May 31, 2018
New international MGA platform Innovisk poised to launch
By Adam McNestrie, Insurance Insider
Former Acappella CEO David Thomas is set to launch a new platform to seed entrepreneurial start-up MGAs with capital backing from Willis Towers Watson, The Insurance Insider can reveal.
The new platform, Innovisk Capital Partners, which is headquartered in London, will aim to have six or seven specialty commercial MGAs running by year-end across the UK, the US and continental Europe.
The business, which will be structured as a limited liability partnership (LLP), is being billed as an arm’s-length investment from the global broker.
“This is an independent business, not a Willis Towers Watson business,” Thomas told The Insurance Insider. “WTW has a minority of board seats. The leadership team works for Innovisk – not WTW – and there is an element of staff ownership.”
Before recently leaving to launch Innovisk, Thomas held a series of senior leadership roles at Willis and its reinsurance arm Willis Re. He was also CEO of Acappella, the broker’s underwriting joint venture with Pembroke.
Innovisk will be separately regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, and will look to service all intermediaries.
“We haven’t put a ceiling on the amount of business that can come from any particular broker – we will absolutely use a broad base of producers,” Thomas told this publication.
Willis owns an 85 percent stake in London wholesale broker Miller, which also operates as an LLP, with both parties at pains to stress that the big three broker is an arm’s-length investor rather than an owner.
Innovisk is trumpeting its technology credentials and will provide entrepreneurial underwriters with data and analytics, as well as handling other areas like compliance and risk management.
Thomas said the evolution of the sector had created the opportunity for the launch of a business like Innovisk.
“The essence of this idea is that the industry is going through major change – the value chain is becoming compressed. And that creates both the need and the room for a disruptive underwriting platform, and one that is technology-focused.”
Thomas also pointed to the industry’s history of high expense ratios and “inflexible” data flows as issues that needed solutions.
Asked about whether the start-up would be perceived by insurers as unwanted competition from brokers, Thomas said: “Rather than a competitor, think of this as a specialty lines platform to build solutions for clients and to match that with paper from insurers looking for distribution.”
He continued: “Also, think about this from a scale perspective – this is relatively niche.”
In a statement, Willis’ head of investment, risk and reinsurance, Carl Hess, said: “We see tremendous change in the industry value chain driven by technology and data and Innovisk Capital Partners is an opportunity for us to take an interested position in that shift as an arm’s-length investor.”
In addition to new launches in the pipeline, a number of existing MGAs will be migrated over to Innovisk.
Two of the underwriting businesses that will be live at launch are Aqueous and Panthera.
Aqueous, which is led by former Manchester Underwriting underwriter Danny French, is focused on professional indemnity business.
Panthera is led by former Dual executives Liz Hanlon and Paul Russell and writes a range of financial lines business.
While Innovisk was being established, these businesses were warehoused in the now-closed MGA arm of Acappella.
In the US, Willis-backed Freberg Environmental Insurance, which is led by Stacy Brown, will also move over to Innovisk.
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