Cobalt Insurance and Capita Managing Agency have received approval from Lloyd’s of London to launch the first Sharia-compliant syndicate of the specialist insurance market. Once it gets full approval, the new Lloyd’s business will be named Cobalt Syndicate 1438, which is the Islamic calendar’s number for the year 2017. Cobalt founder Richard Bishop said the aim of the syndicate was to look to underwrite new business from emerging markets and working with others in Lloyd’s to extend their participation in those markets. Cobalt will start underwriting in the first quarter of 2017 with initial focus on developing a property and specialty-focused book of commercial business from emerging markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Asian regions.
The Islamic countries of South-East Asia represent a rich potential area of growth for insurers, especially those able to offer Sharia-compliant products, Richard Bishop, chief executive officer of Cobalt Underwriting, told SIRC Today. Bishop said that counties such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan offered a plentiful source of potential business for insurers, especially those familiar with and able to offer Sharia-compliant insurance.
Cobalt Insurance Holdings and its two specialist operations, Cobalt Underwriting Services and Cobalt Advisory Services, were formed in 2012 with the objective of establishing London as a leading global centre for Sharia-compliant insurance capacity.
“When we started we principally focused our efforts on the Middle East as a market,” Bishop said. “We do business in the UK, or inward investment into the UK via Islamic investors, but we wanted to make our product available in the Islamic markets, and the closest Islamic market to the UK is the Middle East. It’s worked quite well for us as a starter market.”
Cobalt Underwriting founder Richard Bishop has talked about why he launched London's first Islamic insurance managing general agent – and why London needs to stay relevant. It was back in 2007, when Richard Bishop was working in general broking, that a chance conversation with a Muslim cleric sewed the seed of a business idea that would grow to become the London market’s first Islamic insurance managing general agent.
London's Shariah-compliant start-up Cobalt Underwriting has now written its first risk, via its agreement with capacity provider XL Group, to cover the deal to acquire a high-profile property portfolio. It has underwritten a property acquired by PARC Property Holding, advised by Amiri Capital, to acquire Park Crescent West. Cobalt CEO Richard Bishop believes the agreement serves to demonstrate that insurance should have a place at the forefront of the government's plans to promote Islamic finance in London. Furthermore, he reminded Islamic business leaders that insurance capacity that meets their needs is available in London.
London-based firm Cobalt has developed a sharia-compliant insurance platform that uses a syndication model to help spread risk across a panel of underwriters. Cobalt allows multiple insurers to pool their capacity and each can subscribe to the desired level of risk though individual Islamic Windows. The company aims to address capacity constraints in the takaful industry. The platform allows each insurer to have a takaful window, where policyholder funds are segregated from conventional funds, without affecting their rating levels and helping price the risk competitively. The risk is priced by a lead insurer and other firms must then subscribe under similar terms, a similar approach to the subscription model used in London's insurance market.This novel format could boost capacity in the sector.