Chasing the mid tier business

02 March 2015 Price Forbes SA

Warren Bolttler, CEO of Price Forbes SA, says over the past five to six years there has been an oversupply of capacity and choice in the South African insurance market. This has made the market highly competitive and very much a buyer’s market, provided the risk does not have a bad risk management track record.

At the moment there are around 250 insurers, including UMA’s active in the South African market, some of which may not be known in the general market.

In spite of the influx of new capacity and new entrants coming into the market, Price Forbes (Pty) Ltd, now in its third year of operation in South Africa, has successfully managed to keep its head above water reporting an almost 400% increase in revenue growth for the 2014 financial year.

“We are well on track to achieve our longer term five year growth projection and already employ 23 talented individuals providing a highly bespoke personalised service to our mid-size clients both within South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Bolttler.

Bolttler says a huge focus of the organisation has remained on attracting the right calibre of scarce talent. “We know that in the corporate and commercial broking segments, particularly, most of the large corporate clients are serviced by very well established and very knowledgeable professionals but there is very little succession planning.

 “We have consciously gone out to try and attract seasoned but younger professionals so that communication and rapport is more easily created with our clients. Along with that we have recruited some exciting young talent recently out of university who can spend time learning the ropes and building relationships with the clients before eventually taking over the accounts. We’ve got a strong succession programme that puts younger people in place to be mentored by these more seasoned professionals.”

Commenting on growth prospects, Bolttler says the organisation is actively pursuing mid-size clients who require a bespoke personalised approach to their business. “We are not competing with the big boys. We want the middle tier of business that needs the professionalism and expert track record of the big boys but are just too small for that level of attention from the large brokerages. We are akin to a private bank and that boutique offering is what helps differentiate us.”

Africa has proved a highly successful revenue stream for Price Forbes and this area is envisaged to grow even further under Paul Lewis. The African continent offers very attractive long term business opportunities and many brokers have at least started spreading their wings across SA’s borders. “Our market is fairly diversified here. We have opted for a low risk strategy and have not invested in subsidiaries and branded operations in other African countries. Instead we have chosen to establish partnerships with established local players and we work with them on their wholesale requirements,” Bolttler says.

Price Forbes acts as a basic reinsurance wholesaler, looking at clients, brokers or even other insurance companies who are placing African risk into the South African market. “Alternatively we provide an outward service for SA domiciled clients. We can ensure a centrally-controlled insurance programme with very little risk or volatility.”

There is significant appetite from underwriters wanting to write African insurance business. “We have been able to demonstrate to South African and international insurers that, through our African partnership network, we are able to put them ahead of many of the continent’s risks,” he says.

“As a larger player, that is part of a large international organisation, we have ready and cost-effective access to South African and offshore insurance capacity, including some of the non-traditional players such as the Russians who appear more willing to cover higher risk projects.”

Finally on the commercial side of the business, an area which will now receive more focus this year, Price Forbes is again targeting smaller businesses and individuals to grow the organisation’s annuity business.

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