BMS Re’s ProLink harnessing group capabilities to support growth in explosive programs market

BMS Re’s ProLink Solutions will enter 2024 looking to grow its existing book of circa 150 clients as it harnesses its parent’s capabilities to offer program managers and MGAs a broad range of tools to grow their operations in the explosive US market, according to the unit’s leadership.

Reinsurance broker BMS Re back in May announced it had brought together its US-based programs and MGA-focused team and resources under the banner of ProLink Solutions.

At the time, BMS Re said the unit, led by managing directors Desmond Bohan and John Speckman, provides program managers with innovative tools and strategies to drive growth and prosperity.

BMS Re said that, along with providing tailored solutions focused on securing primary capacity and reinsurance needs, ProLink fosters “meaningful” relationships, providing actuarial support and generating “insightful” recommendations from its market and industry knowledge.

Talking to Program Manager on the sidelines of the Target Markets Program Administrators Association’s annual conference in Scottsdale, Arizona last week, Bohan said the market response since ProLink’s formation has been extremely positive, with clients welcoming the standalone unit’s focus on the fast-growing programs and MGA sector.

As Bohan explained, program business has been a core tenet of BMS Re’s portfolio ever since the reinsurance broker sought to build out its offering in the US back in 2017.

Program business, he said, “makes up a major part of BMS’ portfolio in the US”.

“We work with most of the major [aggregator] platforms and MGAs, and the ones we don't, we're actively prospecting.

“We also work with MGAs that are just specialists in one or two things – they aren't massive, but are well known, have a great reputation, and are in a very niche line or class of business. We love those as well,” Bohan said.

Program market a “force of nature”

Currently, ProLink supports more than 250 programs, and has over 150 program administrator, MGA and carrier clients on its books. Around $4bn of premium flows through the programs it facilitates and supports.

Looking ahead to 2024, Bohan said BMS has made, and continues to make, “a huge investment” to support the build-out of ProLink Solutions.

“They're giving us the capital to bring in the people, to build out the technology, and to really market our brand,” he said.

“Clearly the MGA space has exploded in the last couple of years. It's a force of nature where insurance companies, reinsurance companies – everybody in the industry really – is actively looking to enter, if they're not already there.”

Bohan’s colleague Speckman added: “We see a real opportunity in the programs space, and we don't think it's going anywhere.

“We think this is only going up as carriers emerge, as MGAs emerge, and as reinsurers find this space to be attractive to deploy capital in.”

As Speckman noted, insurers and reinsurers that have never before considered the programs sector because they wanted all underwriting risk on their balance sheets to come from their own staff “are now sticking their toe in the water”.

“They realise that they want to get to a certain type of highly specialised business – there's only one way, and that's through an MGA.”

Speckman highlighted classic car-focused MGA Hagerty as a case in point.

“Hagerty is a great example – a company that launched as an MGA and said they wanted to be the kings of classic cars. Finding the next Hagerty is what everybody wants.”

Focus on due diligence

From ProLink’s perspective, the platform is agnostic to the line of the business or specialty segment that a program supports. However, as Bohan detailed, the unit is not agnostic to the MGAs and carrier partners it works with.

To that end, Bohan said ProLink Solutions “has a very stringent diligence process in place to vet MGAs that we want to work with”.

As Bohan explained, the quality of an MGA or program that ProLink brings to a prospective carrier partner reflects on BMS too, as does the strength of a capacity provider.

“We're actually in the process of re-examining our diligence process and putting together a panel that will review every MGA that comes through our doors,” Speckman said.

“We've worked hard to establish a sterling reputation on the business that we present to insurance companies and reinsurers, and we do not want to diminish that,” Bohan added.

And as Speckman noted, bringing well-performing business to capacity providers fosters trust between all the parties, helping streamline any future potential deals.

“Both MGAs and capacity providers want to work with ProLink because of our process. We focus on making everyone successful,” he said.

Improved market standards

Heightened due diligence in the market is also reflected in the elevated standards within the programs and MGA space more broadly, Bohan said.

Bohan and Speckman each have close to 20 years of experience in the sector, and both said the market has improved drastically over that time.

“The level of sophistication is much higher than ever before,” said Bohan.

“Certainly, when you look back 20 years ago, it is a very dramatic difference, but even in the past five years the change and refinement is noticeable.”

The improved sophistication is evident across the market – at carriers and reinsurance brokers, but most notably at MGAs, Bohan said.

“It's the granularity of the data, and the way that MGAs use it,” he said.

“They don't just accumulate the data. They actually use it, and they pivot and make underwriting decisions.

“These are very professionally run organisations, and most of them are now backed by private capital and that has driven up standards. The days of the Wild West are long gone.”

ProLink recruiting

To support its growth ambitions, ProLink is looking to add talent to its ranks, with plans in place to expand the currently nine-strong team to “at least 15 by mid-year 2024”, Speckman said.

The ProLink executives are under no illusions that bringing in talent will be straightforward though.

“There’s absolutely a war for talent in all facets of the industry,” said Bohan.

“We see it on the MGA side, on the carrier side, the reinsurance side, and the reinsurance broker side is no different.”

And that is especially true for individuals who have knowledge and experience of the programs and MGA space given that a growing number of reinsurance brokers who maybe dabbled in the sector previously have now made it their primary focus for expansion.

To help ease that issue, Speckman said BMS is adding a specific programs segment to its training so that new recruits have an understanding of the fast-growing sector and its impact on the industry.

The growing ProLink team continues to be complemented by another 15 to 20 brokers from the broader BMS Group who are specialists in certain business lines such as excess umbrella or workers’ compensation, and who provide insights and advice to the programs and MGAs that ProLink works with.

“It is our mandate to deliver the full capabilities of BMS to our clients,” said Bohan.

“We are working across the entire organisation, whether it's analytics or capital markets, but also with our London binders team, with our Asian team out of Singapore and our Bermuda team, to ensure we deliver every insight, tool and capability to our clients that will make them successful. That is the BMS way of doing business.”