New reinsurer fills gap in WR Berkley’s global reinsurance coverage

Berkley Re UK, the new reinsurance division of US (re)insurance group WR Berkley, is hoping to get approval from the UK Financial Services Authority in mid-November with a view to start writing at the 1 January renewals.

The new company will write both property and casualty reinsurance business on behalf of WR Berkley subsidiary WR Berkley Insurance (Europe) Limited. The company will focus on providing excess of loss in both cases, but will consider other types of business, including proportional.

The company will write business in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean from its UK domicile.

The new operation complements WR Berkley’s reinsurance operations in Asia and North America. “There was a big area between North America and Asia that Berkley hadn’t got a foothold in for reinsurance,” Berkley Re UK’s chief executive Richard Fothergill told Global Reinsurance at the Baden-Baden meeting yesterday. “It has been a natural progression for them to look to fill that space.”

Berkley Re UK is entering an already competitive and crowded market, but Fothergill says the company will set itself apart from others through the quality of capital and its single, well-known backer. WR Berkley Insurance (Europe) has an A rating from both AM Best and Standard & Poor’s.

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“There is a distinct entity providing the capital as opposed to the mutualised Lloyd’s approach so it is east for people to identify who is providing

Another distinguishing feature, Fothergill asserts, is the experience of Berkley Re UK’s team. Fothergill himself departed QBE Re in May to join the company. Elaine Perry, also formerly of QBE, heads Berkley Re UK’s casualty division, while property head Nick Bernardout previously worked at Chaucer. The underwriting team also includes former Allied World Assurance underwriter Cristina Sánchez-Estrada as property underwriter. A new casualty underwriter will join the team soon.

The company will offer limits of £10m per programme on property and £3.75m for casualty. The total amount of capacity the company will commit to the market has yet to be established. “That is subject to market conditions,” Fothergill explains. “It might have been a lot different had Hurricane Irene done more damage.”

While he acknowledges the market has yet to turn, Fothergill says Berkley Re UK will be ready when it does. “Having got this experienced team into place we will be well positioned should there be a change in market conditions,” he says. “We will be establishing our operation to a degree that when changes occur we will be able to help our client base in whatever way is necessary at that time.” 

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