New London Reinsurer Sets Sights on Africa

By | November 26, 2014

One Re Ltd., the first reinsurer approved under Britain’s “twin peaks” system of financial regulation, said it’s seeking clients across 38 African countries in the next year as growth outpaces developed regions.

One Re, started by Johannesburg-born brothers Andrew and Robert Lewis in 2012, already has clients signed up in countries including Mozambique, Angola and Lesotho. Andrew Lewis, chief executive officer, created insurer Global Alliance in 2001 before selling its operations to various buyers including Barclays Africa Group Plc in 2011.

“In sub-Saharan Africa there are 38 countries we’ve identified and we’re going in looking for local insurers that we will insure,” London-based Andrew Lewis said in an interview in Johannesburg yesterday. Lloyd’s of London Ltd., Sirius International Insurance Group Ltd. and Canopius Reinsurance Ltd. are supporting One Re, he said.

The U.K. reinsurer, which will partner with just one insurer in each country, was funded by the Lewis brothers who each contributed $25 million. In five years it will probably seek to raise about $100 million, according to Andrew. Global insurance companies are evaluating markets in Africa where millions of people are earning enough to afford business cover and protection for their families for the first time. Some of the firms are gaining insights into the continent by working with One Re.

Diversifying Risk

“The appetite is there for Africa,” Lewis said. “We’re a gateway to Africa for the international community. To deal with any risks we’re diversifying risk as much as possible, so there’s the 38 countries.”

Insurance penetration for Africa, measured as a percentage of premiums to gross domestic product, is 3.5 percent, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP report released in South Africa on Oct. 21. That’s more than the emerging markets’ average of 2.7 percent and lower than the average for advanced markets of 8.3 percent.

Revised regulations in the U.K. have divided responsibilities between the Financial Conduct Authority, which was created in April 2013 to oversee banking behavior and consumer protection, and the Prudential Regulation Authority, an arm of the Bank of England designed to supervise capital and liquidity requirements at banks, insurers and investment firms.

To boost its operations One Re has also set up a training center in South Africa, according to Lewis. In-country training, skills development and knowledge transfer will support the growth of Africa’s reinsurance markets, he said.

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