At age 82, E.W. “Ted” Blanch is in the position of many entrepreneurs less than half his age: launching a new company.
He’s the co-founder and president of COIN Re, a Florida-based reinsurance broker with a focus on the property-catastrophe reinsurance market. There’s a twist: It’s built like a co-op, where clients have the option of owning a piece of the company along with private investors. Blanch, a veteran broker and former longtime CEO of E.W. Blanch & Co. (now part of Aon Benfield), and Michael Cashman, 69, co-founder and president of marketing, talked up the company at the 2018 PCI annual convention on Oct. 29, 2018 in Miami. During a break at the convention, Blanch explained that the company’s concept is something that occurred to him a long time ago.
(Click here to hear the COIN Re founders talk about their new venture.)
“I’ve been giving a lot of thought the last several years to how the reinsurance brokers [and system] operate, observing the directions that it’s taking,” Blanch said. “Given the time that I’ve been in the business, thinking that there were better ways to go, I decided it would be fun to try something which would be closer aligned with the interests of clients.”
Clients Taking Greater Priority
In forming the idea behind COIN Re, Blanch said that the goal was to have a company “where the clients were really represented by people who started with what their needs were rather than what the market’s needs are. And then we came up with the idea of having clients have an opportunity to have an ownership in the company.”
Blanch noted that there are many things that can affect relationships between reinsurers and their clients but argued that “the real issue” is how much a company has to pay for what it buys. Other concerns involve how much the broker makes and whether a broker delivers a value to the relationship equal to the amount of money being made out of the transaction. An ownership stake makes the process more equitable, he said.
The Tampa, Fla.-based company currently includes Blanch, CFO Richard Allen, VP Kevin Mora and Cashman.
Cashman, a former vice chairman of Aon Reinsurance and an industry veteran, was once president of E.W. Blanch Co. and noted he’s known Blanch himself for years. He’s been involved in other entrepreneurial ventures since then but became interested in COIN Re after Blanch called him.
“Ted, having known him for many years, contacted me about his idea and asked me…if I’d be interested in getting involved,” Cashman said. He noted his role is to “largely work with Ted and the other people and the staff to really generate the client base and to bring in clients as quickly as possible, which I have done for many, many years with other firms.”
COIN Re is still getting the word out at this point, but as Blanch explained, plans initially involve being Florida-centric and focusing on the state’s domestic homeowners carriers that exist.
“We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We want to do a specific part of the business, which is the property-catastrophe reinsurance [market], and the reason for that is really quite simple. It is, in my view, the most profitable sector of the business for the markets,” Blanch explained. “It’s where the markets make the most money and where we ought to be able to do the most good for the clients.”
Cashman said the company is looking to hire and so far has a partnership with reinsurance broker Beach Group to provide various services for the startup.
In the end, Cashman said, the goal is to have a number of client owners involved, but they will have the option to choose.
Blanch added that the company is going for quality over quantity.
“We don’t expect to be handling every splash of business that’s written; we don’t expect to be in every part of the United States with regard to our goal,” he said.
Ultimately, Blanch envisions the company as “more like a boutique operation, with specific ambition and specific goals with a specific purpose.” He’ll also work hard to avoid being put in a conflicted position with his clients.
“When you’re handling huge dollars of revenue as a broker through reinsurance into the retro market, that can overpower the individual business that you’re bringing into the reinsurance market,” Blanch said. “But we won’t do retro business. In other words, we’re going to try to be pure.”