Cohen: Arden’s successful wildfire product shows the ability of MGAs to problem solve “quickly”

Arden Insurance Services founder Brian Cohen has said the success of a standalone wildfire product offered to its residential condo association clients reflects the type of problem-solving capability that comes with being an MGA.

Speaking with The Insurer TV on the sidelines of last week’s Target Markets Mid-Year Meeting in Tampa, Florida, Cohen discussed the wildfire product, which won the E&S Innovation Award at the E&S Insurer Awards in March.

Arden was launched by Cohen in 2016 as a self-admitted “one-trick pony” focusing solely on residential condo associations, and expects to reach around $240mn in premium this year.

“All we focus on is residential condo associations. That's it. They're really garden style. We started in the West, and now we're in the Midwest, and we're making our way to the East Coast later on this year,” he explained.

Cohen called the innovation award win earlier this year “a really nice surprise”.

“One of the big issues in the West – in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada – is wildfire,” he explained, adding that condo associations labelled as being wildfire-exposed are under “a lot of stress”.

“And so, how do you give them a product that can meet the demands that they're looking for, without significantly limiting the coverages they have?” he elaborated.

“What we did is we exclude the wildfire risk, and segregate that [and] offer the core package like we always did – full limits – and then what we do is we require that they purchase a parametric product that we also offer, but [with] completely different capacity,” he explained.

“And by doing that they get wildfire coverage at lower limits – because they can't get full limits, that's just the way the market is – and they get the regular coverages for the run-of-the-mill kinds of claims that they run into at full limits.”

MGAs can tackle problems “quickly”

Cohen said he and his team have been “amazed at how quickly [the product] gained popularity” after being rolled out with select distribution partners in 2023.

Arden has been broadening its reach in terms of the states the product is available in and opening it up to additional distribution partners.

“So, [we’re] really excited with it. I think it really meets a demand that's out there,” he commented.

“And that's what I love about being an MGA is you can see a problem, you can tackle it quickly,” he explained.

“And you can get something to market much faster than others can and you can make a difference.”

Cohen said what he loves about the Target Markets events is the “access to carriers” and the ability to condense meetings over the course of two-plus days that would otherwise require months of travel visiting potential trading partners.

Noticeable appetite shift to E&S, property

On capacity conditions, Cohen said there is more capacity available, “but is under disciplined terms”.

“You might be able to get it, but the capacity providers are expecting a certain rate of return [and] certain coverage limitations,” Cohen explained.

A major theme that has stood out to him – even in just the last year – is the eagerness of carriers to provide capacity on non-admitted paper.

“Last year, it was just a hard market, and ‘we're not giving out capacity’. This year, it's, ‘yeah, we're interested, but we want it to go on the E&S side’. So I still think it's very tough to put a program together on the admitted side right now, very, very difficult,” he noted.

Cohen’s program is largely property. Whereas property was previously out of favour relative to casualty, he has noted a distinct shift with more carriers expressing an interest in moving away from casualty and showing a newfound interest in his program.

“What I'm starting to see now is, hey, maybe there's more interest in property because casualty has a whole bunch of issues as well,” Cohen commented.

Watch the full interview with Arden’s Cohen to hear more about:

  • Why Cohen is bullish on the MGA segment and its ability to deliver specialist solutions
  • How the Target Markets events allows MGAs like Arden to meet efficiently with carrier trading partners
  • Carriers expressing more interest in property amid casualty retrenchment
  • How specialist MGAs compete with large incumbent carriers