Created to fill a void
Bermuda remains one of the most innovative markets globally when it comes to solving clients’ problems and developing unique solutions. But in the wake of so much consolidation among brokers, there is a great need for a strong independent player on the Island—a role that Price Forbes is fulfilling.
That is the view of Colin Kelley, managing director, Price Forbes (Bermuda), discussing the trajectory of the business since it launched on the Island in May 2019. He says he understood when he joined in 2020 that the acquisition of JLT, which had a strong team on Bermuda, had created a vacuum, which needed to be filled.
“There was a major dislocation in the market when JLT was acquired; there was a need for independent players on Bermuda. We wanted to start something that was truly independent to complement what we had built in London. So that dislocation was the catalyst for us to build a true independent on the Island,” Kelley says.
He says his career as an underwriter for more than a decade, latterly at Sompo, helped him understand the desire for different options. “One of my frustrations as an underwriter was that so much business was ultimately dictated through the large retail brokers. JLT had created a unique platform in Bermuda. This was the opportunity to refill that void.”
He notes that in his early career, he worked for Marsh in New York, which gave him great experience. He came to Bermuda in 2006 for “a couple of years”—and 17 years later is still there. He wants to meld his different experiences with what now makes Bermuda unique in Price Forbes.
“It’s a fantastic place—one of the most unique capital bases in the world, and it has such a different approach to finding solutions for clients. I went on to work for Sompo and I am now trying to combine my experience with what is an independent shop. That’s exactly what we’ve done successfully over the last three-and-a-half years, I believe.”
Kelley says that in the three years since launch, Price Forbes has aligned as one team and created verticals that work in conjunction with one another. It has built the largest independent on Bermuda, now employing north of 40 people. “But our differentiator is that, thanks to the larger group, we have a true London platform we work in conjunction with. That is a unique sales point to our clients, our trading partners. It’s a unique model we’re now seeing other brokers trying to replicate.”
He says the growth strategy remains to bring in smart, talented, senior executives with experience in different geographies. He name-checks Chris Bonard, the chief executive officer; John Turner, who had 35 years’ experience at Aon; and Paul Scope, who joined from Willis.
“We’ve completely differentiated ourselves in terms of not just scale, but expertise. We want to continue to have boots on the ground and help people understand the Bermuda market,” he says.
Kelley stresses that there are many benefits to having an operation on Bermuda but is disparaging of rivals that use the market without being fully committed. “We see some brokers coming to the Island from London, who don’t necessarily want to invest in Bermuda. They come in and out when convenient. In contrast, we have boots on the ground, we invest in the Island, we hire local talent, Bermudians.
“You get the best results doing that: having people who understand the Island, understand the people that you’re interacting with, promoting the islands, promoting the Bermuda culture and community.”
He acknowledges that there are challenges, but from a Bermuda perspective, he says, it’s about keeping Bermuda relevant and continuing the momentum it has built in the past three years. He says some 80 percent of clients visit Bermuda, and this is continuing to increase post-COVID. As they do so, the business is cross-selling into other product lines.
“You need to be as transparent and candid with your clients as you can.” Colin Kelley, Price Forbes (Bermuda)
“It’s a different approach and can be a challenge when you are only three years in business. We’re still in the growth stages of our five-year plan. But our offering is becoming rounded. We have an insurance arm, a reinsurance arm, a capital markets division. We look very different from any other independent broker here.”
On market conditions, Kelley concedes these too have created some challenges. While property pricing has been “fantastic” it has also created challenges around finding capacity and negotiations for clients. The key to managing this is good communication, he says.
“Managing client expectations is about getting in front of them early and discussing a strategy for the renewal. As a senior group, we have done this before: we’ve sat in front of clients and delivered tough messages when needed. But getting in early is always key.
“That’s also why incorporating Bermuda into the platform, having that global message, is important to putting a global placement together. Timing is huge, messaging is huge. You need to be as transparent and candid with your clients as you can, and our trading partners and our clients appreciate that approach.”
In the context of developing a rounded offering on Bermuda, he notes that Price Forbes has started a captive management group. “We certainly don’t have the scale that a number of others do in the space but it’s a segment we would like to grow, and we know it’s needed.
“Whether it’s finding reinsurance or unique solutions, captives are an important part of this market and the solutions we offer to clients,” he concludes.
Colin Kelley is managing director of Price Forbes (Bermuda). He can be contacted at email@example.com