SMALL BUSINESS INSURER FINDS MARKET NICHE

SMALL BUSINESS INSURER FINDS MARKET NICHE

Warwick Insurance Managers Inc. doesn't pretend to be all things for all people, but its strategy of courting only the small business liability market seems to be paying off.

In the past five years, Warwick has grown from $7 million in premiums written to over $70 million.Barry Mackta, the president and chief financial officer of the Morris

Plains, N.J.-based insurer, says the seven-year-old company is now the sixth largest commercial multiperil insurer in the state.

Warwick provides workers compensation, fire, theft and other basic liability coverage to small businesses such as retailers, plumbers and electricians. Warwick's average account size is $7,500.

Our end of the industry has done very well, Mr. Mackta said. We've grown

because we think we do things somewhat better than our competitors.

We understand the market and we provide a product that meets the needs of our insureds, he said.

Mr. Mackta said what makes Warwick different is that it views its agents as its customers.

And we have developed a stable and consistent method of pricing our product, he added. We're not showing terrific price swings.

Mr. Mackta said Warwick Insurance Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Warwick Managers, was incorporated in 1981 with the backing of a small New Jersey-based mutual insurance company, Bakers Insurance Co.

We used Bakers to get a running start, he said, noting that the insurer contributed part of the $1.2 million needed to capitalize Warwick.

Bakers is now a subsidiary of Warwick. Bakers represents about $3 million of our $76 million in premiums, Mr. Mackta said.

Mr. Mackta said he spent the next few years arranging additional financing for Warwick.

In 1982, Mr. Mackta said he worked to raise $300,000 from local businessmen and from Warwick's directors.

In 1983, Mr. Mackta said he and two associates became broker/dealers and sold stock worth $1 million. We talked to whomever would listen to our story, he said.

Through two public offerings, the company raised about $16.2 million.

Mr. Mackta said the experience was difficult. I wouldn't do it again, but that stock gave us our first start, he said.

The people who bought the stock believed in us, he said. They gave us this huge inflow and today were sitting on a company with a $25,300,000 net worth.

And we started with zero. All we had is the control of a small mutual with a net worth of $300,000, he said.

Warwick now writes most of its business in New Jersey, but is expanding into other states in the Northeast. In 1987, Warwick's license applications were approved in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Mackta said the company has submitted license applications in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

He added that the company intends to make license applications in Vermont, Virginia and Toronto.

We will create a toehold in each of those markets, Mr. Mackta said. And we'll maintain or improve in New Jersey.