Liza Smith chief revenue officer with OneShield Software.

It’s good to be in the E&S market right now. Indeed, E&S typically fares well during cycles when the standard market is challenged, and currently, with loss trends, social inflation, high jury verdicts and severe weather events, it’s safe to say that the P&C industry has certainly been challenged. The economic uncertainty stemming from the pandemic has only been a boon to the E&S market, with total surplus lines premiums hitting $41.7 billion for calendar year 2020, a 14.9% increase over 2019. The first six months of 2021 were similar: Surplus lines premiums exceeded $24 billion through the first half of 2021, a 21.9% increase over the same period in 2020.

It’s a market ripe for new players, and E&S startups are emerging to get in on the action by offering fast-growth coverage lines like residential and commercial construction, excess liability, commercial property, management liability, and cyber liability.

“One of the most interesting trends we’re seeing is in the types of E&S startups that are emerging,” said Liza Smith, Chief Revenue Officer at OneShield. “On one side, we see established insurance professionals taking advantage of the demand to launch their own companies. They are seeking to launch quickly but know they need a system that understands E&S product complexity. On the other side are the technology-driven startups, or insurtechs, which historically have mostly been focused on personal-lines products, which have now honed in on the small commercial and E&S space and plan to use technology to streamline their time to market.”

Regardless of which category they fall into, these game-changers have a common North Star: to differentiate themselves by getting their unique products to market faster and servicing their customers in a way that best meets their needs.

“To do that, E&S startups must react quickly and be flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing competitive markets and the evolving needs of today’s customers,” said Smith. “They require a core system that can handle all the table-stakes functionality like underwriting, quoting and binding processes as well as the ability to handle the complexity of commercial contracts. Just starting from a blank slate is very costly and risky. Instead, by leveraging a core system that has the deep feature and functionality you can use day-one, is simply the quickest way to get to market. And that’s where established partners like OneShield can help.”

Smith notes that OneShield’s SaaS product, is hosted in a secure, cloud-based environment, and the automated, end-to-end policy management functionality usually appeals to E&S startups. As a configurable solution, it allows for flexibility, where needed for company differentiation, or as business needs inevitably change. And she says that as a full SaaS, OneShield takes over implementation and system management, and effectively becomes the startup’s IT team. Couple that value with an attractive ‘all-in-one’ pricing model, the large upfront investment or future technology debt is eliminated for cash-strapped start-ups.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that insurance risk is always increasing and the pace of change is relentless. Against this backdrop, E&S startups have a great opportunity, but only if they have the infrastructure to support it. Savvy E&S startups will invest in technology now so they can go the distance.