The association’s new managing director explains his leadership priorities and highlights the key challenges MGAs need to keep on their radars

In September, industry veteran and former Qlaims chief development officer Mike Keating took the helm at the Managing General Agents’ Association (MGAA), replacing outgoing managing director Peter Staddon.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times two weeks after starting his new post, Keating explained that he planned to kick off his tenure with a “relentless engagement” strategy in order to better understand the relationship between the association and its three tiers of membership, which includes insurers, suppliers and – of course – MGAs.

Keating’s focus on engagement will also be used to gather member feedback, to “ensure the membership benefits that you are providing are fit for purpose” and “are the best that they can possibly be”.

To achieve this high level of engagement, Keating plans to send a question set out to members in October, as well as arrange virtual Q&A sessions where he can outline his leadership plans and members can issue direct feedback.

“You look at areas which you’re not providing, you listen, and you look to find ways to fill those gaps. The only way you can do that is relentless engagement,” Keating says.

This work will also help to inform Keating’s second priority at the MGAA – ensuring that the association’s MGA membership is truly UK wide.

He says: “We are a UK association and I want to ensure that the membership has got representation across the UK, not necessarily just in London and the surrounding counties.”


Sector challenges

For Keating, today’s MGAs have three key challenges: capacity, Brexit and the ongoing requirement for more forensic level data.

In terms of Brexit, Keating feels this discussion has been “under the radar because of Covid”. He continues: “We’ve got a Brexit Forum Panel in the MGAA, but I would suggest there’s some concern in terms of the fact that what does it look like post 01/01 if there’s not an extension on the agreement between the government and Brussels? That seems to have been lost a little bit within the Covid cloud.”

Although Keating describes capacity as a continuing challenge that “we cannot step away from”, he adds that “for MGAs it brings fantastic opportunities, not least the fact that they’re able to adapt very quickly”.

He says: “The Covid era has brought opportunities around product design – MGAs are very quick to deliver that product design to their customers. Tough market conditions, but opportunities exist within those market conditions, especially for MGAs.”

Keating also believes that “insurers will continue to push for more forensic data and I think MGAs will meet that challenge. That challenge will continue in terms of the level of data which informs their risk appetite and pricing to satisfy their capacity partners.”

Furthermore, detailed forensic data may have a greater role to play following the FCA’s General Insurance pricing practices market study, published on 22 September. Keating says the report leaves him with “unanswered questions” and that he will need to discuss the potential implications with the MGAA membership.

“The observations I would have is that are there any exemptions, not in terms of unfair pricing, but a lot of MGAs are very successful in terms of non-standard home and non-standard motor, so things like thatched properties, properties in flood areas,” he explains.

“A lot of underwriting earnings and profit is generated from renewal portfolios and not from new business. If you’re equalling those two up in terms of delivering underwriting profit, then decisions are going to have to be made.

“It’s going to have a significant impact, but it’s too early to say in terms of what direction that’s going to go in.”

Quickfire Q&As

Why did you want to take the top job at the MGAA?

“It was a very attractive role which I wanted to take up, especially [because] for the last 15 years of my career I’ve been heavily involved in the MGA market myself. I’ve operating at very large MGAs, I’ve operated at startup, I’ve operated at small MGAs, so I like to feel I’ve got the necessary experience and skillset to really understand both the opportunities and challenges MGAs face now and in the future. That should stand me in good stead in ensuring that I shape the association and the particular benefits package. There’s nothing like being on the coalface.”

What do you enjoy about the MGA sector?

“It’s just the agility, the ability to make decision quickly, it’s being extremely close to your customers, it’s innovation – it’s all those things which also exist in insurers, but the success of the MGA community has been built around those sort of principles.

“Insurers, they move as quick as they can but they are very, very big organisations and it takes them time.

“MGAs thrive and continue to thrive by being agile and able to take decisions quickly, deliver products quickly, which meets customers’ changing requirements. That’s part of why it makes the sector so exciting.”

How have MGAs reacted and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic?

“I’ve got a lot of good friends and contacts in MGAs and without doubt their comments to me were that their retention rates had all improved, but I’m certain that’s the same with insurers because obviously there’s less business churn in a Covid scenario, just because everyone’s working from home.

“Secondly, the MGAs, their new business production was also significantly up on what it had been previously and that was because [of] their agility and their service ethos, where they would be able to turn around things enormously quicker and maintain - and probably improve - the service they gave brokers.

“Thirdly, I found that a lot of MGAs have expanded their broker distribution because of the level of service they were able to provide. I would give the MGA community a real glowing endorsement in terms of the way they’ve operated and met the challenges of the Covid environment.”

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