MGA 2.0

Helix wants to change the image of MGAs, with a new model that Claude Lefebvre, president and co-founder at Helix Global, believes represents a paradigm shift for the industry.

“It is a great time to be getting into the market.”
Claude Lefebvre, Helix Global

When was the company formed?

Helix was incorporated in December 2018, with work having started on its formation earlier that year. We started writing business in January 2020 when we officially launched our enterprise.

The idea behind Helix was to take the managing general agent (MGA) model, fine-tune it and optimise it for the benefit of all stakeholders. Our industry has been critical of MGAs that appear to have a great interest in collecting fees while being less concerned with the outcome of underwriting.

Our principal objective is to build distribution channels that allow for the creation of superior portfolios tailored to our partners’ specific needs.

Carriers and reinsurers have historically experienced limited and delayed access to data coming out of delegated authority arrangements. Our desire is to create a model that offers better access to information by providing data transparency to all stakeholders.

It is important that our partners have access to their data as quickly as possible and we aspire to offer real-time data-sharing to our partners through our tech-enabled platform.

Finally, alignment of interest is a key component of our DNA and this is at all level of the organisation and with our business partners.

Who are the main investors?

Helix was formed as a self-funded business. Tysers/Integro came on board as a minority investor in late 2019.

What was the inspiration for the name?

Helix is a nice, clear, simple name. That was an important factor and it is easy to pronounce in many languages. There is also some meaning to the name: a double helix is a medical term, being the structure of DNA that carries instructions for the development, functioning and growth of living organisms. By aligning interests and working closely with business partners, we build synergies that allow all stakeholders to succeed together.

“Phase one is to build up the MGA in property, casualty and financial lines.”

Who are the key figures/senior management at this stage?

I am president and co-founder alongside Neville Weston, who serves as chairman of the board, and Nik Lucking, chief underwriting officer for property. I spent nearly seven years at Hamilton Insurance Group, latterly as chief underwriting officer for casualty and specialty.

In addition to his responsibilities at Helix, Neville is vice-chairman at Aon Reinsurance Solutions in Bermuda and was previously senior underwriter and partner at Aeolus Capital Management. Nik was formerly responsible for direct and facultative business at Montpelier, Novae and most recently at Barbican in Bermuda.

There is a good range of experience at Helix. I have an actuarial background with experience in reinsurance underwriting, broking and analytics. Neville has a background in casualty reinsurance underwriting and broking as well as property retro and third-party capital, while Nik has a background in direct property underwriting and broking.

It makes for an interesting combination and the executives at Helix cover a wide cross-section of the market providing the inspiration behind the business model.

What is your initial business plan in terms of target lines of business?

Phase one is to build up the MGA in property, casualty and financial lines. Property is already in place as at early 2021, casualty and financial lines are next in line and we hope they will be in place soon.

Phase two is to set up our own rated carrier, which we hope to do in the third or fourth quarter of 2021. The carrier will allow Helix to participate on the underwriting outcome of its business alongside its business partners further enhancing the alignment of interests between all stakeholders.

Why did you feel now was a good time to launch a new MGA?

We are seeing very strong market conditions right now, the best we have seen for 30 years or more. It is a great time to be getting into the market—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start an underwriting platform.

“We expect the reinsurance market to improve significantly in the near term.”

Why did you choose Bermuda?

Bermuda is often seen as an exclusively reinsurance market but in fact it is a significant insurance market too. It is an excellent place to access the insurance market, given its pool of talent, capacity and regulatory regime.

What has been your experience of Bermuda so far in terms of ease of forming and doing business?

We love doing business in Bermuda. It is a great place for startups, and the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) is a regulator that offers great balance between being rigorous and also being business-friendly. When we were looking to launch there were no independent MGAs on the Island, and we worked closely with the BMA on the licensing of our business.

That is very indicative of its approach—it is very receptive to the perspectives of the businesses it regulates and it is easy to get in front of the regulator when needed.

Bermuda is also a very nice place to live, and all the senior management team have lived in Bermuda for more than 10 years.

What are your predictions for reinsurance market conditions in 2021?

The reinsurance market has not moved up as much as many people expected in response to the hardening insurance market. This is one of the first times that the market hardening has been driven by insurance lines as opposed to reinsurance or retro capacity shortages.

In recent years large carriers have reduced their capacity significantly, a retrenchment that caused meaningful dislocation in the market.

The pricing uptick achieved on insurance policies has reduced pressure on pro rata treaty terms and conditions, while excess of loss structures are generally seeing improved conditions.

As there is likely to be additional under-reserving uncovered in an industry that remains uncertain about the potential impact of COVID-19, we expect the reinsurance market to improve significantly in the near term.

What are your medium-term objectives as a business?

We are not looking beyond phase two just yet but there are many possibilities for the future. For now, we are focused on building out the insurance portion of the offering.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Alones / Mega Pixel

In association with:

A Bermuda:Re+ILS Special Report