High Net Worth — with a Technological Twist; Munich Re’s Groves, John & Westrup Expands into Private Client Sector

By | August 16, 2021

Groves, John & Westrup Ltd. has been a coverholder for Munich Re’s Lloyd’s syndicate for decades, writing marine, pleasure boat and private yacht insurance. This year, the company branched out into the high net worth (HNW) sector, trading under the brand “GrovesJohnWestrup Private Clients.” It’s a new offering with a technological twist that aims to make life easier for brokers and their clients by providing speedy turnaround times for quotes and claims.

A high net worth offering seemed like a natural fit for GrovesJohnWestrup, a Liverpool, England-based managing general agent and fully owned company of Munich Re.

Alex Lay

With its existing private yacht business, GrovesJohnWestrup already had a high degree of affinity to the high net worth sector, explained Alex Lay, managing director. “In terms of its licenses and set-up, it was an environment that we could slot into fairly effortlessly.”

But Lay wanted to bring something new to the market — and not just wrap itself around a legacy environment. So, he spent about a year “conceptualizing the product, the proposition, and, most importantly, its delivery.”

During this year he deconstructed the underwriting pricing and portfolio management process. “We needed to basically come up with a concept that allows us to create bespoke coverages out of a set of underlying coverages.”

The aim was to create a platform where new product lines can be added and multiple assets can be insured under each cover. “So you can easily conduct a transaction with us that would involve five properties, three cars, two art collections — all that would carry specific terms out of one seamless quote-and-bind journey.”

Lay and his team were “absolutely clear” that they wanted to avoid copying their incumbent competitors. “We didn’t want to go into a broker-driven market with a product that is static and monolithic, which would require a lot of manual intervention.”

They wanted to deliver something new — that stood out from a technological perspective, he said in an interview with Insurance Journal.

Lay explained that GrovesJohnWestrup has been able to remove trading complexity by giving brokers access to a portal that allows them to configure the product themselves at the point of sale.

“The degree of freedom that they’ve got is pretty unprecedented in this market,” Lay said. “This means that we can now complete fairly large and complex individual risk quotes” in a time that is comparable to a retail proposition. “And that is absolutely astonishing in terms of speed, delivery, turnaround times.”

This applies to the entire life cycle of a policy — from new business to renewals, to midterm adjustments (MTAs) and claims notifications.

End-to-End Portfolio Management

“In other words, this is not just a placement capability, but ultimately it is an end-to-end portfolio management tool for a broker,” he affirmed. “We felt this was a need that was really in high demand at the point when we went to market.”

The company had its hard launch in the high net worth sector on March 15, but it previously had offered HNW products for several months prior to that date in order to get its portal up and running smoothly.

Emma Bennett

Once brokers log onto the portal and answer risk information about their clients’ buildings, contents, art and/or jewelry, they will either get a binding quote with premiums and terms, or they will receive a referral that goes to GrovesJohnWestrup’s underwriters, explained Emma Bennett, strategic relationship manager.

“In simple terms, you often can go in and get a quote within three and a half minutes,” which Bennett describes as a “game changer in this market.”

“What we’re trying to do is speed up the delivery to the broker and ultimately to the client,” she affirmed.

Bennett said the more traditional route for HNW business, written by competitors in the sector, is for the broker to send a submission by email, which is then entered into an underwriting system. An underwriter looks at the risk, underwrites it and sends it back with a quote, in a process that could take anything from a day to a week to two weeks in some circumstances, she added.

Munich Re Ownership

Lay counts GrovesJohnWestrup’s ownership by Munich Re as a competitive advantage. Thus far, all the capacity the MGA uses comes from Munich Re’s primary companies — including Munich Re Syndicate 457 at Lloyd’s and DAS International. The capacity levels provided vary according to their individual risk appetites, Lay confirmed. “This means that it can provide an intermediated solution with brokers that is not dependent on the delegation of authority from other carriers,” he explained.

GrovesJohnWestrup has completely automated the entire accounting finance, billing and bordereaux process, “which means our business partners on the Munich Re side can focus primarily on risk transfer and the oversight and control over our business,” he added.

The GrovesJohnWestrup HNW platform is designed to be scalable and could lend itself to other “exciting business opportunities for Munich Re outside the private client space — essentially anything that requires a multi-line, multi-asset capability could be served from this technology platform,” he affirmed.

The MGA’s initial product offerings include buildings, contents, valuables, antiques and works of art, legal liability to the public, accidents to domestic employees, legal expenses, home emergency, home cyber cover and travel.

“We started with a very strong property led proposition, but that already includes specie, liability and a number of services like home emergency, legal expense and the like. We can now incrementally add new lines of business.”

Outside the private client space, the company is exploring other opportunities in light commercial or the small and medium sized enterprise space.

‘Healthy Response’

With a chuckle, Lay admitted that the name GrovesJohnWestrup may not easily roll off the tongue at first, but this British-branded proposition “already has received a lot of traction.”

The company’s distinctive name “has actually delivered its purpose,” he said, noting that in a very short period of time, “it has become a recognizable brand and overseas markets are taking a great interest in the proposition.”

Personal Touch

Despite the company’s focus on technology, Bennett emphasized that the personal touch is still vitally important to its business proposition. “Ultimately this is a relationship business.”

Over her 20-year career in the HNW business, Bennett said she has worked for a direct insurer, a broker and now an MGA. During that time, she has noticed that brokers don’t get enough access to decision makers.

As a result, she said brokers are encouraged to talk to GrovesJohnWestrup’s underwriters, whether by phone or in face-to-face meetings. “That’s really a core part of what we’re doing,” Bennett continued.

“When we onboard a broker, we give the brokers that access. We provide product training. We get everyone into virtual room together and we meet people within their business, and they meet people within our business. We give them access to people who are actually empowered to make decisions.”

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