Growth is on the agenda as new group chief executive explores geographical and product opportunities

In November 2023, CFC Underwriting confirmed that its group chief executive David Walsh and chief executive Graeme Newman would both step down from their positions following a Lloyd’s investigation into allegations of non-financial misconduct at the company.

Following this leadership wipeout, the MGA appointed Louise O’Shea as its new group chief executive, effective from January 2024.

O’Shea already knew CFC well – she had been serving as a non-executive director on its board since 2021.

She also boasted c-suite credentials after spending just over five years as the chief executive of aggregator platform, a business she divested from its parent Admiral Group.

O’Shea had worked for Admiral Group since 2009 in a variety of roles – such as head of international business development and head of investor relations – before she was asked to assume the top spot at

Speaking to Insurance Times, O’Shea says: “Admiral was a great place to work and there are a lot of similarities between Admiral and CFC – albeit on a different scale.

“I was really excited to be given the opportunity at CFC. It has very talented people and we create and deliver interesting and innovative products.”

CFC focuses on the cyber insurance sector. Its use of technology and data has long been at the heart of the business, O’Shea explains, supporting the company’s overarching aim to deliver high quality products and service to customers.

“Culture is so important to a business,” she adds. “I am a believer that if you love what you are doing, then you’ll do it better.”

Expansion plans

Growth is big part of O’Shea’s strategy.

“In recent months, we have seen a lot of new talent join the business,” she explains. “We have also acquired Australian managing general agent Solution Underwriting.

“It was a good deal for the business and the culture is such a good fit.”

CFC completed its purchase of Solution Underwriting in April 2024. This new addition, which focuses on underwriting financial lines of business, will provide CFC with five offices and nearly 100 staff in Australia.

“Our aim is to get closer to our customers and our brokers, so the acquisition is part of those efforts,” O’Shea says.

“We are looking at our geographical reach, with Canada and mainland Europe certainly areas of interest for us.

“While we already operate in these areas, we want to have our own people on site. We believe it will enable us to serve our brokers and their clients better.”

As well as expanding CFC’s geographic reach, O’Shea has also been evaluating the MGA’s products.

As a result, the underwriter launched a new cover around the use of carbon credits in March 2024 – a move that O’Shea says is a reflection of her desire to innovate.

“We have been in cyber insurance for two decades,” she says. “We are looking at how we can create new products and look to enhance our existing products.

“We see sustainability as [a] growing part of [our] business and that of our clients. I am also looking to see how we can create a scheme that will see carbon offsetting as an employee benefit for staff. A matched contribution, similar to pensions. Staff want to invest in their future and that includes sustainability.”

In addition to looking at new products, O’Shea is also brainstorming what CFC can do to enhance its existing product set.

“We believe there is much we can do around innovation in transaction liability and cyber cover,” she continues.

“For instance, we are examining whether we can package our cyber cover into a white label product that we can sell via partners in geographies where we do not currently have a presence.

“We continue to look at upcoming industry groups, for example fintech, and look at how we can package our products in a way that is bespoke to the needs of that sector.”

Understanding cyber

Despite looking to stretch CFC’s wings, O’Shea certainly hasn’t forgotten or abandoned the MGA’s roots in cyber insurance.

CFC played host to the Cyber Hub at this year’s Biba Conference in Manchester (15 and 16 May 2024), a move that O’Shea believes reflects the market-leading position that CFC occupies in cyber classes.

Linked to this, one of the ongoing aims for CFC is to make complex specialty risks both accessible and understandable.

“We want to demystify our products and simplify them,” says O’Shea. “We want to enable SMEs to better understand the cover they are getting and, in doing so, we can support our brokers in serving those clients better.

“What we are providing is a promise to protect and we want to do more than simply provide a cover which is reactive. Our cyber cover is proactive we will scan our clients’ systems to identify future risks.

“We provide the client with a CFC cyber app on their mobile phone, [which can] warn them if they have a problem and provide suggestions as to [how] the problem can be fixed. We will also follow up to ensure that action has been taken.

“It is a service we can offer free of charge to our clients as we can access it at scale. We are aware of the pressure on our SME clients and the need to offer support beyond [just] a response when a claim occurs.

“We need to make our products clear and simple. The client needs to know exactly what they are receiving and be confident that we will be there when they need us.”

O’Shea emphasises that CFC will ensure any growth is delivered in the right way.

“While we are keen to look at how we can grow, it will need to be done sustainably and with underwriting discipline,” she explains. “We have a syndicate at Lloyd’s, which means we have skin in the game.

“It remains all about service levels, the relationship we have with our clients and brokers, the company’s culture and the quality of our staff.”