INTERVIEW: JOHN SCULLY & MARCO SORDONI, UNIPOLRE
Seeking deeper relationships
UnipolRe is setting itself apart: it is not looking for growth, just deeper relationships with cedants and some diversification—made possible by its unique ownership structure and agile approach.
Amid a complex set of market conditions in which rate hikes in many lines are offset by other challenges including inflation and increased volatility, UnipolRe finds itself in an enviable position. Due to its unique ownership structure and niche focus, it is not seeking growth. Rather, it wants to deepen relationships with existing clients and diversify—and those are the core messages it intends to convey to clients in Baden-Baden.
UnipolRe, formed in 2014 with €500 million of dedicated capital, is 100 percent owned by Italy’s Unipol Group. This means that, as well as boasting a sizable balance sheet, it benefits from its parent’s expertise—especially in the increasingly lucrative field for motor insurers of telematics, which represents some 30 percent of its portfolio. It also means it does not have the same pressure of many of its rivals: to report growth on a quarterly basis.
This means, says John Scully, chief underwriting officer, that the company can put clients first.
“We do not have the pressure from our owners in the way many reinsurers will have. They do not require us to grow for the sake of it, they want what we do to help diversify their balance sheet while also being profitable. They are also very supportive with expertise,” Scully said.
“That means we can play to our strengths. We are a smaller reinsurer, so we have to differentiate ourselves.
“We want to be the first name on the slip, not the last. So that means offering new and bespoke solutions. We are nimble and we have a very flat management structure. That makes us easy to deal with and clients appreciate that.”
“We want to be the first name on the slip, not the last.”
John Scully, UnipolRe
In part, UnipolRe is able to explore new opportunities because of a big strategic decision it made a year ago: to pull out of the property cat space. While this was big news at the time, it has since been followed by many other reinsurers wary of the growing volatility intrinsic in the space. Scully stresses that many clients are now exploring alternative lines with the reinsurer.
“The brokers and our clients understand that our appetite changed, and they now come to us seeking new solutions. There are instances where a client wants to move into a new line of business and has partnered with us for support.
“That has been really good for us and has proved the value of the deep relationships we have with most clients,” he explained.
Scully stresses that the reinsurer is now seeking stability, and some diversification. “We’re not looking to grow substantially over the next couple of years; instead, we want to work more closely with our cedants and further leverage our expertise.
“We know we have a lot to offer in areas such as telematics, where we can help our clients write a more profitable book of business.”
In terms of diversification, Scully says it is starting to grow some short tail lines of business such as personal accident, per risk or proportional fire. These complement its growing motor and telematics books.
“We will always quote based on an individual cedant’s results and their situation.”
Marco Sordoni, UnipolRe
An individual approach
Whatever the line of business, Marco Sordoni, UnipolRe’s chief executive officer, stresses that the reinsurer works with cedants on a case-by-case basis—and any changes in rates will reflect this. This approach has always set UnipolRe apart, he says, and clients especially appreciate this in a hardening market.
“We will always quote based on an individual cedant’s results and their situation—not based on what is happening in the wider markets,” he said. “We’re not writing to an index. When the market was softening, we didn’t follow that. Now rates are hardening, we don’t follow that either.
“We believe in long-term relationships and being a reliable partner. We want to talk about a client’s business, their strategy and how we can help. It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship.”
This approach, combined with the company’s strong technical and analytical abilities, has led to its becoming a trusted partner on programmes, even though its size means it does not always lead them.
“We knew that, due to our smaller size, we would have to be different—we would have to be innovative from the start,” Sordoni said. “We work closely with many of our clients, looking at the structure of their programmes and the most efficient way they might structure their reinsurance.
“That is unusual for a player of our size, but it means we have very deep relationships with our clients as a result.”
Marco Sordoni is the chief executive officer of UnipolRe. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
John Scully is the chief underwriting officer of UnipolRe. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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