Renowned London market property fac underwriter Les Rock has returned to active underwriting after a near eleven-year absence.

Les Rock – Rockstone

Earlier this week Rock became Underwriting Director at expansive London MGA Rokstone and bound his first risks under the firm’s existing international property reinsurance contracts, The Insurer can reveal.

Rock – who was part of the Ironshore founding team in 2006 – came to prominence as a shrewd Lloyd’s D&F property underwriter first at Amlin, then Berkshire Hathaway’s Faraday before forming Heritage’s Syndicate 1200. He gained a reputation for being a nimble and opportunistic underwriter, providing much needed capacity in distressed market conditions before shifting focus once rates softened and surplus capacity returned.

After Lloyd’s, he was recruited by the late Bob Clements as part of the initial management team of Bermudian start-up Ironshore before retiring in 2008. In the company’s first underwriting year he wrote over $300mn of D&F property business – with a low loss ratio – which gave the firm its initial momentum.

Rock – who joined Rokstone as a non-executive director last year – is now poised to begin talks with potential capacity providers over a dedicated US direct property facility, The Insurer understands.

As Underwriting Director at Rokstone, he has oversight over Rokstone’s existing facilities which include property treaty and international property.

He confirmed to The Insurer that he returned to active underwriting earlier this week and bound a number of property risks in LatAm and Asia.

His return comes as many international and D&F property markets are experiencing significant rate increases in response to both recent losses and capacity retrenchment, not least in Lloyd’s.

“It may be a short window but rates are firming rapidly”

Over a dozen Lloyd’s syndicates are thought to have withdrawn or cut back from US or international D&F property in 2018, including Markel, Barbican, StarStone and Advent.

Others that retrenched include Vibe, with the exit of Ed Pomeroy, and Apollo, which withdrew from writing Mexican/Caribbean business. Travelers’s Syndicate 5000 also stopped writing open market business.

The Lloyd’s pull back coincided with the Corporation’s 2018 performance review which put a number of poor performing classes, including international open market property and binder business in the spotlight.

Speaking to The Insurer, Rock compared current market conditions to the mid-nineties where new treaty exclusions imposed by reinsurers led to a surge in demand for international fac property capacity.

“It may be a short window but rates are firming rapidly. I’m a big believer in sharing the risk with meaningful deductibles and it’s not just rates that are rising. So are deductibles while limits are coming down”, he explained.

“Rate was certainly needed [after the recent heavy losses] and we are putting lines down with increases in excess of 50 percent on some risks”, he added.

He declined to comment on 2019 premium targets but confirmed he and Rokstone were in talks with potential additional capacity providers.

Separately, Rokstone – which is led by CUO James Potter & CEO David Bearman – recently hired the founder and CEO of Ryan Specialty’s Technical Risk Underwriters to head up its US operation.

In a statement, Potter said: “Rokstone is focused on providing capacity and world class underwriting. As one of the industry’s foremost property fac underwriters of the last thirty years we are delighted that Les has returned to the frontline of underwriting.”