Ghazal Hamid is the Director of Underwriting and has been involved with the growth and advancement of South Western Insurance Group since 2002. With a strong Commercial Liability and Property background, Hamid plays a significant role in the development and execution of South Western Insurance Group’s corporate and regional branch strategies. In addition, he concentrates on broker and company relationship management while focusing on the growth of the Property and Casualty business lines. We interviewed Hamid upon his return from a recent trip to London. In this interview, he reviews the last half-year of how Lloyd’s of London has changed, what’s going on in the domestic market, and how SWG identifies emerging marketplace trends.

What’s changed in the insurance world over the last 6 months?

“It’s been an interesting past six months. For the last fifteen or so years we’ve been in a soft market. Now, it finally seems to be hardening, starting with Lloyd’s of London. As Lloyd’s continues to tighten, risk segments and industry groups are becoming more challenging to place in that market.”

At this point, how have the changes in London impacted SWG?

“Because we have a strong relationship with Lloyd’s and key domestic insurers, we’ve been able to re-evaluate those sectors and re-underwrite with domestic support. That’s allowed us to re-balance our portfolio and maintain our good position in the market.”

How have previous analytics and industry trends influenced your decision-making?

“As an MGA, we also have to write the classes that brokers pick up on a cyclical basis, and we need to write them profitably. So, we develop parameters that we think will make it successful, at a pricing point that we think will make it profitable. That’s also why specialty markets are there - we present special terms for special products. The analytics are important here because they help us make the most informed judgments about what classes have staying power through the ebb and flow of the market forces.”

What’s the biggest trend you see emerging in the insurance industry?

“Automation will be key for the insurance industry as our clients are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. Facilitating APIs, portals, or connectivity to various products means we can better serve the growing distribution point of digitally aware brokers. Automation also offers ease of use in getting quotes, and terms and binding policies - so, everyone wins.”

How has SWG responded to the need for automation?

“For us to grow and be prepared for the next six months and beyond, we’re putting effort into building an infrastructure that is capable of providing digital access for our distribution network. This will be designed to help our distribution point to do what they do more efficiently and in less time while leaving less room for errors and double-entries. All of this new infrastructure will be catered to the needs of our emerging brokers.”

What advantage does SWG bring to the current hardening market? “We’ve built a really strong relationship with Lloyd’s over the decades and we were one of the first MGAs to get Lloyd’s coverholder status. Meanwhile, we have a healthy set of domestic relationships that allow us to balance out the ups and downs between the Lloyd’s and domestic appetites. “Our focus has always been to meet the needs of our brokers. Five years ago, our philosophy shifted from a mainly wholesale place to an underwriting place to meet those needs. So, we did a lot of underwriting in-house. That’s given us the advantage in this marketplace to control of our own parameters and premiums in ways that work in the best interests of our clients.”