The Panel

Rafael Rebitzky - Director of Underwriting, Specialty Lines

Heiko Würtz - Managing Director / Head of Financial Lines

Derek Spafford - General Manager & Chief Agent

Thomas Barenthein - Member of the Executive Board

Heiko Würtz: There has been a soft market for arguably the last 10 -15 years. However, this hardening has been signposted first in Australia about 36 months ago. So, it is no real surprise that other geographies would follow including Europe.

The key now is to work well in advance of renewal – for all parties to communicate and not to try and catch the last train.

Rafael Rebitzky: As Heiko says, it is many years since the last hard market. For younger brokers, it is a new experience, and it is important to educate and explain in a rational way. This includes being honest about the fact that there has been a soft market for 15 years and we are in a period of correction.

Trust and transparency are key in explaining how we can maintain a sustainable insurance market.

Thomas Barenthein: 

We have always built our business strategy around developing long-term relationships.

That is even more important now in a hardening market. At HDI Global Specialty, we need to communicate and find constructive solutions.

Rafael Rebitzky: We need to appreciate that it is tough for brokers who could be having difficult conversations with clients. I would reiterate that it is essential to engage in the renewal process early to manage expectations and explore routes to a mutually acceptable solution. Derek Spafford: Consistency benefits everyone. Volatility in pricing leads to unexpected surprises and, in the worst cases, carriers exiting lines. At HDI Global Specialty, we believe in being there with our clients

Derek Spafford: Consistency benefits everyone. Volatility in pricing leads to unexpected surprises and, in the worst cases, carriers exiting lines. 

At HDI Global Specialty, we believe in being there with our clients for the long-term.

This is achieved by remaining in lines of business through sensible, sustainable pricing.

Thomas Barenthein: 

We have empowered underwriters, which is important for clients in a hardening market.

It is not our business philosophy to apply, say, a blanket 20% increase; our approach is one of individual underwriting. In this way, risks are written on a technically sound basis. Also, it is not just about price, but the right terms and conditions, too.

Rafael Rebitzky: Finding answers and solutions in a hard market means considering other options for clients beyond pricing.

  • Can retention be increased and in which parts of the programme?
  • Consider lowering sub-limits.
  • Think strategically. We are driven by longevity, the need to write the risk for the client now and in ten years.
  • Offering of other services such as risk engineering


Derek Spafford: We are in a hard market in a global pandemic, so it is important to be empathetic as well as professional – to support brokers and clients in a tripartite relationship. We are in this together which requires dialogue, active listening, and honesty.

Rafael Rebitzky: Derek is absolutely right; yes, there is a correction in the market, and we need to help clients where we can. For example, we have returned premiums where the risk is no longer there such as in the entertainment industry. Also, in the case of Credit and Political Risk, we are writing up to 15-year policies. It is in all of our interests for programmes to be sustainable and find innovative solutions including restructuring.

Heiko Würtz: Despite the correction in the market, it is also worth noting that insurers are still reporting Combined Operating Ratios of over 100%. For this reason, it is important to find a balance – to support clients and be there for the long-term.

Thomas Barenthein: A robust risk management plan is more important than ever. It also helps us to understand the client, their business culture, and the tone set from the top. This not only allows us to set the right rate - the technical element – but also where there are losses these can be articulated. In this way, we can align with a client and deliver individual underwriting.

Derek Spafford: Transparency by all parties leads to the development of a deeper and mutually beneficial understanding over time. As an example, for our part we share benchmarking data with clients to improve risk mitigation strategies and reduce claims.

Heiko Würtz: The market has always worked in cycles. However, our strength and strategy has always been to provide stability for clients, to deliver in the good times as well as the tough ones. We have been here for more than 100 years, and we want to be there for the next 100 years too.

Key Points

- Entering and exiting lines and markets helps nobody – long-term solutions are the key.

- Plan well in advance of renewal.

- A sustainable market needs an adjustment and correction.

- Technical underwriting rather than blanket increases is the way forward

- There is a need for dialogue, transparency, and mutually beneficial answers

- HDI Global Specialty is here for clients in the good times as well as the tough ones

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