Westfield Specialty President: Each E&S Line Faces Its Own Hard Market
Some products have already peaked in terms of pricing, while others are still rising, said Jack Kuhn, president, Westfield Specialty.
Q: Jack Kuhn, president of Westfield Specialty, joined super regional mutual insurer Westfield to launch the Excess & Surplus lines business in July 2021. Can you tell us what you've been doing since it went live?
Kuhn: We started, really, towards the end of July of 2021. It was myself and my chief talent officer. And since, then we've hired 72 employees. We've launched five lines of businesses, we started writing business within the first 45 days. So a lot going on pretty excited about where we are and the the path that we have in front of us.
Q: Can you tell us about those five lines you decide to target?
Kuhn: We look at these different lines, really predicate about the talent that we're able to sort of bring into the organization. It's not as though we have a prescript that we definitely have to be in these lines. If we can't get the top talent in a certain line, then we will probably put a pause on entering into that particular business product. But the five that we're currently in are: E&S property, E&S excess casualty, commercial management liability, which is affectionately known as the D&O, financial institutions. And then we have our Westfield professional group, which is really our cyber techie E&O and professions E&O.
Q: Are you based out of Ohio?
Kuhn: I am not. I am still on the East Coast, in the New York metro area. That's where we're going to be probably significantly housing most of our operations. We've already have three locations up and running. We have one in Manhattan, one in New Jersey, and one in Atlanta. And soon one to be coming to Chicago. So very excited about, the pace that we are now entering into and really opening up some of the geographies in the US and the different product lines.
Q: How would you describe the E&S market today?
Kuhn: So it's been rather challenging for clients. It's been an interesting hard market. It's not as hard as the '85-'86 market, I think it's a little bit harder than the 2000-2001 market. And I think it's going to probably have a little longer lasting effect of the hard market, because each of these different products is on its own path on the dealing with a market cycle. So some products might have already achieved and hit the apex of the hard market and you're starting to see some of the softening starting to take place — doesn't mean that it's doom and gloom, it's just that they've hit the apex — while others might still be on that upward ramp to hitting the apex. So each product — the way we look at it is it's really going to be on its own path. And we'll make decisions accordingly, depending on where and what's going on with that particular product line.
Q: As you've been starting up and growing this business, have you run into any issues with new new hires, maybe not having experienced a hard market before?
Kuhn: It's probably even more challenging has been brokers not having to sort of deal with a hard market before. It's always been a rather soft and probably easier market on the broker side than it was on the underwriting side. But we still have some of those challenges in the sense of some of the changes that we're looking to make to programs where it's different sort of limit sizes, retentions and premiums. But you're trying to make sure that you're out in front on some of these, you're trying to really be responsive on trying to solve some of the gaps that some of the programs might have. At the same time, you really need to make sure that you are staying sort of focused on the business plan at hand in the sense of, you know, the different strategies on attachment and limits.
Q: what's it been like to hire people during the pandemic?
Kuhn: It's been it's been interesting. I'm a really people person, so I like meeting people I like having those sort of conversations and learning different things about people. This sort of environment is rather interesting and sometimes challenging. But we've been able to persevere through this and really been able to bring in a lot of top level talent.
Q: What's next for Westfield's specialty?
Kuhn: Expect us to continue to grow. We're looking to be close to over a billion dollars in the end over the next five years. So, putting a flag for that. I think there'll be a lot of opportunities for us to expand our portfolio with different product lines, as well as new geographies.