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Good business is where you find it


In the course of the last decade, Hiscox P.L.C has expanded beyond its traditional Lloyd's of London roots. While Hiscox has put a lot of energy into developing its specialist personal lines and small commercial business, it continues to offer corporate buyers the kind of specialty cover expected of Lloyd's. Through 18 local offices in Europe, Bermuda and the United States, Hiscox offers professional liability; terrorism; political risk; specie; kidnap and ransom; contingency; marine; cargo; energy; war and satellite insurance to large companies. BIE asked Hiscox chief executive, Bronek Masojada, what his company is doing for corporate buyers of insurance.

Q: How has Hiscox changed over the past decade?

"We have transformed the group from a London-based, white Anglo Saxon male [dominated company] to a far more diversified group. What we are trying to do is take a Lloyd's specialist underwriting [model] and apply it through more local contact points—the French like to deal with the French and the Germans like to work with the Germans. We can't do everything. We can't be an AXA or an Allianz, but if you are a technology company or a media company and you want to deal with someone who understands your business, in those niches we can beat the biggest. We are interested in doing specific business very well."

Q: What are your plans for Hiscox in Europe?

"We started opening new offices [outside London] in 1996. We have been in France and Germany for 10 years now, these are still small businesses for us, but they are profitable. I am often asked if we are committed to Europe and the answer is that Hiscox is committed to business that makes money.

"Our goal ultimately? There is no reason why the European business can not be as big as our United Kingdom business. The products are there and the demand is there. It is whether customers in Europe put relationship above expertise. In my view, people value expertise."

Q: With Hiscox' push into personal and small commercial lines over the years, is Hiscox still committed to its big corporate clients?

"If you go back to 1996 the business was £400 million (€597 million) of premium [volume], of which £100 million was retail and £300 million was big ticket. Last year, premiums were £1.1 billion, of which more than £600 million was big ticket and £400 million was retail. In 10 years, our big ticket business has doubled in size and is still bigger than retail."

Q: Hiscox recently announced the plans to redomicile its head office to Bermuda. What are the advantages of such a move?

"The moving of the corporate headquarters to Bermuda does not imply a lessening of local presence. There are three drivers. Our strategy has changed a lot in the last 12 months with our move into Bermuda and the United States. Clearly, we want to get it up and running in the U.S., so putting the head quarters nearer to the U.S. will help. Also, over time, there should be a reduction in the tax rate and there is regulatory flexibility [in Bermuda] that will help manage our exposures and use of group reinsurance."