An interview with Barry O'Dwyer

A vintage wooden table and upholstered mahogany chair

'We review individual risks on a case by case basis and underwrite accordingly. We also place excellent service at the centre of everything that we do. Brokers want to be able to phone a specific individual and discuss a case with them, or meet them and this simply doesn’t happen with most companies.'

 

What’s been happening in DUAL since we spoke to you last year?


Business has been booming. As the economy grows and consumer confidence grows with it, the Irish mid-high net worth population are spending again. They’re buying houses, jewellery and art, as well as there being a record demand for higherend cars. The common factor of course for all these people is their need for appropriate insurance. Many standard personal lines
policies however, are simply not equipped to deal with higher value items. We are perfectly positioned in DUAL to satisfy the need for this cover. Clients in this market segment are becoming increasingly demanding in respect of what they expect – broad, comprehensive, worldwide cover which has to be competitively priced.
 

What impact is this having on the dayto-day running of your business?

Our new business is growing significantly month-on-month and, coupled with our ever growing renewal book, we have had to expand our team. Among our recent intakes, Richard Cunningham joined our ranks earlier this year as Senior Development Underwriter. As we continuously look at new products to expand our business and map out DUAL’s long term future in Ireland, it’s imperative that we never lose focus of our core business and our core customers – our brokers. With my focus now on our overall strategic growth, Richard on our sales and development, Kate O’Connor running our underwriting and Chris Wilkinson our marketing and brand strategy, we are now better positioned than ever to cement our position as Ireland’s No.1 mid and high net worth insurer. We have also moved to larger offices on Fitzwilliam Street. 

 

It sounds like brokers are responding well to what you offer?

Yes, reaction has been very positive and we do constantly solicit feedback from our brokers about what we do, how we do it and the products we provide. We are increasingly filling a significant gap in the personal lines market – those customers who pay from €1000 to €2500 for their household or motor cover, who demand an excellent product but aren’t willing to pay what they often perceive as an exorbitant premium, for the privilege. Brokers need a solution for these clients, who are more often than not the CEO, MD, Director or Partner of many of their larger commercial
clients, and they need to look after them, well.

This market is huge. We estimate there is up to €250m GWP in this segment, and if we can write the best 5%-10% of that market, we’ll be very happy.

One of our key differentiators is that our locally based underwriters are empowered to make real decisions. A senior broker said recently to me that it was so refreshing to speak to underwriters who actually underwrite risks, and not yes or no as per their computer. We review individual risks on a case-by-case basis and underwrite accordingly. We also place excellent service at the centre of everything that we do – brokers want to be able to phone a specific individual and discuss a case with them, or meet them – this simply doesn’t happen with most companies. We are also developing and growing quite a number of specialist schemes with some of our best supporting brokers.

For example, we provide specialist motor and home insurance for professional footballers (PFAI, with MIG) and rugby players (RPI with Glennon Ins.), among others. The past year also presented us with a number of opportunities of showing that we can live up to our claims promise – to settle claims fast, fair and without fuss. The unprecedented weather events, Ophelia and Emma / The Big Snow brought this challenge to our doorstep (literally), and our broker’s feedback has been universally positive. Even operationally, all staff could work remotely when required, so our broker’s minds were at ease that we were there with them, all the time, as required.

 

So, as you approach three years in Ireland, are you doing anything to mark the milestone?

We recently ran a promotion involving our company owned Mercedes-Benz C63 (AU11 RUM). With a few petrol heads in the office, we not so reluctantly took this opportunity to drive this seriously fast car (with a great roar) from our head office in London back to Dublin. The promotion was run over the month leading up to this, with one of our lucky supporting brokers being given the chance to win the car for a weekend. Selfishly it also meant that our underwriters got to spend some quality time with a car that is outside the price range of most, while visiting our brokers.

It was a really fun (and at times exciting) experience overall and the feedback was great so we are planning to run a number of other events and promotions in the near future. Keep a watch out.
 

What do the next three years hold for DUAL in Ireland?

Our strategic plan for the next 3 – 5 years will focus on expanding our business in a number of key areas. Firstly, we plan to triple our Private Client business. As
mentioned earlier, the potential market here is very significant, and our huge success since we started tells us there is a lot more to come. Secondly, we will continue to work very closely with our partnership brokers to develop commercial products in niche areas, where we can add both expertise and value. For example, we have a very successful facility for Nursing Homes with First Ireland. We also have identified a number of other partnerships that we are at various different stages of finalising. That is the ultimate advantage of being the largest MGA in the world – our flexibility to partner with the right brokers across a very diverse range of businesses, in order to provide the best solutions for
their clients.

For more information about DUAL, or to discuss anything mentioned in this article, please contact Barry O’Dwyer