Jack Kuhn is optimistic about the future of the E&S industry and Westfield Specialty’s growth
“Collectively we are moving past the height of the hard market,” said Jack Kuhn (pictured), president of Westfield Specialty during a sit-down interview at RIMS 2023 in Atlanta.
Throughout a conversation with Insurance Business, Kuhn spoke about how the current property and casualty market may look different for insurers and policyholders. He also revealed what Westfield’s recent acquisition from Lloyd’s means for the company and how he did not have a detailed blueprint for starting the firm.
Kuhn reckoned that the current state of the market is reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew’s impact on Florida, which was the costliest hurricane to hit US soil at the time.
For E&S specialty insurers like Westfield Specialty, the present state of the market can be viewed as a “glass that’s more than half full,” Kuhn said.
“For us, it’s a very strong and robust marketplace, and it gives us a unique opportunity to solve as many issues as possible that clients might have with some of their different programs.”
However, for the insured who is looking to purchase or renew their lines of coverage, there is a very different view of the current state of the market.
“For buyers of property insurance, it is less than half empty. It’s truly a challenging market for them right now,” Kuhn said.
In order to solve some of the current issues, insurers will have to make sure that the rates, no matter how bloated they may be right now, are fairly and accurately assessed.
“We need to take three things into account,” Kuhn said. “We need to be cognizant of characteristics that insureds had been previously purchasing, what they’re able to buy now, and what the future will hold as we start moving forward.”
“While others are certainly looking to cut back limit sizes and managing their aggregations, we are in somewhat of a different position, which I think is a relief during these tricky times.”
“I didn’t have a detailed blueprint for starting Westfield Specialty”
As a leading P&C insurer with 175 years of experience in the American market, Westfield’s vast history has allowed its specialty unit, led by Kuhn, to leverage itself within the industry.
When this specialty offshoot was being conceptualized, Kuhn admitted there was no clearly delineated plan. Instead, he insisted on following a more organic path to growth and profitable future.
“I didn’t have a detailed blueprint for starting Westfield Specialty,” Kuhn said.
“Instead, we are more keen on making sure that the way the business develops is natural and not forced. Profitability is the main focus rather than top-line growth, which I think is a good business structure for us going forward.”
This path to profitability is linked to a dedicated team of professionals who possess a studious spirit and a creative approach to problem solving.
However, the ubiquity of a hybrid or completely remote work environment due to pandemic restrictions has thwarted certain benefits of an office culture for team building.
“COVID-19 has challenged the traditional notion of historical knowledge exchange,” Kuhn said. “In an office setting, there is a culture that allowed for observation of how individuals approach their work, which is much harder to do when in a remote setting, especially for newer hires.”
As a burgeoning company that is building its team, Kuhn stressed the importance of creating opportunities for employees to gain invaluable experiences from these sorts of informative interactions amongst one another.
“This acquisition gave us a sizable platform that came with 180 employees,” Kuhn said.
“It also gave us access to a marketplace that a lot of companies struggle with because of global licensing and entry into other countries.”
This elevated global profile, which is said to have increased Westfield Specialty’s portfolio at over $1 billion in premiums, will allow the company to grow in ways that are deliberate and lucrative.
“We will be able to refine and add to existing product lines that we have at the Syndicate,” Kuhn said.
“We also just want to ensure that the bottom-line strategic thinking and emphasis on profitable endeavours will always be a guiding principle in whatever future decisions we make or opportunities we explore.”
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