Canadian Underwriter

New Brand, New Legacy

May 25, 2011   by Alex Vizer

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Company: Ironshore Canada Limited

President: Michael Wills
Year Founded: 2009
# of Employees: 4
Public or Private: Private

Premiums/Year: Unavailable for Ironshore Canada (the company was formed in December 2009). Ironshore wrote $800 million to $1 billion (US) in premiums last year.

Beginnings: Ironshore was founded in 2006 as a response to the shortage of capital in the U.S. property catastrophe insurance market, which was battered by a disastrous 2005 hurricane season. Ironshore raised $1 billion (US) in capital and first started writing property insurance in Bermuda in early 2007, expanding to the U.S. market later that year. Since then, Ironshore has increased its offerings to include Casualty, Liability, Marine, Energy and Environmental Risk. In 2008, Ironshore entered the Lloyd’s market by purchasing Pembroke Syndicate 4000 which, among other territories, wrote business in Canada. Ironshore Canada was formed in December 2009 and obtained its insurance licence in April. It will serve as an MGA for Ironshore’s Pembroke Syndicate.

Reason To Watch: As a new company, Ironshore Canada is still developing its policies, and Wills says that brokers’ input will be influential in shaping the future of the company.

“We want to be nimble,” says Wills. “It’s not size or scale that is important to us, it’s being quick. We’re thinking long-term with our investments and our strategies, but we want to be able to move quickly to respond to the market and the opportunities that will arise.” To ensure this, Wills is making Research and Development (R&D), which he sees as an underutilized skill in the insurance industry, a key part of the company’s culture. Each staff member will have an R&D role. “That means always inquiring and learning; using brokers, industry groups, and the media to have a better understanding of our customers and our products.”

Recent Triumphs: Recruiting the right staff and spreading awareness are the two biggest obstacles that a new company faces, and Wills says that both tasks have been less challenging than he initially expected. “I’ve received quite a few phone calls from people who want to come to a brand-new operation,” says Wills. The list of new recruits is headed by Wills, who was the president of Caitlin Canada Inc. before coming over to Ironshore Canada and is a 27-year insurance industry veteran.

Along with Wills’s own industry connections, Pembroke’s experience in the Canadian market helped Ironshore Canada get the word out. “Pembroke has done a lot of business here in the past and so has [Ironshore Inc. Chairman and CEO] Kevin Kelley.”

New Initiatives: Initially Ironshore Canada plans to focus on the existing Pembroke lines of business: financial institutions, professional liability, directors and officers, and marine and inland marine insurance. As time goes by, the company plans to offer more Ironshore products in Canada. Wills highlighted Ironshore’s environmental and life science offerings as the company’s fastest growing areas, and expects that they will be made available in Canada by the end of the year.

Putting its R&D principles to good use, Ironshore recently launched their Crisis ThreeSixty product, an extension of the company’s Umbrella policy which covers costs to mitigate and manage a crisis. The product helps companies craft responses to the types of crises that they are likely to face, and gives clients access to crisis management professionals in case the worst does happen.

Challenges: Wills points to market conditions as the biggest challenge. He also believes that being a new entrant in a tough marketplace gives Ironshore Canada a clean slate more established companies can’t match. “We don’t have any legacy,” Wills says. “We have the ability to grow and pick the spots that we want to be in and build around those.”

Ironshore Canada Limited
Charitable contributions:
Company Website:
Office Location:
100 Simcoe Street, Suite 305, Toronto, ON M5H 3G2

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.