New business, led by former Priest & Co team, will target construction and engineering sector

Cooper Gay has launched a new managing general agency in a bid to grow in the construction and engineering sector.

Oliva Underwriting Management, is built around the construction and engineering team led by managing director Tim Cramphorn from Lloyd’s broker Priest & Co, who joined Cooper Gay in June this year.

It comes as a number of major consolidators – including Oval and Giles – are looking to boost their MGAs, despite concerns about the model from major insurers such as Aviva and AXA.

Oliva was registered in May 2009 and will run independently from Cooper Gay. It will target UK business, while also branching out in Europe and North America. Cramphorn will report to Chris Butcher who manages the underwriting and distribution management business in the UK and sits on the Cooper Gay board.

Cramphorn and his team formerly managed Priest & Co’s construction and engineering MGA, similarly named Oliva Underwriting. John Flanagan chief administration officer of Cooper Gay Holding, said the broker was reluctant to take on Oliva Underwriting’s business, which is now understood to be a non-trading entity.

“It’s a lot safer for us starting a new business rather than taking over another one which we didn’t control, which could have liabilities out there. So we just wanted the people to come across. Tim Cramphorn and five others are doing exactly what they did before [at Oliva Underwriting],”he said.

The business is underwritten by a variety of London market and international insurers including Hiscox, which is the carrier on its small contractors’ book, and Lexington.

“Hiscox was operating with the prior entity and we did a transfer. The binder with this company commenced at the end of May,” said Flanagan. “It’s an area where we think specialist expertise is something that can give us some leverage especially in the wholesale sector.”

Flanagan denied it was the wrong time to enter the construction and engineering sector. “We predict a 3 to 4% contraction this year, which will mean that construction and engineering will not reduce by more than 15-20% overall.

“The vast majority of business is still happening and that needs insurance. It’s not doomsday and we don’t make these kinds of strategic decisions based on short-term cyclical views,” he said.

Flanagan said the broker intended to acquire more MGAs while increasing the scale and profitability of Oliva Underwriting Management. “We have got several irons in the fire. We have a lot of M&A discussions going on at any one time. Only a proportion of those will lead to an actual transaction but we remain active in looking for those opportunities.”

Priest & Co could not be reached for comment.