Staying Focused on Surplus Lines: Amwins’ President Drinkwater

By | November 19, 2021

It’s an interesting time in the surplus lines industry with insurance rates increasing and capacity being limited in some classes of business. It’s a time when maintaining focus is critical to finding success, according to the president of Amwins Group, the nation’s largest independent wholesale distributor of specialty insurance products.

James Drinkwater, the Amwins leader, believes that through the pandemic and hard market, the surplus lines sector has done what it is supposed to do. “It’s performed as designed,” Drinkwater told Insurance Journal. “We’ve seen an opportunity to take care of our retail clients when the admitted standard market has been retreating from the marketplace.”

James Drinkwater, president, Amwins Group

Drinkwater notes that the surplus lines industry has enjoyed substantial growth over the past 18 months as standard market insurers have been shedding unprofitable business.

“There are certain classes of business such as cyber that have seen dramatic increases this past year,” Drinkwater said. Healthcare, excess, transportation and catastrophe property are among the other lines experiencing significant pressure.

But not all prices have been going up. “While rates in the most distressed classes continue to see rate increases, there’s been a little bit of a deceleration.”

He predicts that 2022 will continue the trend of rate increases for certain classes of distressed business.

The year 2021 was a busy one for Amwins Group which completed the acquisitions of several large specialty insurance organizations, including Worldwide Facilities in March, Equisure Inc. in May, M.T. Donahoe & Associates LLC in June, and National Truck Underwriting Managers Inc. in August.

Drinkwater says Amwins Group will continue to eye acquisition opportunities in 2022.

“We’ve got a pretty robust pipeline of transactions that we’re looking at,” he said. “We are very selective on the type of transaction that we want to do, and it’s got to supplement the platform that we’ve got, and it’s got to give us something that we didn’t have before.” That might include more acquisitions on the managing general agency side of the industry, he said.

While acquisitions will continue, Amwins is committed to growing organically, as well. “We want to build our specialty practices, build our specialty capabilities, specifically in product development, so you’ll see a lot of work being done as we try and build more exclusive product for our business and our clients,” the executive told Insurance Journal.

As the company grows, maintaining the Amwins culture is a key, Drinkwater says. To accomplish this, he said the company must stay focused on four things: people, product, relationships and clients.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best possible people,” he said. That means recruiting, training and developing the best possible talent.

In terms of product, Amwins is prioritizing being innovative, he said.

“We’re also focused on markets and market relationships,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’ve got access to every market and have the best market relationships.”

“Finally, we’re focused on our clients,” he said. “We want to make sure that our clients see us as being different from our competition. And we’ve got to make sure that we take care of them regardless of the marketplace.”

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Amwins Group operates through more than 155 offices globally and handles premium placements in excess of $26 billion annually.

Topics Excess Surplus

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