First-rate opportunities for Lloyd’s Europe secondee underwriters

Interview with Antonio Bellanca, Professional Indemnity Class Underwriter at Ascot Group

Antonio Bellanca, Professional Indemnity Class Underwriter at Ascot Group, discusses how being a secondee underwriter has helped him grow his Lloyd’s Europe business.

Antonio Bellanca

Professional Indemnity Class Underwriter at Ascot Group

How did your insurance journey lead to Europe?

I graduated from the University of Edinburgh, where my thesis was on professional indemnity and the perception of risk. This ignited my interest in insurance, and I started writing business SME PI and some D&O (Directors & Officers liability) business.

Being able to speak some European languages has been a key competitive advantage and has allowed me to trade in quicker ways than others in this space. My ability to speak certain languages allowed me to move away from UK SME unit and onto an open market international team.

Twenty years on, we have a solid book, aiming for 100 million in 2023 Year of Account. We’re in Poland, France, Italy, Spain, Estonia, Lithuania, Israel, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Ireland and many more. About 50% in Europe, which is unheard of, and we’re really well diversified in the professions we cover.

During my early years in underwriting, I knew the importance of being a leader, so you have more control of your risks, the pricing and the terms and conditions. We lead around 92% of our book which gives brokers confidence to come and see us when they have a European risk.

How did you come to work as a seconded underwriter?

The Brexit debate had kicked off and, as you can imagine, there was a lot of market uncertainty. I was concerned about the repercussions for the industry and how this would impact on our trading as Ascot doesn’t have a European office.

Lloyd’s was making presentations about how it was going to set up in Brussels and underwriters would have to be seconded. Without fully understanding what this meant, I knew I had to be a secondee, or it could pose a major threat to my business. I wanted to ensure I could be a successful leader in the market and if that meant being a secondee in Brussels, I was ready to take on the challenge.

The second worry was that I wouldn’t be able to service referrals if I wasn’t the secondee. I would not be authorised to have a look at it, to be able to quote it, underwrite it and bind the risk.

Our cover holders in Europe are up against aggressive local market competition. We must get a response out within 24 hours and be able to deliver a quick service. I knew that not being able to service my business properly, quickly, and efficiently was the biggest threat to my existing European book, coupled with the ability to grow the European business successfully.

I strongly believe that service continues to be fundamental to maintaining, winning, and losing business. Our ability to efficiently provide a service for our brokers and coverholders is paramount.

One of the prerequisites for secondment was to either sit regulatory exams in Belgium or obtain an equivalent academic degree. I was lucky that my masters degree from Edinburgh gave me an exemption, I only had to go through a process with the Belgian educational authority to get that qualification recognised by the regulator.

"For us, the future is here, as secondee’s we should be working closer together, so Lloyd's has a recognisable offering within Europe."
Antonio Bellanca, Professional Indemnity Class Underwriter at Ascot Group & Lloyd's Europe secondee

How does secondment help you build Ascot Group’s book of business?

It provides much more flexibility, I’m able to trade freely and my strategy is that we must lead our business from a reputational perspective and from a technical perspective. It is definitely a competitive advantage and if you’re not a secondee, it could hold you back.

For us, the future is here, as secondee’s we should be working closer together, so Lloyd’s has a recognisable offering within Europe.

It’s a benefit and an honour to be a secondee, so we should be trading on our status, more frequently. It can be seen as an administrative burden as it is more work, but it opens the door to many more opportunities.

We are lucky to be an established leader of our class of business, and we are building some interesting products off the back of my secondee status. We are excited to collaborate with other secondees, as well as non-secondees to help them to enter Europe when the regulation allows.