appetite

The D&O market remains one such area of specialism and strength for Axis, as it has been since our early days. Following a repositioning of our financial lines team in recent months to bring greater focus to our distribution and customer segmentation strategies, one of the standout areas of potential has been the wholesale financial lines market.

Although it has its challenges right now, it is a market in which we are wholeheartedly focused on growing our presence strategically and profitably and developing deeper relationships with wholesale brokers to harness the opportunities. Over the past few months our team of experienced financial lines underwriters, now solely focusing on the wholesale sector, has been honing our proposition and digging down into wholesale public and large private D&O and related risks. We are proactively and consistently reviewing risks on their merits with a renewed focus and appetite through deeper attentiveness to the specific needs of this market.

While many in our team have worked across both retail and wholesale financial lines risks, having this focus on the wholesale sector affords us the time and space to take a much closer look at the diverse and often tough-to-place risks that wholesale brokers bring and put our underwriting to the test, with a default mode of looking for a solution and adding value.

We are seeing successes through an uptick in business and submissions, and we continue to invest time and focus in building up all-important relationships within the market and being clear about our appetite. The wholesale-focused team at Axis is excited to continue to refine our proposition and to pursue opportunities to develop more tailored offerings that respond to current needs in particular customer segments and sectors.

Steering a course

At Axis we continue to work with our wholesale distribution partners to ensure our suite of products and services is flexible and fit for purpose as the needs of our customers evolve. Less new business to quote due to the dulling effect of economic volatility on IPOs, SPACs and de-SPACs puts renewal business under more pressure. However, from D&O to employment practices liability, fiduciary and crime coverages, the spread of our products and expertise within our underwriting and claims teams puts Axis in a good position to pivot and grow across our lines as each market evolves.

The competitive environment is one that plays to our strengths as a team. We continue to invest in our capabilities, ensure we are responsive for our partners, and seize opportunities by being bolder and more inquisitive about classes of business in which we may not have always been front of mind for brokers.

Overall, our submission flows have remained strong, and within our broader Axis Wholesale team our closer collaboration with our property, casualty and design professional and environmental liability underwriting colleagues is enabling us to be more joined-up and consistent in our offering and how we engage with our distribution partners.

Financial lines underwriters today need to be on the front foot in tracking and identifying how changing dynamics will impact insureds. Then this prep work and modelling need to be reflected in the risk appetite, pricing and, even more importantly, the conversations with partners and customers to build trust and communication and to minimise unnecessary fluctuations and unpleasant surprises.

Over the long term we see continued opportunities within the wholesale space, not least because the specialist nature and complexity of boardroom risk is only increasing and the US wholesale market is seasoned at coming up with answers to the trickiest of questions.