Sompo’s Growth Plans for Europe: Q&A with Jamie Canellas, Senior Vice President – Head of European Distribution at Sompo

July 5, 2022

Tell us about your background
I have been in the insurance industry for over twenty-five years, with experience developing businesses, strategic distribution networks and expanding operations geographically on both the broker and carrier side in Europe, Latin America and the London market. I joined Sompo three years ago, leading distribution for A&H. About eight months ago I was offered the opportunity to take on a second role working with the strategic development and distribution team, with responsibility for Europe. During this time, we supported a broker survey on European distribution and have been engaging with numerous brokers to learn about what is important to them and to clients as we build out our position in Europe. We are now ready for growth and the European distribution role has captured my full-time attention.


How do you feel about the new role?
This is a tremendously exciting opportunity, for me and for Sompo. I think that insureds across Europe still want choice. With a broad risk appetite, a strong balance sheet, global reach and a focus on building long-term business partnerships, I believe we have a lot to offer clients and brokers here. The competition is large, but I think we can set ourselves apart by bringing our excellent market differentiating customer service that we’re known for to European brokers and clients.


What’s Sompo’s history in Europe?
Sompo has operated in Europe for over 50 years, initially through our Japanese interest accounts. Four years ago, we started our pan-European professional lines offering, delivered across the continent from our offices in Barcelona and Cologne. Today, we continue to build our network across the continent from our hubs as well as affording ourselves freedom of service for EU countries through our Luxembourg insurance entity.


What are Sompo’s ambitions in Europe?
Europe is a big continent and we have big ambitions. To achieve our plans requires investment in our underwriting, actuarial, distribution and claims infrastructures to make sure we can deliver the service levels clients expect from us.

We also need to take a measured strategic approach to be sure that we do not overreach and are able to build sustainable, profitable growth and be here for our brokers and clients through market cycles.


What are the key areas of focus?
We are developing our business in a number of key countries where our initial focus is on delivering products where we have deep bench strength already and where we can bring a truly differentiated offering and proven expertise to the market.


What are your immediate priorities?
Sompo already has a huge advantage on the distribution side as we look to build out our European offering. We have long-standing global agreements and strong productive working relationships with the tier one and tier two international broking firms. They understand our offering and the way we work.

At the same time, as we expand our operations in multiple markets, we are establishing a network of partnerships with key independent brokers and MGAs that we are aligned with. For us it’s about building long-term partnerships, helping companies to put the right risk management capabilities in place and putting our breadth of offering to work for their risk needs. That means coordinating our relationships with our teams across claims, underwriting, actuarial and legal, which helps us provide a consistent offering through the market cycle.


How is Sompo differentiating itself in the European market?
We have the advantage of growing in European markets without being slowed down by any legacy issues. We are bringing fresh capacity, a robust balance sheet and A+ rating of a large, established insurer combined with an entrepreneurial mindset and the agility to offer both open market and delegated solutions.

Our expertise and connections are of genuine interest to many brokers in Europe, where there is real demand for risk transfer solutions. When you take into account the calibre of our people and the appeal of a new brand in the market, we are an attractive proposition.


What are the key challenges for insurance buyers in Europe?
Capacity has been an issue for a while, but this is starting to ease in some areas, albeit with variations by country and line of business.

Meanwhile, businesses are being impacted by (geo)political and economic developments. Clients in certain lines of business – energy and banking for example – are going to face increased challenges and will need to draw on the risk management expertise of their insurance partners to help address them.

Lastly, there is a post-Brexit shift: insurance buyers in Europe are increasingly looking for carriers with a local presence who can offer the capital, risk appetite and risk management capabilities they need to address the challenges they face. That is exactly what Sompo in Europe can offer.

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