An Interview with Barry O’Dwyer, Managing Director at DUAL Ireland
In 2016, DUAL entered the high-net-worth market in Ireland. As part of that continued growth, DUAL recently moved to new larger premises in the prime location of St. Stephens Green, Dublin.
Paul Gibson, Irish Broker took the opportunity to talk to Barry O’Dwyer, Managing Director about this and further developments coming down the line.
DUAL has grown significantly since you entered the high-net-worth market in Ireland seven years ago. What is the DUAL recipe for success?
Building a business from a zero base was definitely challenging, but with no legacy issues to contend with, it allowed us total control of our development from day one. We made attracting the very best underwriting talent a key priority, and in doing so, we have built a really strong team, that has established itself as one of Ireland’s best. This can only be done by successfully sharing your vision of what the company’s journey is, and then empowering people to fulfil that vision.
Our underlying strategy is to provide the best insurance solutions in specific niche areas. That means the broadest product wordings, offering the greatest protection, backed by the best service, every time. To deliver this, we need outstanding people, the strongest partnerships, and then build our culture, brand and reputation around those ingredients, which are all critical for real, sustained success.
The other essential ingredients of DUAL’s success are of course our Broker and insurer partners. DUAL’s Brokers are our sales force, our connection to our end customers and without them, there is no DUAL. The proposition is completed by ensuring that we partner with the best A-rated insurance capacity available, a partnership that recognises DUAL’s underwriting expertise and distribution network.
You’ve recently partnered with Aviva, haven’t you?
We were delighted to announce earlier this year that we’ve entered into a significant partnership with Aviva Ireland. The strength of Aviva’s brand in Ireland is incredible. They too are entering an exciting phase in their development, with a dynamic new leadership team who have ambitious growth plans, reflecting DUAL’s own ambitions in the ever-evolving Irish insurance market. The next few years are likely to see considerable changes in market dynamics - good for Brokers and policyholders alike - and DUAL wants to be at the forefront of this evolution.
This new partnership with Aviva will allow us to leverage each other’s strengths to create one of the most dynamic forces in the Irish high-net-worth insurance market. To that end, we are investing in technology to facilitate this ambition. Bespoke underwriting doesn’t necessarily have to mean a slower, more labour intensive process. Smart technology is another key enabler to fulfil our service proposition, driving efficiencies and allowing underwriters spend their time actually underwriting and adding value for our Brokers and customers.
Our underlying strategy is to provide the best insurance solutions in specific niche areas. That means the broadest product wordings, offering the greatest protection, backed by the best service, every time.”
Will MGAs become a more significant element of the Irish Insurance landscape?
Most Brokers want access to a full suite of insurance solutions for their clients. Often these solutions will be very specific and niche in their nature, requiring specialist understanding and then underwritten and priced accordingly. MGAs are usually best placed to offer this, as they are generally smaller in scale and more nimble than many insurance companies. They’re able to provide the one-to-one service required to navigate nonstandard solutions. Brokers want access to decision makers who can think outside the box, and who can keep up with the ever-changing insurance landscape and evolving client needs.
From the insurer perspective, many insurance companies are now turning to MGAs to provide specialist underwriting services. Recognising that certain MGAs already successfully operate within a particular niche area, insurers want to leverage this expertise to provide additional products and services. This ‘outsourcing’ model is often seen as an easier, more effective way to enter a particular market segment, and without incurring many of the usual entry costs. Insurers need to deploy their capital in the most effective manner, and specialist MGAs can often provide the business model (and results) that facilitate the best return on their investment.
DUAL is in a strong position to deliver these propositions and to be at the forefront of a number of segments of the Irish insurance market.
Legal & Title Indemnity is another side of the DUAL business, how is that market developing for you?
This area of the business is growing significantly and responding to an ever increasing market demand. The growth we have seen across M&A and real estate transactions is often driven by lenders who require a policy of this nature to be in place to essentially de-risk their loan. Over the last few years, DUAL’s policies have played an important role in facilitating many M&A and real estate transactions, not just in Ireland, but throughout Europe.
DUAL Asset is already recognised as a key provider for Legal & Title Indemnity insurance in Ireland, a market we see as having huge growth potential. There is also a fantastic opportunity for Brokers to seize the opportunity to bring these valuable product options to their clients, and having the win-win scenario of protecting these important clients even further, as well as developing their own business.
Our local team of lawyers and underwriters have become some of the go-to specialists in coverage for legal title and ownership challenges, including commercial and residential specific title risks, for example missing deeds, adverse possession, third party challenges. We also have strong expertise in loan portfolios, title to shares (including excess W&I), right to light, probate, renewables and aviation.
The next few years are likely to see considerable changes in market dynamics - good for Brokers and policyholders alike – and DUAL wants to be at the forefront of this evolution.”
After a very successful development of your business in Ireland so far, what’s next? What is the ambition?
DUAL definitely does not lack ambition. DUAL is the market-leading MGA in 19 countries all over the world. We have a significant presence in continental Europe, including Spain, Germany, and Italy – our goal is to be the number one MGA in Ireland, very soon.
The HNW market in Ireland is still very underdeveloped, and there is a significant opportunity for ambitious Brokers to carve out a niche. After all, many clients who fall under the HNW umbrella are Brokers’ VIP commercial clients. So providing them with access to the very best HNW insurance products is not just a nice-to-do, but a must-do, in this competitive market climate.
We are currently exploring a number of other product options for the Irish market and whilst I can’t yet share specific details, I can say that they follow our niche business model and are very much guided by Broker research in the Irish market. Financial Lines is at the heart of the DUAL proposition globally, and so, an obvious area for us to expand further within Ireland.
Ultimately, DUAL must always add value to our Broker and client relationships. We don’t want to be just another option on a Broker’s product shelf – we want to be the option.
DUAL definitely does not lack ambition. DUAL is the market-leading MGA in 19 countries all over the world. We have a significant presence in continental Europe, including Spain, Germany, and Italy – our goal is to be the number one MGA in Ireland, very soon.”
Finally, you already mentioned that DUAL have a significant presence throughout Europe, does that extend to DUAL Ireland being able to offer EU-wide solutions to your clients?
This is very much a feature of the DUAL client proposition. We already offer EU-wide cover options on both our HNW and Legal & Title Indemnity products and would see this as a key aspect of any other product development.
DUAL’s Irish business already plays an important role in the Group’s wider European structure, and will continue to be a significant part of the ambitious development and growth plans for DUAL Europe, over the coming years.
Our local relationships and specialist expertise coupled with DUAL Group’s global reach, talent pool and A-rated capacity partners, mean that we are uniquely placed to best serve our key audiences – our Brokers and their clients.