Graeme Newman wants to be the ‘partner of choice’ for UK brokers. Here, he spells out his vision for CFC Underwriting and how he will make that happen 

It was the moment that changed Graeme Newman’s life.

It was 2007, when Newman was a Deloitte consultant and invited to hear from an insurance expert on cyber security.

He recalls the event: “It became clear the representative didn’t understand much about IT security and even less about cyber security.

“As I sat in one of those darkened rooms in Central London - and this was at the time of the dot-com boom, every consultant was running off with their picks and shovels to set up a business on the internet - I thought there had to be an opportunity.”

Newman then left Deloitte to set up cyber consultancy Digital Risk Solutions.

He branched out into insurance broking specifically around cyber cover, as he believed the sector was ill-equipped at the time in understanding this emerging risk. He met CFC founder David Walsh along the way.

Walsh is ”a real visionary”, says Newman, and one of the reasons why he sold his firm and joined the fledging cyber insurer.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Chief executive vision 

Today, Newman sits at the top of the pile, appointed chief executive in July.

He is second only to Walsh, who remains group boss but with a focus on international.

In his first interview with Insurance Times since the CEO appointment, 45-year-old Newman is smiley and cheerful as he looks for a spare interview room in CFC’s swish office opposite Lloyd’s of London.

Settling into his chair, Newman outlines his vision for CFC and his excitement at taking on the new role. 

“We are trying to challenge the way the insurance market transacts. Traditionally, the old insurance process is about asking 100 or 200 questions and then [asking] the customer everything they know about themselves,” Newman says.

“We want to turn that on its head and ask our customers the least amount of questions and learn the most we can possibly learn about them. Low friction for you and high information for us.”

To give an example, just knowing a commercial customer’s domain name can unearth vast amounts of useful data in helping CFC assess and then advise on their risk.

Such a customer is likely be operating in CFC’s targeted industries, such as digital healthcare, life science, media, finance and manufacturing.

CFC writes largely casualty business across 12 classes, including cyber, management liability, professional indemnity, product recall, terrorism, transaction liability, excess, environmental and some property.

“The world has changed more in the last 20 years than in the last 2,000, spurred on by technology,” Newman explains. ”What that has meant is a whole load of new businesses have developed and a whole load of new risks. I see us as the market to look after the new businesses that have developed and the new risks that have developed.

“This will allow us to hopefully price and select better, meaning we ultimately have faster and smarter underwriting for our clients, which I think is what every broker and end clients want from the insurance market.”

To help CFC’s ambitions, it secured a major investment in October 2021, jointly led by EQT and Vitruvian Partners – two European private equity firms. This supports CFC with flexibility in how it wants to play the market.

“We are an MGA, but [also] own a syndicate and do carry some risk now. We are seeing increasingly this convergence between [being a] traditional insurance company - which takes 100% on the balance sheet - with an MGA having zero risk, but now the two are coming increasingly closer together,” Newman says.

”We think that the insurance business of the future is a wonderfully agile business that does use an incredible amount of third party capital to run its business. That means you can use your own capital to develop technology, develop products, keeping developing and innovating.”

Broker’s friend

Although Newman has been at CFC for more than a decade, many brokers will not have met him personally.

Newman is enthusiastic on exercise, enjoying the fresh air and pastures of Richmond Park near the home where he lives with his wife and two children. 

To keep the brain active, Newman is a lover of poker. He once took on 400 opponents over 13 hours to become the European Online Poker champion.

“I still play at casinos when I get the chance,” he says, flashing a grin that reads ‘take me on and I’ll have your money in no time’.

So, what does this poker champion and leader of one of the UK’s largest MGAs have as a message to UK brokers? 

Newman wants UK broker systems hooked into everything CFC has, so they can enjoy a seamless digital experience. 

He explains: “We are going to move into a world - particularly in this small, lower of end of commercial - where it will be traded almost exclusively through broker office platforms and third party systems. So it is all application programming interface (API) connected. 

“At the moment, it is mostly traded over email. That is starting to shift quickly. The company with the best and broadest digital footprint will win. That is what we are trying to build towards.”

Newman is also adamant that CFC will not be ”doing a Hiscox”, by entering the direct market space. 

“We want to be the broker’s partner of choice in the lines that we play in. The partnership between us and a broker can easily outcompete the D2C place,” he adds.

With so much more to come from CFC and their leader Newman playing the all aces, that’s a message brokers will be glad to hear.