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Hendrick sets sights on expansion for Vantage

Technology edge: Greg Hendrick, CEO of Vantage (File photograph)

Vantage Holdings plans to build up a staff of more than 20 people at its Bermuda head office as the new re/insurer builds out its platform, says its top executive.

The company’s Class 4 Bermuda reinsurer, Vantage Risk, opened its doors last week, with three staff in place and another three set to start early in the new year.

Greg Hendrick, Vantage’s chief executive officer, said the reinsurance team would be based on island, while the company also planned to build out an insurance platform in the US during 2021.

Mr Hendrick estimated there would “about 20 to 30 jobs, maybe more” on island in the medium term. Core positions in the reinsurance-focused team will include roles in underwriting, analytics, claims and finance.

The holding company is also domiciled in Bermuda. “We’re still sorting out what part of the holding company staff will be in Bermuda and what part will be in the US,” Mr Hendrick added.

Vantage is headquartered in offices on the third floor of Chesney House on Pitts Bay Road.

The start-up is backed by $1 billion of private-equity capital provided by the Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman Capital Partners, as well as some capital from management.

Having joined Mid Ocean Re in 1995 and then climbed the ranks at XL Capital, Mr Hendrick knows Bermuda well. “The Bermuda marketplace is a fabulous place to do business,” he said. “It’s got a great talent pool, Bermudians and expats, and robust, but appropriate regulation. It really was not a long conversation when we thought, ‘where will be put this organisation?’”

Bermudians in the Vantage team include president Peta White, who will start next month, and chief operating officer Laurie Orchard.

Dinos Iordanou, the former CEO of Arch Capital, is the executive chairman and other executives well-known in Bermuda include Jack Kuhn and Chris McKeown, who will lead insurance and reinsurance respectively.

One of the reasons for launching this year was the availability of talent, as ambitious employees looked for opportunities with growing companies, Mr Hendrick said. Rising re/insurance prices and the evolution of industry technology were other factors that made this an opportune time to launch.

Today’s hard market across a wide range of lines had come about through a difficult four years for the industry, he said, marked by heavy catastrophe losses in 2017 and 2018, loss cost inflation in longer tail lines in 2019, and then the pandemic this year.

On how today’s hard market compares with others he had seen, Mr Hendrick said all are unique, because they happen for different reasons.

He said: “The short-tail lines of business feel like we’re going back to 2012, before ILS arrived in a big way. There are better prices but there is still capacity available and there’s not a huge shortfall, except for maybe in the retro market.

“If I look at the long-tail market, this feels more like 2001 where you’ve got a significant amount of capacity contracting away from the market. That leads to better prices, but also leads to opportunities to write business without having to compete heavily for it, because clients can’t buy as much protection as they used to.”

Some brokers had suggested to him that today resembled the mid-1980s, the excess liability insurance crisis, which led to the formation of Ace and XL and a period of booming growth for the Bermuda market, but Mr Hendrick was not convinced.

However, he felt the hard market would persist.

“The markets that we’re in are going to be firm for a while because of the long period of poor experience the industry has gone through,” he said.

“We’ve had a difficult run of years that has reminded everybody that you take on risk at a reduced price at your own peril and that needs to change. I don’t see that mentality changing in the insurance marketplace in the near term.

“Covid-19 was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place, so now we see not only price hardening, but also some carriers closing lines of business or retracting capacity, allowing us to step in now and fulfil some of the needs that clients and brokers have.”

During last week’s launch, Vantage stressed its technological edge. Mr Hendrick said the industry had been slow to harness technology, but that was changing.

“It’s great not to have legacy reserves to worry about, but it’s also great not to have legacy technology to worry about,” Mr Hendrick said.

“Now technology has evolved to the point that you can rent what you need with cloud-based services to get the business going and you can build around it.”

Modern technology would mean the new company would start life efficient, while Vantage would gain competitive advantage from its data analytics capabilities, which would empower its talent, he added.

“Those things create an environment in which there is more curiosity and creativity,” Mr Hendrick said.

“Once our platform is built we can look at how we can harness the capital that’s out there and apply it to close the gap between insured and economic loss, whether it’s in the catastrophe space, whether it’s in the property-catastrophe, or intellectual property, or the other classes for which we don’t have enough coverage today.”

Vantage Risk is up and running and taking on business for the important January 1 renewal period, Mr Hendrick said.

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Published December 07, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated January 21, 2021 at 5:05 pm)

Hendrick sets sights on expansion for Vantage

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