MiddleOak Exiting Personal Lines; Selling Business to Mapfre

By | February 5, 2015

Spanish insurance giant MAPFRE SA has said it wants to expand and is eying acquisitions in both Europe and the U.S. Barely two months into 2015, it has pulled the trigger on one such deal in New England, reports CarrierManagement.com.

MAPFRE, in an email to affected agencies, revealed that its U.S. arm inked a deal with MiddleOak Insurance to take over its personal lines insurance business. MiddleOak, which was formed by Massachusetts companies Holyoke Mutual Insurance Co. and Middlesex Mutual Insurance in 2006, will still continue with its commercial lines business.

MAPFRE USA, which has its U.S. headquarters in Webster, Mass., writes in 17 states, offering private passenger auto, home and commercial auto and property through its various underwriting companies that include The Commerce Insurance Co., American Commerce Insurance Co. (Columbus, Ohio), and Citation Insurance Co. Its base is in New England where it writes $1.6 billion in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. MiddleOak’s book will add business in Maine and Vermont.

MiddleOak writes commercial residential property for apartments and community associations across the country, and personal home, auto and boat insurance in New England.

MiddleOak CEO Gary Vallo, in his Jan. 27 email to MiddleOak’s agency partners, explained his operation will begin to withdraw from personal lines on March 1, and that MAPFRE USA “will offer a policy of insurance to most MiddleOak policyholders who would otherwise have been renewed by MiddleOak.”

Why is MiddleOak getting out of personal lines? Vallo explained that it is a “high risk/low return business for MiddleOak” and that “associated catastrophe reinsurance expenses impose a significant burden on personal lines profitability.”

What’s more, Vallo said, evolving financial regulation is burdensome and expensive, and that “diversifying personal lines outside of New England is infeasible given MiddleOak’s agency relationship-based strategy.”

He said, however, that MAPFRE USA has come up with a way to make the transition seamless, and that “MiddleOak personal lines agents and policyowners will be better served aligning with MAPFRE USA, a provider committed to making the investments required for future success in personal lines with independent agents.”

MAPFRE, of course, gains another avenue toward its ongoing U.S. expansion.

John Kelly, MAPFE USA’s senior vice president of business development – Eastern region, worked to assure MiddleOak agents about the transition in his own January email.

“We will work with MiddleOak, along with the respective independent agents, to facilitate a smooth transition for MiddleOak’s personal lines customers to MAPFRE Insurance,” Kelly wrote.

Kelly added MAPFRE would make MiddleOak specialty products available to affected agents late in 2015. He also said that MAPFRE has offered jobs “to some MiddleOak employees” in order “to assist our efforts in minimizing any disruption.”

About Mark Hollmer

Hollmer is a veteran business journalist and editor of CarrierManagement.com's daily e-newsletter for the property/casualty insurance industry C-suite. He may be reached at mhollmer@carriermanagement.com. More from Mark Hollmer

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