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Rebranded HIIG will ‘rule its niche’: CEO Robinson

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HIIG CEO Andrew Robinson continues to put his stamp on the revitalization of the specialty carrier, with the company announcing a new name on Tuesday to go along with the overhaul of the underwriter’s operations that has moved at lightning speed since the executive took over in June.

The company is rebranding as Skyward Specialty Insurance, a decision the company says was made to reflect the company’s “unique positioning to meet its clients’ needs at a time of considerable change”.

The rebrand is the latest action Robinson has taken since coming aboard as CEO in June, after two years in charge of GroundSpeed Analytics, and with previous stops running the specialty business at The Hanover and leading the insurance practice at PwC.

According to a press release, the name change signifies “the company’s readiness to stand out among its competitors and to capitalize on the changing market conditions".

“The name Skyward Specialty Insurance more clearly describes who we are today, better reflects our strategy, and conveys the company’s promise to our clients and distribution partners,” Robinson said in a statement.

“The word ‘Skyward’ is about the power to see farther and have a broader perspective, while ‘Specialty’ reinforces the company’s self-identification with products and solutions that are tailored to our clients’ unique and special needs.”

In an interview with Inside P&C, Robinson outlined his vision for the company that began to take shape in early January through an extended evaluation process, after which the executive became enlivened by the opportunity.

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“I became completely convinced that this was a platform to really do something with,” he says emphatically.

Skyward raised $100mn in new capital in April, and entered into a loss portfolio transfer transaction with R&Q, steps that Robinson believes has given the company momentum in its strategic makeover.

The business has since gone to work recruiting staff and expanding product offerings, with the intention of deepening its commitment to the specialty market and capitalizing on improving market conditions.

Early on in his tenure, Robinson has moved swiftly, pulling out of underperforming business lines including monoline workers’ compensation along with lawyers and insurance agent professional liability.

“HIIG never really rose to the level of anybody's attention. And it wasn't that great of a performer [that] really had a great understanding what [it] did,” says Robinson “Ultimately, the board concluded it had an asset here, but just weren’t getting any value out of it.”

There are signs that the early work has already started to pay off.

In the third quarter, Skyward improved its combined ratio, with the all-in figure dropping to 96.3%, at a time when most of the industry was hit hard by higher cat activity.

“We have a really, really good business that we're building here,” the executive said, “and people are starting to figure it out.”

The overall strategy is to move quickly in areas where the market has presented opportunities, where Skyward is already well positioned, and areas that are contingent upon the right teams becoming available.

In September, Skyward recruited Hanover’s former president of excess and surplus (E&S) lines, Mark Boland, to lead its own newly formed E&S division from his most recent role at IAT. Boland was joined by members of his underwriting team from IAT, who had been with him at Hanover, including Josh O’Neill, Paul Gadaleta, Joe Marques and Jeff Love.

Robinson said the recent launch of its excess public D&O product – with the hiring of Peter Bujosa from AIG – was one example where the company had intended to invest, but reacted more quickly in response to dramatically improving market conditions.

“Part of our ethos is responding to disruption, and being able to do that in a really facile manner,” says Robinson. 

The rapid expansion of its D&O offering, he says, is emblematic of a culture he is working to establish that prioritizes adaptation.

“A lot of other companies can't respond the way that we're responding.

“From formalizing our plan, recruiting people, getting the reinsurance support and getting our business intelligence, to launching – we did that in six weeks.”

Along those lines, Robinson says “problem solving” would become an even more critical element to the company’s identity moving forward.

“We're not box underwriting,” he says. “We're working hard at really understanding the exposure and underwriting to it. And that's true for how we think about some of the segments that we're entering.”

Robinson says the team is actively looking to deepen its product offering, with areas like financial institutions among the obvious next steps.

“We're going to pick segments where we can ‘rule our niche’, where we can focus in a way that allows us to be excellent in what we do.”

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