London-headquartered RFIB is the new kid on the block in Singapore, having received its licence there in August 2017.
While it has declared Asia as a key growth spot for its business – minimally over the next three years – the independent international (re)insurance broker told Asia Insurance Review that its expansion plans will be executed in a measured manner. Further, an instrumental part of its strategy and commitment to the region is investing in young local talent.
Intern scheme in 2018 to develop new blood
Under-investment in good talent, Mr Chris Tansley, Chairman for Marine, said, is a significant challenge for the industry. This is why RFIB is in talks with Singapore’s Maritime Port Authority (MPA) to participate in the latter’s intern scheme for 2018 to develop new blood for the business.
Mr Chris Bracegirdle, Director of Marine – Cargo, noted that compared to the past when he first entered the profession, many of the industry players have cut back on graduate training programmes as a result of cost-reduction drives, “which is a real shame”. He added however, it is not just a challenge in the broking sector, but one that is pervasive across underwriters too.
“And now, we are beginning to see how it is affecting the industry. An example is, with the loss events that have happened this year, we could possibly see the start of a hard market. But there’s a whole raft of people who don’t know what a hard market looks like because there’s not been investment in the people… so the challenge is getting good talent to come into the industry and stay.”
No hurry to expand
When it comes to its expansion path, the broker, whose core proposition is in Marine and other specialty (re)insurance classes, maintains prudence above all.
Aside from its representative office in Tokyo and its relationship with the Japanese market for the last three decades, RFIB’s business with the rest of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, have been relatively less. The firm has existing client relationships in several Asian markets, but have mostly placed business in London.
After five years of careful observation, research and understanding of the region, along with Lloyd’s presence in Singapore, the intermediary liked what it saw and thus took the necessary steps to set up shop, with the intention of making the city-state its Asia hub.
Although it has offices in both Dubai and South Africa, Mr Tansley also foresees using RFIB’s base here for “a lot more of its African and Middle Eastern businesses”. “I think we will be able to generate significant revenue for this market, and likewise to place business from here into other reinsurance markets. We see our three offices coordinating very much on this.”
While the company is determined to take its time developing its presence in this region by offering value-added services in specialist areas, both executives noted they are “not ignoring other parts of Asia”.
Mr Bracegirdle shared: “We had a debate on where we should be. With China driving the global economy, we wondered if we should set up in Hong Kong, and that may be something for the future. KL is also exciting and if you want to do business in Malaysia, you need to be in the capital.”
“If the right opportunity arises, perhaps a JV or other, we will consider it. So I won’t rule out that we won’t [expand quickly], but at the moment, our focus is building the business in Singapore,” Mr Tansley added. A