13 March 2024News

Everest enjoys strong January renewal: COO speaks ahead of Risk Summit

Everest Group is coming off an excellent January renewal in which the company was able to increase its property catastrophe book by 30% and its overall property book by 40%. 

Jill Beggs, the newly promoted chief operating officer of Everest Reinsurance, attributes the strong growth to changes in how the company – long a major player in the reinsurance sector – operates, and how it is working hard to offer clients solutions across different segments and geographies. 

Speaking ahead of the Bermuda Risk Summit, she said much of that change comes down to teamwork. The former softball pitcher said that, along with the company’s formidable financial strength, and deep expertise in the reinsurance industry. 

Those factors, and the vision that chief executive officer Juan Andrade and Jim Williamson, group chief operating officer and head of reinsurance, have laid down for the company, encouraged Beggs to return to the company where she started her career more than 30 years ago.  

Beggs began her career at Everest when it was Prudential Re and spent ten years at the company before joining Munich Re where she spent the next two decades. She returned to Everest as head of North American reinsurance in 2021.  

Part of the vision that brought her back concerned being the best in the business by working across different segments and reacting quickly to trends and events, which she said Everest excels in. 

 That ability came through in the renewal period, she said. 

“We really saw the flight to quality continue,” she explained. “We were able to deliver another really strong January 1 renewal, which we're really pleased about, and we were able to grow market share on oversubscribed deals with leading clients on the best property cat, cyber, specialty lines and treaties in geographies around the world. 

“I think that was because we delivered a consistent message to our brokers and clients, which allowed us to execute on that plan. Broker and client feedback was excellent where we were hearing that our clients and brokers signed down other carriers to make room for Everest.

“I think that's a testament of how we're showing up and the value that we bring to the table.”

She said the company achieved its January 1 objectives and is “positioned to drive substantial margin expansion going forward.”

In doing so, the company grew its total catastrophe portfolio by more than 25% compared to expiring premiums and that was on top of, the significant increase that we saw at 2023.”

“We're really leaning into the hard market. We had a capital raise last year and we were able to fully deploy that capital at 1/1 and we have additional for the rest of the year.”

Beggs’ new role fits closely with this as she is tasked with ensuring different parts of the company work together to drive growth by making sure clients have solutions to their insurance problems. 

She says at Everest this is less a case of breaking down silos, although she had experience of that in her past roles, both at Everest and in two decades at Munich Re, but of building on the cooperation and collaboration that already existed. 

“I feel like we've made a lot of progress across the board,” she said. “It started with Juan (Andrade) and Jim (Williamson). They had a vision coming in before I joined and what attracted me to the role was that it aligned with a lot of what I had been doing in my prior roles. And together, we’re —working across the board to deliver solutions to the market that bring our entire breadth to bear for our clients and for our brokers.” 

Still, knitting together businesses that cover a range of different segments and $11.5 billion in annual premiums cannot be easy. Beggs is responsible for North America Treaty, International treaty, the global facultative business and also Mt. Logan Re, Everest’s Bermuda based insurance-linked securities arm.

“We have a solid foundation,” she said. “But of course, we don’t rest on our laurels. We're continuing to improve, and we are implementing structures to allow us to collaborate more effectively across clients, across brokers, across lines of business, not only across reinsurance but across insurance as well.

“From a product perspective, it means looking at trends across lines of business at a high aggregated level and bringing those insights down deeper into the teams. 

“That’s an ongoing process. I don't think you're ever finished with that, but that's what we're trying to do and it's been a really great journey to bring the team along, to continue to elevate our game and to get deeper into those, those clients and those lines of business across the board.”

She said the other element involves reacting with speed to changes in the market, and she credits Everest, despite its size, with having a lean management structure and “a sense of urgency”. 

“When there are changes in the marketplace, we can act within hours, and we've done that. We've set up mechanisms within the organisation where we can communicate very quickly on a specific topic and move through it and pivot within hours or days as opposed to weeks or months, which I do think differentiates us.”

Going forward in her new global role, Beggs said Everest is looking at Asia and Europe as two areas of growth and opportunity. 

In Asia, the sheer size of different countries’ populations coupled with yawning protection gaps speaks to its potential, along with the fact Everest is “underweight” in the continent as well. In Europe, which is a more mature market, Everest has good relationships with global businesses that operate in Europe, but also has room to grow with companies that are more regional in nature.  

In the casualty segment, Beggs said Everest had pulled back in certain segments, notably D&O, and has reduced its overall casualty exposure by about $300 million, but Beggs said the pullback was selective and based on individual policies rather than an across-the-board change. 

She made no apologies for Everest being focused on profitable underwriting, saying: “We are bottom line focused and if we need to manage the cycle and pull back, we will do that. 

“In some of the deals we were able to achieve a ceding commission adjustment that that supported the margins that we were looking for.”

Beggs said she was proud to be more one of the more senior women at Everest and in the re/insurance industry generally. 

She said her work in innovation had taught her the importance of “having diversity at the table, to attack a problem and come up with a solution that was different”.

As a former pitcher, she compared diversity to a softball team – it would be no use if there were nine pitchers and no fielders. 

“It's definitely about having diversity at the table and for women in particular, it's making sure we keep them in the game and have a strong pipeline and give them development opportunities and sponsorships to move ahead,” she said. 

“It’s not just about diversity. It is about inclusion. It's about actually seeking out different opinions, even if they differ from the way that you may see it, or that's comfortable for you.”

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