Neil Evans, MD of BluNiche, the third MGA launched by NuVenture, revisits and assesses his experience with NuVenture to date:
Why choose to start an MGA?
I knew Andy [Colbran] from previous roles, and he’d mentioned the possibility to me a few times but I’d always shrug it off with a “maybe…” or a “some day…” but it was actually a very personal decision in the end. My wife is French and we and our children relocated to France during the pandemic, but I found I wasn’t able to continue in my previous role outside the UK. So, I decided: it’s now or never. Luckily, working with NuVenture we were able to find a way around that. And here we are!
What were your initial expectations?
I had very few concerns about being able to technically do the role. And the whole process felt the same as I’d experienced when setting up new teams at Catlin and Talbot. I was making good use of my knowledge of the “front end” of the business: getting reinsurance in place, sorting out the quoting and binding processes, planning for income growth, managing loss ratios, etc. But I soon learnt that’s the easy bit!
Did those change mid-process?
I very soon realized I had a huge lack of knowledge about the operational side of the business – all the cogs that make it work – the ones that aren’t directly related to the product, but that make sure we make a profit.
It was actually very reassuring to have the NuVenture team around me to keep me focused on the next stage of the operation, and to offer support and guidance when I needed it.
What challenges did you face? How did you approach them?
Early on the biggest challenge I encountered was the company name? BluNiche – I cannot remember how many weeks that took….
But in all seriousness, there is a different type and different level of responsibility when you start up your own entity. Was I making the right decisions? Were there better ways to do something? I remember saying numerous times – “I don’t know what I don’t know!”
Having realised a lot of the decision-making was going to be resting on my shoulders it was a great relief to feel the amount of support available – did not feel I was out on my own. However, sometimes (and I know this is a strange thing to complain about) but the amount of support could feel overwhelming, especially whilst I tried to work out who was who and how they were connected.
In some areas I had more support / resource available to me than I have ever had in my career. For example, I had Teams calls with the actuarial team where I would see six smiling faces on screen – I have never been in a meeting with six actuaries before!
And then there are the other support services. The ones that, as a professional underwriter, wouldn’t necessarily be your first thought: like administration, marketing, or HR – a lot of the heavy lifting in these areas was taken care of.
How was your launch experience?
Good. Great actually. The most frustrating thing was waiting for regulatory go ahead to start trading. This is something that was 100 percent out of our hands, so it was just a case of waiting. But once we were able to go, we got a lot of good press coverage and felt really welcomed into the market.
What I realized quickly though, was that launch day – the thing we’d all been working so hard towards for so long – was really only the beginning. Now my team and I actually had to go out and run the business!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting an MGA?
The freedom to run a business is a double-edged sword. Yes, you can make any decision you like – but you also must make all the decisions. Everything. From the name of the business and the required headcount, to the policy wordings and underwriting processes. It can be daunting and overwhelming at times. Be prepared for that. Make sure you have the right support. The right team in your corner.