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Since last September, Dane Douetil has been group CEO of Minova Insurance Holdings Ltd., which this month changed its name from BMS Associates Ltd. Minova owns a brokerage business, BMS Group Ltd., and an underwriting business, Pioneer Underwriting Ltd. He was CEO of Brit Insurance Holdings P.L.C. from 2005 until 2011. He was selected a commander of the British Empire in 2007 for his services to the insurance industry. He recently spoke with Business Insurance Senior Editor Sarah Veysey about Minova's growth strategy. Edited excerpts follow.
Q: Minova has just undergone a strategic review and, as part of that process, received a capital injection from Capital Z Partners L.L.P. to help finance the company's growth. What lessons were learned from that review and what are the next steps?
A: The review enabled me and the senior management team to take a really good health check of the business. And we also did a lot of benchmarking against others. One of the key things we found is that because we have been investing in people, for both the broker (BMS Group) and for Pioneer, we did not have enough money available to buy back shares from people who are no longer part of the company. The capital we raised from Capital Z will enable us to buy back those shares and to invest in new people.
Another thing that we learned was that we need to be efficient as we scale up.
What we are building within BMS is the capability to go out around the world and serve bundles of complex risk and match them with capital, whether that be in London, the United States, Bermuda or wherever. With Pioneer, we source that business from other brokers and then provide the expertise to underwrite it.
Q: Minova operates broking and underwriting businesses. Why is it important for the company to be active in both areas?
A: The announcement about the change of name of the holding company from BMS to Minova is very much about this. We are not a broking business and we are not an underwriting business; we are a holding company that invests in insurance businesses. It is very important that we operate the two separately, so they have separate boards. For example, the Pioneer board is chaired by former Lloyd's Chairman Max Taylor. BMS is also run and regulated separately. Each of these businesses needs to do the best for its clients. Pioneer cannot lead business from BMS; it is following capacity. And BMS clients have to sign a form to say that it is clear that it is placing business with a company also owned by Minova. There are obviously synergies between the two companies: insurance expertise, management and information technology expertise.
Q: The Lloyd's market is clearly an important one for Minova. What are the major attractions of the Lloyd's market? How do you hope to see the market adapt and modernize?
A: Why is the Lloyd's market still a success 300 years later? Because of technical ability matched with capacity and licenses to operate. It has a brand and franchise. It has expertise. We place business that is large, technical and has complex insurance requirements, and we can find that expertise better at Lloyd's than anywhere else in the world. But it is important for us to also access capacity elsewhere, so we have offices in Bermuda and in the United States. And we also have a capital market capability.
Q: Are there any other areas, either geographically or by business line, that you target for growth?
A: Pioneer is predominantly U.K.-based, but we will build out our presence in the United States. That is very much the focus for Pioneer over the next 12 to 18 months. BMS has offices in Australia, Canada, the United States, London and Bermuda.
We have already started to expand in South America. And there are certain areas of Africa where there are growing insurance needs — a growing middle class, more construction projects. We will grow there through relationships with local brokers.