Irvan: Juniper Re is 100% operational and “ahead of schedule” in build-out

Juniper Re’s Jeff Irvan has said that The Baldwin Group-backed reinsurance broking start-up is “100 percent operational” and “ahead of schedule” in its build-out, as he also revealed that the firm is already placing business.

Speaking with The Insurer TV at last week’s Program Manager Conference and Awards, the intermediary’s president said Juniper Re is benefiting from in-house E&S property expertise, dislocation in the MGA market as well as its efforts to establish a unique culture.

“When you're trying to build a broker, everybody comes to you and says, ‘What kind of a broker are you going to be? Are you going to be just an MGA broker or a retro broker?’ And my answer was always that people are asking the wrong question,” Irvan explained.

“Because we look at things from the perspective of the finish line. We know the finish line is Juniper Re as a global powerhouse broker with specialist expertise in pretty much every field we want to be in,” he argued.

“The question is, ‘What's the path look like to get from where we are today to that moment?’ And that path is not set in stone, because it depends on our ability to recruit. It depends on market disruption. It depends on what's happening at other brokers.”

Build it and they will come

Irvan said the Juniper Re team thinks that the best strategy is to build a strong foundation in operations and analytics, so that the brokers it brings on board can immediately handle the business “coming in the door right now”.

“And then you hire specialist expertise to put us into more and more businesses as we go,” he said.

Juniper Re is already live in Bermuda and is working to launch in London, with more expected hires to be announced in the coming weeks. Irvan also said that the firm has brought onboard college graduates starting this summer as well as an intern.

“So we're building bench strength up and down [the firm]. I'm quite proud of the people that I've had a hand in training, that are now in senior roles across this industry right now,” Irvan said.

“And everybody that I've hired so far feels the same way: passionate about bringing people up. So the best thing we can do is continue to hire some young talent as well, and let that continue to grow,” he explained.

“So from my perspective, we're ticking off an awful lot of boxes, and I couldn't be happier.”

Irvan touted Juniper Re as having the “full support of The Baldwin Group”, which has the benefit of being a large public company that puts over $8bn of retail premium into the market.

“So much of our start-up nature was actually ‘supported start-up’, because we have payroll, we have legal support, HR support – all of that through The Baldwin Group,” he explained, adding that Juniper Re has especially focused on building out reinsurance-specific tools and analytics.

“And we're ahead of schedule on that,” he said.

MGA segment is a “massive growth area”

Irvan said Juniper Re is seeing “a lot of opportunities coming from the MGA side of the house”, noting that the segment is “a massive growth area”.

“It wouldn't be the thing that I would choose to do straight away, but I feel like that's where we can add the expertise. If you look at the MGA sector in general, it's growing like mad, but it's also disrupting,” he noted.

Irvan said that MGAs and Juniper Re both share a common “entrepreneurial spirit”, with underwriting teams moving from carriers to launch their own businesses.

Juniper Re’s president said that other reinsurance brokers have been “incredibly slow to allocate technical, talented, experienced and creative brokers to the MGA space”.

“It tends to be a lot more brokers who are very good at producing business and bringing it in, but then they don't have the technical expertise behind it to actually execute on the transaction,” he argued.

“That's especially true in the property space, as more and more companies are trying to build property and [it's] especially true when you need more than a million dollars of limit. That whole model falls apart, and margin is being left on the table,” he continued.

Irvan said that property MGA deals could be structured better, highlighting this as a “massive opportunity” for Juniper Re, while also arguing that fronting companies “need to evolve”.

“That's the kind of thing where I think people are going to start calling us as we get more and more of these deals done,” he said.

“And you're going to hear about these deals getting done because we're able to think about the business differently.

“And because we're taking E&S property experts, general liability experts that are used to working on highly complex – in some cases global – accounts, we’re bringing that expertise to the MGA space where it’s so desperately needed right now,” he said.

“The most creative company”

Irvan praised The Baldwin Group as “the most creative company” he has ever worked for, flagging the drive for innovation as a hallmark of its culture.

“These guys are young, they're hungry. Whereas other places I've worked, they find a way not to do things – they find a way not to go out on a limb – because it just sounds complicated or it's not what they do day in and day out.”

Irvan said the management team at The Baldwin Group has established a culture that “couldn’t be more the opposite” of what is commonly found at many of the industry’s legacy firms.

“If you have a good idea, it immediately goes up to the top and they get the whiteboard out and they start thinking about, ‘Does this make sense? Could it work?’ And we have those brainstorming sessions and people from Juniper are invited to the table to think about those types of creative solutions,” he noted.

That culture, he said, is also armed with its scale in the retail market, as he also pointed to its in-house MGA Millennial Specialty, which is closing in on $1bn in premium.

“So it's a growing, expanding group, and there's still low-hanging fruit they can pick off to grow their revenue,” he said.

Juniper Re has already had success hiring staff who have some connection to executives it has already recruited, which Irvan said allows them to more immediately grasp the type of culture it is aiming to build.

Already notching wins

Irvan also said Juniper Re has already had success in delivering better outcomes for clients.

“We've already lowered PMLs [for some clients] by 15-20 percent, just through our partnerships and thinking about the business a little bit differently,” he said.

As of late last week, Juniper Re had four 1 June deals in the market, with more in the pipeline.

“We are 100 percent operational – actuarial cat modelling (AIR and RMS) – plus other partnerships to help our clients,” he explained.

Irvan also said dislocation from hard market conditions and his conviction that such dynamics favour the challenger broker has been “bearing fruit”.

“Deals aren't getting done,” Irvan commented, adding that Juniper Re has been getting calls from potential clients needing help to get their deals over the line, and that clients at other companies are frustrated by getting passed on to different individual brokers within those firms.

He shared an anecdote of an old friend who called him after struggling to get connected with an individual broker who had the expertise to get a homeowners property deal done.

“He has yet to find somebody who has any expertise or any relevant expertise in homeowners property at the broker he's working with. So he finally called me and said, ‘Jeff, can you help me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, man, I can help you. I got a team for that.’

“We're going to figure out a way to do it. We're going to give you honest advice,” Irvan relayed.

Irvan said it was the personal relationship and established trust that helped Juniper Re win that business.

“I think we're going to have more of those phone calls coming our way,” he added.

Watch the full interview with Juniper Re president Jeff Irvan to hear more on:

  • How the newly launched broker is already in market and placing deals
  • Why the MGA segment is attractive and in need of more technical expertise
  • Details on Juniper being “100% operational” and plans to build out segments
  • How dislocation in the market is generating opportunities for the challenger
  • The culture Juniper is establishing and its fit within The Baldwin Group