Neon spotlights expansion plans
Lloyd's of London insurer Neon is celebrating its first year in Bermuda.
Chris Fisher, the chief executive officer, started the firm with just one other staff member. It now has a staff of six, with plans to recruit another.
Mr Fisher hopes to grow the firm from its expected $20 million in gross premiums written this year to $100 million within three to five years, as well as increase staffing numbers to more than 20.
Speaking at Neon's offices in Victoria Street, Hamilton, he said: “We're running out of space here. We probably have room for another three people at most, so potentially we may have to look at some additional space.
“In three to five years, if we have 20-plus people, that doesn't seem unreasonable, although it's difficult to tell.
“Additional people have to be supported by business flow — but I have ambitions to grow this business into other lines of business when it makes sense.”
Neon, which is part of US-based American Financial Group, was set up last year under the leadership of Martin Reith to breathe new life into Lloyd's Syndicate 2468, formerly known as the Marketform syndicate, which had taken a hit from Italian medical malpractice business.
Mr Fisher said: “He wanted to bring the balance of the syndicate's business to short tail lines of business, property insurance and reinsurance.
“I was hired to do two things — start a Bermuda office for Neon and kick-start the platform here. I'm also head of property insurance underwriting for Neon globally.
“Through the balance of 2016, I began to write an amount of property insurance business with a focus on the larger Fortune 100 companies.”
Over the past year, Neon has expanded from property insurance into other areas, like property reinsurance and professional indemnity cover.
Mr Fisher said: “We would love that reinsurance business to grow from a reinsurance perspective, but we may have an opportunity to grow into the insurance-linked securities space as well.”
He added that Nicholas Pritchard, appointed as head of reinsurance, had considerable experience in the reinsurance segment.
“That's a potential growyh area for us over the next two years or so.”
Mr Fisher added: “The commitment and support from London has been fantastic and Martin Reith has been here multiple times.”
He said the firm's local profile was due to be boosted by a special America's Cup reception for clients, due to be held at Commissioner's House in Dockyard next month.
Neon is a member of Great American Insurance Group, which runs the insurance operations of parent AFG and had already benefited from the link-up.
Mr Fisher said: “We are exploring areas where we can get some synergies going with Great American as well and access additional business to the island via their platform.
“We have done one deal with them on Canadian business, which we otherwise wouldn't have seen.”
Mr Fisher added: “At the moment, we're targeting for this year $20 million of gross written premiums for the Bermuda business, which wouldn't be a bad start at all.
“Market conditions have been tough — there is a lot of oversupply of capacity, but where we have the opportunity to build the company in a responsible way is through business where we have the ability to use the strength of our relationships to help carve out what we consider to be advantageous underwriting positions on programmes.”
He added: “For 2017, more than 50 per cent of the business will be lines of business we didn't participate in 2016. That shows you the amount of turnaround and change brought about by the revitalisation of the syndicate.”
“A big part of it is getting the right people on board and the team we have here at Neon Bermuda is first class.”
Mr Fisher said he was proud of the fact that the current staffing included only one non-Bermudian.
“My commitment as CEO is whatever I can do to get suitably qualified Bermudian staff into this business, I will do. That's something I very much want to achieve.
“We want to make sure Bermudians are in as many positions in the company that they are suitably qualified and experienced to be in.”