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Venbrook hires Levinson to drive wholesale growth

David Bull 26 January 2017

Lou Levinson has joined middle market-focused intermediary Venbrook Group as president of its expansive wholesale division, The Insurance Insider can reveal.

The move represents a switch over from the company side of the wholesale business for the executive, with Venbrook Specialty Services operating in the MGA/MGU, brokerage and program management space.

In a long underwriting career, Levinson has held a range of senior positions, including president of Argo's E&S business - which houses Colony Specialty - president of IFG, and head of casualty at Ace Westchester Specialty.

At Los Angeles, California-based Venbrook, he will lead the wholesale division's growth strategy and oversee its operations, including the development of new products and programs.

In an interview with this publication, Levinson said he had been drawn to Venbrook's entrepreneurial culture, as well as its growth potential.

"This opportunity is great from an entrepreneurial standpoint. I've been given the flexibility to take this platform and run it the way I see fit," he commented.

Venbrook Group CEO Jason Turner added: "Lou brings a tremendous amount of experience, expertise, relationship and leadership to the organization."

He explained that hiring Levinson was a reflection of the firm's "bullish view" on its ability to growth organically.

As reported last October, Venbrook set out to strategically grow in the wholesale space after closing a $42mn debt capital raise from New York Life subsidiary Madison Capital Funding.

Turner said the company will continue to look for acquisition opportunities where they make sense, following its purchase of New Jersey-based wholesaler Brooks Insurance Group late last year.

But its main focus in the wholesale space under Levinson will be on organic growth.

"There are a lot of consolidation players out there and while that's a fantastic model that has proven to drive great results for PE players, those platforms don't necessarily grow organically. Venbrook is still privately held because we've proved over a long period of time the ability to do that," he said.

The strategy would rely on the firm's ability to create products and services that "resonate with the marketplace", to pick carrier partners that will write those risks, and to build the distribution mechanism to get the business to the market.

"Lou brings that carrier mentality and understanding of what it takes for a carrier to get deeper into an existing product or write a new one, and he brings the retail distribution relationships," Turner continued.

Levinson explained that he will prioritize expansion of Venbrook's wholesale product offerings horizontally and attracting talent, to build out the platform's capabilities.

"We'll develop a platform that attracts both strong A+ talent seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. We'll also look to recruit younger folk to attract talent to the industry who are charismatic, passionate people that we can teach insurance to," he said.


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