The chair of underwriting agency Iprism has vowed that it will never work with unrated capacity again, having only just got its house in order following the collapse of former partner Gable in 2016.
In 2014 Iprism signed a deal with Gable to underwrite business in the UK market, which the now defunct Lietchenstein-based insurer said it expected to deliver GWP of £100m over three years.
However, within two years QBE took over the underwriting of Iprism tradesmen insurance business and Pen Underwriting replaced Gable on the HNW household book, before the carrier fell into administration.
Brent Escott, pictured who joined in the aftermath of the demise of Gable as chairman and interim CEO, told Post: “The catalyst [for me joining] was that this is an asset that has not performed as well as people believe it was capable of.
“If you look at Iprism’s history it definitely went through a period where it was destabilized by the events of [Icelandic insurer] Eric and then Gable. And although those events were two years ago, I think it is fair to say that it taken the better part of that time to get the housekeeping in order and clean things up.”
Escott added: “The good news is that we have done a lot of work in terms of looking at what has changed and what the customers and SME brokers want. Taking all that insight on board and formulating a new position for Iprism, which is relevant to the insurer and broker world.”
Iprism was first unveiled in 2006, positioning itself as a technology driven underwriting agency. Private equity house Magenta invested in the business in 2010 before selling its stake to Aston Lark-backer Bowmark Capital four years later.
“When it launched it was a disruptor, but basically what happened is that the market caught up; and whilst the market was catching up Iprism was sorting out its housekeeping issues. But the DNA of the firm remains as a technology driven underwriting business,” continued Escott.
“This is not a technology business per se; it is an insurance business enabled by technology. And what that thread means, and where there has been continuity, is that when Iprism was launched being disruptive was about e-trading and the front end.
“Now the front end interface is a hygiene factor; the difference today is how to use that technology to drive value add, principally through data analytics and data enrichment. Which makes the capture of the risk easier at the front end and it quicker to make underwriting decisions.”
Iprism has 1400 agencies with brokers and has historically only been available through its own portal, although Escott confirms that “work is in process” to make it available through other broker software platforms in the future.
“When Iprism launched the typical broker was seeing the whole range of SME business; but the massive change is that direct commercial channels have developed enormously with the likes of Simply Business. And what that has led to is a situation where a lot of the business brokers see is more difficult to place.
“It is the business that is slightly more complex and does not fit the direct channel. And what that means for Iprism is that rather than be a provider of vanilla products and quotes, it has had to develop to become better at responding to these types of requests from brokers.”
Escott describes Iprism as being strong in tradesman, high net worth and residential property, and adds that it has a “fantastic relationship with HCC on liability” and is proud of the deal it signed with Aviva on 1 August covering seven product lines.
“And that is a vindication of what we are doing because they have really good distribution but decided to work with a business like us,” he added.
“The key thing for us is sustainability and you cannot grow a business that does not add value to both the insurer and broker; and for that to work insurers need to make money and at the same time we have got to offer something that is competitive.
“Credibility is also key and where Iprism is trying to move is a place that it gives insurers access to a part of the market that is difficult to service cost effectively. And rated capacity is definitely a key component of that.”
When Iprism published its last reported accounts for the year ended 31 December 2016 it had a gross written premium of £23m and 45 staff. Today Escott notes the GWP is “hovering around the £20m - £21m mark” and that it has 38 staff.
He has also finally handed over the CEO reigns this month to Ian Lloyd, the former operations manager, who joined the business from Towergate in 2012.
“We are trying to build on the strengths we have internally, and having had some struggles over recent years we now have clarity about where we are going. Ian has been with the business over five years and came in after the first phase of Iprism’s history, is very close to it, great at technical underwriting and is a force for change in the direction we want to go,” Escott explained.
“And no stone is left is being left unturned. So we are looking at everything from our technology to how we manage our insurer relationships and the product offering. We are not happy with it; we have some very good products that are market leading and hit the sweet spot.
“But we have others which don’t do the job they should be doing and we are addressing that, Iprism currently has 16 products and some of those are in the process of being reviewed and revamped”.
“We are getting the business to a sustainable level. I feel the book we have today is of a very high quality and; whilst a few years ago it was not the case. So the message is that it has taken 2 to 3 years to clean up the book but we have now rebooted Iprism to rediscover its disruptive self.”
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