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IGI: 'We See Significant Opportunities in the Current Market'

Waleed Jabsheh, president, International General Insurance

Waleed Jabsheh, president, International General Insurance, offers an update on IGI’s progress during a testing 18 months.

How have the last 18 months been for IGI?

2020 was a transformational year for us as we became a publicly traded company on NASDAQ after 18 years as a privately-owned business. It was no easy feat transitioning the company to trade on such a rigorously regulated public exchange and I am delighted with the way that our teams pulled together to achieve this.

Also, at the same time as our listing, we had to deal with the pandemic. As soon as the crisis hit, our number one priority was to look after our employees’ well-being. I am tremendously proud of the sacrifice and dedication they have shown over the past 18 months. Throughout the pandemic, we continued to offer consistent levels of support to our clients and partners.

Despite the challenges, IGI performed exceptionally well in 2020. Our gross premiums grew by 33.8%, to $467.3 million, and our combined ratio was 89.3 for the year. Our results for the second quarter and first half of 2021 further confirmed the successful track record IGI has built over the past 20 years, showing strong profitability in the first six months, reflected in our 88.5 combined ratio.

2020 was a transformational year for us

We have also set up business in new territories and entered several new lines of business, including marine cargo and trades, and contingency. I am delighted with IGI’s performance and excited about our future prospects as the company continues to evolve.

Can you tell us about your growth plans in the US and Europe, which are new regions for IGI?

We see significant opportunities in the current market and have expanded into new territories, as well as increasing our lines of business. In April 2020, we were granted licences to start underwriting Excess & Surplus lines business in the US, and during 2020, we wrote about $20 million across Property, Energy, and Terrorism.

In August this year, we officially launched our European subsidiary in Malta, which will allow us to continue doing business and growing our footprint across Europe post-Brexit. Europe is not an entirely new market for IGI but does offer high growth potential for the group now that we have a physical presence on the ground. Our biggest success so far has been in Professional and Financial Lines, but we offer around 20 lines of coverage globally — most of which will be offered in Europe. This is an exciting opportunity for IGI.

How has the hardening market affected your business and what opportunities has it created?

Prices have been increasing in the past two years, and for the first time in years, there has been a move back to sensible and prudent underwriting. Current market conditions are ripe for profitable growth and that’s what we intend to achieve in the coming years.

Current market conditions are ripe for profitable growth.

The positive pricing environment makes it an attractive market in which to underwrite more business. In March 2021, we went into Contingency, a new line of business for the company, at a time when many players were withdrawing from that market. We had considered writing that business for a while, but the timing has never been right. However, if there ever was an opportunity to get into this line of business, now is the time. We have sourced an exceptional underwriter to write this business globally – including our new territories of Europe and the US.

Meanwhile, in June 2020 we launched a Marine Trades insurance product to strengthen our existing portfolio. Written through our UK subsidiary, it covers the smaller UK Recreational Marine market, where we see growth opportunities. We also began writing Marine Cargo around the same time, focusing on a specific segment of the market.

How can IGI stand out against some of its larger competitors?

Our focus is on sustainable long-term business. This involves us diversifying the portfolio by bringing in new lines of business and new teams, as well as expanding into different jurisdictions. We feel there will continue to be market dislocation throughout the rest of this year, which will enable us to continue with this strategy.

IGI has always had a strong reputation for extremely disciplined underwriting with a focus on the bottom line. This has been the basis of our success over the years. Our current strategy is underpinned by a dual approach of always looking for new lines of business whilst at the same time continuously refining our existing portfolio. Our balance sheet is strong, and our portfolio is well balanced. We are also nimble enough to respond to changing market dynamics, moving quickly into new lines of business and different territories where we see opportunities for profitable growth. All these factors mean we are confident about profitable growth in the current market and are well-positioned to seize the correct opportunities when they come our way.