Expansive US insurer Palomar Holdings has hired Jason Sears from Rivington Partners as senior vice president and head of programs for its newly minted E&S carrier, The Insurer can reveal.

II-Palomar

  • Sears joins from MGA and programs specialist Rivington
  • Palomar will look to offer packaged programs including property and liability on E&S platform
  • Sears expected to seek out new programs and MGA relationships and hire underwriting teams
  • Palomar will continue to have strong focus on property as it builds its E&S book

Sears will bring casualty expertise and a track record in the program space as the specialty insurer, which has total surplus of $375mn, looks to identify and build out opportunities on its new A- rated E&S carrier.

Property specialist Palomar Holdings will continue to have a strong focus in that segment as it builds a book of E&S business.

Palomar will look to offer packaged programs that include property and liability coverages through the E&S carrier, which is based in Arizona and has been named Palomar Excess and Surplus Insurance Company (PESIC).

As well as building a portfolio of programs on the E&S platform, initially through MGAs, PESIC will write direct business, including offering non-admitted products written by Palomar’s existing cadre of property underwriters that currently only have access to its admitted paper.  Additionally, Palomar will seek out opportunities to hire experienced teams of underwriters within niche segments to leverage the E&S platform.

Sears resigned from his position as executive vice president at Jamie Sahara-led MGA platform Rivington last month to take up the opportunity at Palomar.

He joined New York, New York-based Rivington – then Vale Partners – almost at inception five years ago after executive roles at QBE programs division, MGA DUAL Commercial, American Safety Insurance, and AIG.

At Palomar, Sears is expected to seek out new programs and MGA relationships, as well as hiring underwriting teams.

Commenting on the move, Palomar President Heath Fisher told The Insurer: “Jason is a terrific addition and someone I have known and respected for many years. His background and expertise complement our vision for the E&S platform, and we are thrilled to have him on board.

“In addition to expanding the reach of existing lines through our non-admitted capabilities, Jason’s expansive background enables Palomar to evaluate new opportunities and diversify the portfolio. We appreciate the outpouring of support from brokers since the announcement of the formation of PESIC, and we are now in a position to dig in and execute on the right opportunities that fit our disciplined underwriting appetite.”

Meanwhile Sears said: “I want to thank all the current employees of Rivington but this is a wonderful opportunity at Palomar.”

The executive said he is excited about the opportunity to build a platform at a time in the program sector when there is general price hardening in the property and casualty market as well as disruption of talent due to the challenging economy.

Risk-taking program insurer

Palomar will approach the opportunity as more of a traditional, risk-taking program insurer, in contrast to some of the fronting carriers that have entered the segment with reinsurance capacity in recent years.

That means it will look to be a risk taker at a time in the cycle when the E&S market is surging as rates continue to harden fast.

As previously reported, Palomar announced the formation of the new surplus lines insurance company subsidiary in June after it received the necessary regulatory approvals.

Later that month it used a portion of the net proceeds from a $90mn+ public offering to further capitalise the new E&S carrier, in addition to the initial surplus earmarked for the subsidiary.

GFX-Palomar

The new unit is licensed to transact across all of Palomar’s existing lines of specialty property business, as well as other classes of insurance including but not limited to casualty and surety lines.

It was assigned an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating and an “a-” long-term issuer credit rating by AM Best in late July.

The broadening of Palomar’s offerings comes some six years after the business was launched by CEO Mac Armstrong and Fisher with backing from private equity firm Genstar. The company began life with a focus on the earthquake insurance market. Genstar sold out the remaining shares it owned in the company earlier this year having made a significant return on its investment.

Palomar grew from start-up funds of $75mn to be currently worth more than $2.6bn in market capitalisation after its share price soared from $15 at its IPO last year to $102.48 at the time of going to press.

Palomar’s gross written premium has grown from $16.6mn in its first year to $252mn last year, a compound annual growth rate of roughly 72 percent.