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Market changes post-Sandy open doors for excess and surplus insurers

Market changes post-Sandy open doors for excess and surplus insurers

SAN DIEGO — Current market conditions caused by Superstorm Sandy present unique opportunities for excess and surplus lines insurers, speakers said during the annual convention of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices Ltd. in San Diego.

The financial battering Sandy bestowed on standard lines insurers caused many to withdraw from coastal markets, leaving opportunities for surplus lines insurers, said Brenda Austenfeld, executive vice president of Kansas City, Mo.-based commercial wholesale insurance brokerage Westrope during a panel discussion Tuesday.

“Superstorm Sandy has been a real opportunity for E&S wholesale brokerage,” Ms. Austenfeld said. “Standard lines insurers have cut capacity and restricted coverage, so we are writing more business.”

Gerald Dupre, New York and Atlanta-based senior vice president of property for North and South America for Torus Specialty Insurance Co., said the lack of surplus lines underwriting expertise was apparent in the wake of the October 2012 storm. “Sandy pushed a lot of standard lines carriers back into their own lane,” he said.

James C. Drinkwater, president of the brokerage division of AmWINS Group Inc., said surplus lines insurers should be aggressive in promoting their expertise and value-added services to potential clients.

“It's not just Sandy,” Mr. Drinkwater said. “There are opportunities everywhere.”

Mr. Dupre concurred, saying that market opportunities were rife for companies that were willing to be “sustainably opportunistic” in their underwriting.