Martello Re: Building a Reinsurer from the Ground Up

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This is a podcast episode titled, Martello Re: Building a Reinsurer from the Ground Up. The summary for this episode is: <p>Dennis Ho, CEO of Martello Re, sits down with Barings’ Colin Gordon to discuss the creation and rapid growth of Bermuda-based reinsurer Martello Re, and how trusted partnerships have been the key to tackling challenges ranging from investment returns to hiring and beyond.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Episode Segments:</strong></p><p>(02:20) – From trading hockey cards to managing a multi-billion dollar reinsurer</p><p>(03:41) – Why the world needed another reinsurance company</p><p>(05:49) – The influence of private equity in the reinsurance space</p><p>(07:06) – The opportunity in multi-year guaranteed annuities and pension risk transfer</p><p>(09:02) – The advantages of building a reinsurer from scratch</p><p>(11:47) – The challenge of building a company while managing a block of business</p><p>(17:46) – Building a strong culture while growing from 5 to 54 people</p><p>(21:37) – Solving the asset/liability cashflow equation</p><p>(23:19) – The biggest challenges faced over the last two years</p><p>(25:09) – Balancing stability with agility and learning from your partners</p><p>(27:15) – Lessons learned that may help insurance investors</p><p>(29:18) – Asset management above and beyond returns</p><p><br></p><p>Certain statements about Barings LLC made by the participants herein may be deemed to be “testimonials” or “endorsements” as those terms are defined in rule 206(4)-1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Participants were not compensated in connection with their participation in this program, although in certain cases they are investors in Barings LLC sponsored vehicles. These investments subject such participants to potential conflicts of interest in making the statements herein.</p><p><br></p><p>IMPORTANT INFORMATION</p><p><br></p><p>Any forecasts in this podcast are based upon Barings’ opinion of the market at the date of preparation and are subject to change without notice, dependent upon many factors. Any prediction, projection or forecast is not necessarily indicative of the future or likely performance. Investment involves risk. The value of any investments and any income generated may go down as well as up and is not guaranteed. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. Any examples set forth in this podcast are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of any future investment results or investments. The composition, size of, and risks associated with an investment may differ substantially from any examples set forth in this podcast. No representation is made that an investment will be profitable or will not incur losses. </p><p><br></p><p>Barings is the brand name for the worldwide asset management and associated businesses of Barings LLC and its global affiliates. Barings Securities LLC, Barings (U.K.) Limited, Barings Global Advisers Limited, Barings Australia Pty Ltd, Barings Japan Limited, Barings Real Estate Advisers Europe Finance LLP, BREAE AIFM LLP, Baring Asset Management Limited, Baring International Investment Limited, Baring Fund Managers Limited, Baring International Fund Managers (Ireland) Limited, Baring Asset Management (Asia) Limited, Baring SICE (Taiwan) Limited, Baring Asset Management Switzerland Sarl, and Baring Asset Management Korea Limited each are affiliated financial service companies owned by Barings LLC (each, individually, an “Affiliate”).</p><p><br></p><p>NO OFFER: The podcast is for informational purposes only and is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or service in any jurisdiction. The material herein was prepared without any consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of anyone who may receive it. This podcast is not, and must not be treated as, investment advice, an investment recommendation, investment research, or a recommendation about the suitability or appropriateness of any security, commodity, investment, or particular investment strategy.</p><p><br></p><p>Unless otherwise mentioned, the views contained in this podcast are those of Barings and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may make different investment decisions for different clients. Parts of this podcast may be based on information received from sources we believe to be reliable. Although every effort is taken to ensure that the information contained in this podcast is accurate, Barings makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information</p><p><br></p><p>Any service, security, investment or product outlined in this podcast may not be suitable for a prospective investor or available in their jurisdiction.</p><p><br></p><p>Copyright in this podcast is owned by Barings. Information in this podcast may be used for your own personal use, but may not be altered, reproduced or distributed without Barings’ consent.</p><p><br></p><p>24-3309405</p>

Greg Campion: What would happen if you started a reinsurance company from scratch, if you had a blank sheet of paper and could build it however you wanted? That's the scenario Dennis Ho, CEO of Martello Re, faced two years ago when launching a startup reinsurance company in partnership with Massmutual, Barings, Centerbridge, and Brown Brothers Harriman. What would happen? Well, you'd learn a lot, and so would your partners.

Colin Gordon: Our relationship with Martello has been, it has brought the best out of our firm. And it has taught our firm a tremendous amount about how to serve clients across the firm. Serving clients like Martello well, is the key for succeeding in the future that we see at Barings.

Greg Campion: That was Colin Gordon, head of Portfolio Solutions and Analytics at Barings. And this is Streaming Income, a podcast from Barings. I'm your host, Greg Campion. Coming up on today's show, building Martello Re from the ground up. My colleague Colin Gordon sits down with Dennis Ho, CEO of Martello Re, to discuss the why and how of building a reinsurer from scratch, and why trusted partnerships and relationships have been the foundation of success. This episode is part of our Investing Together series, where we aim to shine a light on partners like Dennis and the Martello Re team, who are driving value in new and impactful ways. With that, please enjoy this conversation with Colin Gordon and Dennis Ho.

Colin Gordon: Before we get to actual questions of content, just four quick speed round questions. Yankees or Mets?

Dennis Ho: Yankees.

Colin Gordon: Coke or Pepsi?

Dennis Ho: Coke.

Colin Gordon: Dogs or cats?

Dennis Ho: Dogs.

Colin Gordon: Seinfeld or Friends?

Dennis Ho: Seinfeld.

Colin Gordon: Okay. Those are all the right answers, by the way. Dennis, thanks for joining us here. You're the CEO of Martello Re, a fast- growing, very fast- growing, Bermuda reinsurance company created to support asset intensive life and annuities liabilities. I want to talk to you a lot about Martello Re today, but first, you weren't always in this position. Tell us a little bit about your career and what you did before starting and founding Martello.

Dennis Ho: Sure. Well, Colin, thanks for having me today. So I have probably a pretty non- traditional career. I'm a Life Actuary by training. I grew up in a small town called Winnipeg, Canada. My parents were blue collar workers. I had no idea about finance, insurance, nothing. I knew I was good at math, and I knew I had an interest in business. And so my high school guidance counselor said, " Why don't you try this actuarial thing?" So I went to the University of Manitoba, got an actual science degree in the business department, which was very unique at that time. And I've been in insurance ever since. So I spent my formative years at two insurance companies, MetLife and Cigna. I spent six years at Deutsche Bank on the capital markets team, helping insurance companies restructure their businesses, do reinsurance transactions. Learned a ton about the capital market side of the house. I spent a few years at BlackRock, helping CIOs with their investment portfolios. And since there I've worked at a couple different startups, including a previous one with Barings. I did my own insurtech startup and I joined Martello Re about two years ago.

Colin Gordon: Is it fair to say you've always been entrepreneurial?

Dennis Ho: I would say so. I didn't know I would land in the role I am in today, but in high school I built computers and sold them. I traded hockey cards. So I did all kinds of things that kids did to make a little bit of money on the side.

Colin Gordon: So let's talk about Martello Re. A skeptic might ask, " Why does the world need another reinsurance company?" I'm sure you saw something that led you to believe otherwise. What was that?

Dennis Ho: There are probably two factors. One is, at its core, reinsurance need is driven by the primary need of insurance companies. If you look at demographics and the number of people that are going to retire in the next 20 years, if you look at the amount of money that's going to be rolled over from 401Ks and other savings products, where people want stable, consistent, reliable income from a high quality company, there's going to be huge growth in annuities over the next 20 years. There will also be huge growth in pension risk transfer, as corporations offload their defined benefit pension plans that they've shut down. And the challenge with products like that is, their capital intensive, they require extensive investment capabilities. So if you're an insurance company that wants to continue growing in that market, it's natural to work with a reinsurance company that can bring those capabilities to you, that can bring access to outside capital, that can bring access to broader investment capabilities. So that's one. The second piece of that is, while the reinsurance base on its surface looks crowded, if you really dig in and you think about what kind of reinsurance partner you need, if you're writing annuities and you're doing pension risk transfer, you want someone who's focused on this business and is aligned with you 100% so they don't sell the same products as you. That you want someone that has broad investment capabilities and access to a lot of capital. You want someone that has the scale to be able to manage this business. And you want someone who has a very simple focused strategy that's focused on new business, and not all kinds of other stuff that could distract them from supporting you. If you tick through those five things, I don't know that you can name another reinsurer out there that has them. So it made sense to build a company like Martello, to support Massmutual in these businesses, and ultimately other insurers that want to grow in these spaces.

Colin Gordon: One of the areas of interest in the reinsurance market recently has been the emergence of the private equity backed reinsurers. Do you view that as a good thing, a bad thing? Will that draw more regulatory scrutiny? How do you think of that in terms of the ecosystem of both insurers and reinsurers, in terms of traditional, established, they're around for a couple of hundred years, versus new entrants, aggressive new capital into the space?

Dennis Ho: To be honest, we don't really look at the market that way. We don't really look at the market in terms of private equity backed versus not. If you think about Martello Re, our investors are Massmutual, not a private equity firm. Brown Brothers Harriman, not a private equity firm. And then Centerbridge, who is a private equity firm. But what we focus on is building an insurance company, or a reinsurance company, with a long- term focus, exceptional financial strength, and a really clear strategy. Ultimately, we think that's good for the industry, and we hope the regulators and our partners see that as well. But I don't think we categorize ourselves in private equity backed or traditional. We're just a reinsurance company that's focused on helping grow the market and helping insurance companies support their new business needs.

Colin Gordon: So the two lines of business that Martello has been focused on so far, MYGA, Multi- year Guaranteed Annuity. Again, just like any other industry, there's lots of acronyms to work within insurance, which is great. And then PRT, Pension Risk Transfer. What are, in today's market, the volumes of those business lines across the industry have been strong, have been growing, what's driving the need for those products right now?

Dennis Ho: They're two sort of separate but related markets. If you look at the Multi- year Guaranteed Annuity market, that's a retail market. It's a savings product. And frankly, one of the big drivers over the past year and a half has been higher interest rates. Right now, you can put your money in a three- year MYGA product with a great company like Massmutual, and earn 5% guaranteed. No matter what happened to the market, you get 5% a year. Two years ago that was 1%. And so that's going to drive demand. And then, as going back to the earlier theme of retirees, and people looking for a safe place to put their money, this is a very attractive option, and the market's been growing dramatically. On the Pension Risk Transfer side, this is something that's been effectively talked about and brewing for the last two decades. Companies over the last few decades have slowly wound down or sort of stopped their defined benefit plans, and transitioned to 401ks, or cash balance, or other plans, but they still have these huge legacy liabilities. And they're complicated to manage, they're expensive to manage, but for the longest time, the plans were underfunded. They didn't have enough assets to go buy an annuity from an insurance company. Well, with rising rates and the performance of the equity markets over the past five, six years, that's helped dramatically. And so plans are much better funded today. And I think there's general consensus across the industry, that transferring this risk to an insurance company, is much better for shareholders than to try to maintain it yourself.

Colin Gordon: Let's switch to the consortium. What was it about the consortium? And again, for our listeners, Martello is the product of a consortium of math led by MassMutual, Centerbridge, Barings, and Brown Brothers Harriman coming together to provide the capital to form Martello. Again, Dennis was led as CEO, and those partners, that consortium, saw the need and the attractiveness of the opportunity came together to form Martello. But from your perspective, as somebody with options of a really great career in this industry, what was attractive about that consortium that led you to really want to be part of it?

Dennis Ho: So it's a couple things. One is, in the reinsurance base, quality and reputation matters. And when you think about those names that you just listed, Massmutual, Barings, Centerbridge, Brown Brothers Harriman, those are all blue chip names. And so if you're going to build a reinsurance company, you want to work with partners like that, because ultimately, cedents and other counterparties that you work with are going to want to be comfortable that the investors behind you are high quality investors. So that's one. Two, what was really, really great is they were all aligned on the strategy. It was very simple, right? Let's build a great reinsurance company to support this growing market for retirement products, but let's do it in a way that's thoughtful. Let's start with Massmutual. Let's focus on them exclusively and only do business with them. Let's build out the infrastructure that we need to really build a terrific company. And then slowly grow over time. And so that combination of terrific and blue chip companies all aligned on a very simple and focused strategy was really compelling.

Colin Gordon: There are so many challenges to being new. You've got to sort of get your own, your business flow going, got to build a company. We'll come to that later. But what are the advantages of starting from scratch?

Dennis Ho: Focus and simplicity, right? If you think about what's really important when you're issuing new policies and you're looking for a reinsurance partner, the most important thing is to have stability and consistency, and someone who's going to be there with you 2, 3, 4 or five years down the road. So you want someone who's focused on new business reinsurance, and that's all they do, so that they don't get distracted. They don't have other priorities that take away from supporting you as you grow your business. The second thing is counterparty, a risk management and having somebody who's financially strong, is really, really important. You're issuing policies that could go on for 20, 30, 40 years. You want to make sure that you have somebody with a simple balance sheet, where you understand the risks they're taking, you understand their capital and the financial strengths, and you understand that they're managing the business in a way that gives you comfort at night.

Colin Gordon: Let's go back to January, 2022 for a second. The deal closes, Martello has now formed. The legacy block of$ 14 billion of liabilities is now transferred to your control. And you now have to build portfolios to back those liabilities. And you have your asset management partners and your investment team all dropped into a room. Starting from scratch, how did that go? That must be... How did you figure out what to do?

Dennis Ho: It was a lot of discussion, a lot of collaboration. I think if you think about it, you get a block of business on the books. You have a portfolio to manage. You need to be managing it that very minute, right? It's not, " Hey, let's figure it out three weeks from now." You had to managing it immediately, because risk is changing, the markets are changing, your liabilities are changing. And so I think the first step was, well, and this was a big benefit of partnering with Barings and Centerbridge. You guys had a lot of capabilities in- house. It's not like you hadn't done this before. You managed portfolios for other insurance companies. You managed across all these asset classes. So the first thing was, let's leverage Barings and Centerbridge's systems, and capabilities, and reporting, and risk management, and get all of that in place so that we can manage our portfolio. I think both Barings and Centerbridge have been terrific partners. We feel really lucky to have them. And we have two firms, again with blue chip brand names, with capabilities across the spectrum, and who are really, really committed to helping Martello be successful. That's a combination that's really difficult to find. And it was really valuable, in the environment that we went through, if you talk about the rate hikes and you talk about the volatility of the markets. The main way to manage that is to be nimble, and to be able to have access to a range of tools in your toolkit, whether it's public fixed income, public securitize, or private ABS or alternatives. If we only had one tool in our toolkit, in terms of what we'd like to invest in, it'd be really difficult to manage through a volatile market environment. But we had partners in Centerbridge and Barings who had a range of capabilities and who weren't necessarily focused on just one. And so that allowed us to navigate that pretty challenging environment, and get our portfolio, and asset liability management, and risk management to a place where I think we ended up in a pretty good spot over the past couple years. And then separately, let's set up infrastructure and processes so that we're talking all the time. And as our business is changing, we're making decisions. As markets are changing, we're making decisions. And then probably the third pillar, which we focused on over the last year and a half is, let's build out our internal systems. We've built out a lot of analytics around capital, around liability projections, around asset liability management. And so over time, I see us being able to contribute more to that conversation and really having it be Martello Re brings analytics around our business and capital and risk management. Barings and Centerbridge brings views and capabilities and analytics on the asset side. And we pull it all together and we optimize the portfolio for the business going forward. And I'd love to hear your perspective, Colin. You are in that room as well.

Colin Gordon: Whenever you're dropped in with partners to figure out, you have a problem, basically a problem in front of you, how do we build a portfolio to effectively back these liabilities? You start out with your way of looking at things, and you listen to your partners. They have their way of looking at things. I guess I'll just say that Centerbridge has been a wonderful partner in this, from our perspective. We don't always agree on things. All three of our teams, Martello, Centerbridge, and Barings, we've had very honest, open, transparent conversations about how to achieve the goals that we all agree on. We've had our moments of disagreement, we've worked through them as a team. The last two years, that's really become, I think a really, from my perspective at least, a well- functioning team. Which I think is rare, to have firms come together like that, and really spend that much time building common processes. We've learned a lot from them. And again, I would say from my perspective, which may not be the same as yours, it has exceeded my expectations about how that was going to go. Because we just didn't know. We all just kind of got dropped into the room on January two years ago, and said, " Great, go figure this out." The experience definitely was challenging, but it was really rewarding. So you started in January'22, you had a job to do, i. e., your counterparties are expecting to reinsure these liabilities to a certain standard. At the same time, you're actually building everything. Again, that must've been an amazingly hard challenge. Pick your analogy. Were you building the cars, you were driving it? I am sure there are a lot of different choices. But how difficult was that? Was it more difficult than you thought it would be? What went well, what went poorly? Again, when you think of insurance companies, reinsurance companies, I guess the market thinks of them as being around for a while, but you actually built yours from scratch, at the same time as actually having to do the actual reinsurance work.

Dennis Ho: Yeah, no, that brings me back a lot of good memories. So to Massmutual's credit, they said, " Look, we're helping to set you up because we think there's a need here. And this makes sense for Massmutual's business. But you're your own company. You build your own infrastructure, you handle your own admin, you need to take care of everything on your own. We're not doing it for you." Which was scary and exciting at the same time. If you think about it, a lot of times you're either a startup, where you don't have legacy business or a customer to deal with. You're building a company. Or you're an established company with established processes, procedures, systems to actually handle a business that's already on the books. We had to do both. The leadership team and I probably talked multiple times a day for the first four months. And we still talk multiple times a day. One of the things I think we learned is, we probably underestimated the need to hire. We ramped up pretty quickly. We're at 54 people now. But we were five people probably for a good five months. And it was because we knew hiring was important, but there was always other things to do. And so we always pushed it on the back burner. And then we kind of realized that, okay, this is not sustainable. And we turned on the jets, and we started hiring very, very quickly. Still very careful about maintaining our culture and getting the right talent, but that was probably one lesson learned early on. Having said that, the biggest challenge that you just described of building a company, but also having an in force block, was also one of our biggest strengths. One of the toughest things for a new reinsurance company to do is get that first deal in the door, and get established, and have some credibility, and have business to manage. Massmutual, through their partnership with us, allowed us to do that from day one. That allowed us to establish a track record of managing business. It also allowed us to track terrific people. There are a lot of really, really talented people out there, but not many people want to go to a startup with zero business on the books. That really is starting from ground zero. I think the fact that we had a block of business on the books, we had an expense base that we could support to build out the right infrastructure, to hire the right people, and really build a company from the ground up, was a huge advantage for us in hiring terrific talent.

Colin Gordon: As far as culture goes, we had a number of Barings people go over to Martello. They've worked very closely. Again, it's been both with the support of Barings, and obviously, Martello. Is there something about the culture that works for you? Why has that been such a good fit?

Dennis Ho: You guys have really talented people, right? So that helps. That's a great foundation. I think the other thing is, if you look at some of the folks that came over, Virginia Paranelli, senior leadership member on our team, Mike Bomstein joined a few months ago, they've really been on the journey with Martello since the beginning, right? Mike and Virginia were probably working at Barings on Martello before I even joined. And so they knew what we were trying to accomplish. They helped to build the company from the ground up. And that combined with their capabilities and their skills, made it a really great fit.

Colin Gordon: Growing from five to, I think you said 54 at the end of 2023, has it been challenging keeping that culture? That nimble five person team is great, but then as you add people, how's that gone, in terms of keeping the continuity of that culture?

Dennis Ho: And that's a great question. I think it's gone well, but we need to evolve. So our culture is one where there's a lot of teamwork, there's a lot of collaboration, there's a lot of direct communication. We're honest and upfront with each other and we have a lot of ownership. When you're a team of five, or 10, or even 15 people, that's a little easier to do because everybody's working with everybody else. I have interaction with pretty much everybody on the team. And they hear directly from me or other folks what's important, what we're working on, where we're trying to go. As you grow to 30, 40, 50, and even beyond, it gets much tougher to have that direct interaction with the rest of the company. So communication is much more important. Engagement across different business units and divisions is much more important. Direct connection with the senior leadership team is much more important for new folks that are joining. And so I would say we did a good job over the last year, evolving as people came on, but I think we can do better. And so, one of my top priorities for'24 is thinking about how we evolve our culture so that we improve communication, how we improve people development. There are some people that are going to have their second anniversary with us. And talented people want to continue to do great things, and be challenged. And so making sure we focus on that is really important as well.

Colin Gordon: Let's talk a little bit about investments. Today's macro environment, challenging for the most seasoned of investors. Again, you've built a new investment team both internally, and then the team you had supporting you across Centerbridge and Barings. In terms of how you look at your book of business right now, asset performance versus volatility of liabilities, which one do you think more about right now? Which one keeps you up at night, for lack of a better phrase? Liabilities are assets?

Dennis Ho: This may sound like a cop- out, but it's both of the above.

Colin Gordon: It's the best job of a CEO, I suppose.

Dennis Ho: If you think about what makes a reinsurance company successful, especially one that reinsurance asset intensive business, where you're earning a spread on the assets, it's taking in liabilities that you understand, where you can model out the cash flows and have confidence in how they're going to play out in different market scenarios. It's taking the premiums that you get, and investing them, and being able to cover your cost of funds, and also earn a spread. And it's managing the risk in between. It's managing how much capital you have to hold. It's managing asset liability risk management, it's managing volatility, it's managing regulatory requirements. And so you really need to manage all of those components. You could be doing terrifically on the asset side, and earning tremendous alpha, but if all of a sudden your asset cash flows fall out of whack with your liability cash flows, your capital's not going to be in a good spot, and your risk position is not going to be in a good spot. So we really look at things holistically, and over the last year and a half, we've spent a lot of time and effort building out our internal models, and making sure that we understand our entire balance sheet, and what happens both on the asset side and liability side.

Colin Gordon: Now in the almost two years of operations now, again, volatile environment, you're building the team, I'm sure there's been a couple of moments that just things haven't gone perfectly well, as there are in any endeavor, certainly a startup. Does anything stick out to you, in terms of a moment where, oh, it was just a challenging moment? And how did the team react to it?

Dennis Ho: Yeah, that's a good question. So maybe I'll focus specifically on the investment side of the house. Obviously, we spent a lot of time with Barings and Centerbridge over the past two years. I think one of the things we did really well early on was to set in a regular cadence and have a lot of communication. And that served us well as the market was really changing dramatically. So we had daily and weekly calls, we had monthly asset allocation discussions, we had quarterly strategy discussions. That really served us really well. One thing that I think we learned early on is, we're changing dramatically. And I think Barings and Centerbridge, who are used to working with bigger, more established companies, and so early on, rightfully so, you guys came in and said, " Let's put in a lot of process. Let's put in a lot of reporting. Let's put in a lot of rules. Let's scale this stuff." The challenge was, we were still trying to figure out what we were going to scale, trying to figure out how do we really make the best decisions around our portfolio? How do we react to something that's happening in the market? And so I remember us, you and I having a conversation where we sat down and I said, " We don't know what we're scaling yet, so let's just talk a lot, let's just build out the best platform we can build. And then once we feel like we've gotten there, we can scale it and automate it." And I think that helped a lot, as we worked through the past year and a half.

Colin Gordon: Do you feel like you know what you want to scale quite yet?

Dennis Ho: We're changing quite a bit still. We have 54 people, we have 19 billion of AUM. We have a lot of growth ahead, so we probably have a little bit more time before we're there.

Colin Gordon: In terms of the asset performance, again, that's the part that asset management partners help you with, in general, do you feel like between the teams, your internal investment team, the Barings team that supports you and the Centerbridge team that supports you, do you feel you've got that right balance of stability, consistency, but also nimbleness and the ability to react to changes in markets?

Dennis Ho: Yeah, absolutely. I think a big part of it has been the amount of time and energy Barings and Centerbridge have put in to Martello. We obviously get a lot of attention from you and other senior folks at Barings. We have a lot of conversation about what's best for Martello, and how do we support MassMutual as our client. And the really great thing is, you've been willing to work with us, and change, and do things differently than how you normally might do them, because we're a different kind of company.

Colin Gordon: Well, you're an extremely important company to us, for a lot of reasons. One, that it's a significant investment for our buyer parent company and our partners. But two, we learn from all our great clients. And we have built, Barings has built, quite a bit of functionality to support you, because we've learned along the way what you needed. In terms of the processes that we have built, and the way we look across our business to support, are truly, truly multi- asset account. Because just as you were learning what you wanted to scale, we've learned how to support you the best we can. And we have built a fair amount of internal process and systems designed to bring the best of all our investment teams to bear for your capital. You always learn from your clients. And you certainly learn from our clients who are as active in the markets as you have been. I mentioned Martello has catalyst around Barings all the time, because when you are working with dynamic clients who are in really active markets, what you already have is never going to work as well as you want it to. So you always have to be the flexible. And frankly, our involvement with Martello has been wonderful for our own abilities, our own internal processes here at Baring. So I'm glad to see that it's gone well from your perspective. It's been challenging, but certainly gone well from ours. You mentioned your background as head of insurance solutions at BlackRock and Deutsche. Before you were in the operator seat, you spent a lot of time helping insurance clients go through their own, think through their own challenges. What have you learned in your time at Martello that you think might be valuable for them to know, or surprising for them to hear?

Dennis Ho: So let me start actually from the other side of the table, from the client side, and then I'll talk about the insurance solution and the provider side. One of the things I learned when I was on the other side of the table, at Deutsche Bank and at BlackRock, and also that I'm seeing here, is that if you are an insurance company or a reinsurance company and you're talking to somebody like Barings, or a Centerbridge, or another provider, find the folks that you really trust and help them understand what you're trying to accomplish. The more you can tell them, and certainly you don't want to share confidential information or anything inappropriate, but the more you can find a strategic partner to sit down at the table with you, and the more you can share with them about what you want to accomplish, the more they're going to be able to help you. When I was on the other side of the table, I would have some clients that would tell me information and help me understand what they're trying to accomplish or what they're concerned about, and I would be able to help them. And there were other clients that just didn't want to say anything. And it's really difficult for somebody to help you if you don't tell them what you're trying to accomplish or what's wrong. And I would say, my advice for the advisors is to build those relationships, help people get comfortable, that you are really looking out for their best interests, and you're trying to help them. And then make sure you deliver. If someone tells you a problem, and they open up and tell you that they need help on something, make sure you actually go and deliver something. And we obviously had a strong relationship with Barings going into this. And we share a lot of information with you guys, because we were comfortable. And you guys put a lot of effort, and resources, and time into delivering. And so we appreciate that. And that just reinforces that, find those strategic partners and you'll be able to do great things together.

Colin Gordon: Working with asset managers. And again, I think the perception of an asset manager in regards to its service of any client, but certainly in this case Martello as a reinsurance company is, hey, you achieve good returns. And of course, that is job one, to make sure that you're investing your client's capital effectively. But with a client such as yourself, that literally works across every single asset type, at almost any firm you're going to work with, are there other components to that relationship? What, above and beyond, hey, you achieved good spreads, and good yields, and good returns, what do you value in terms of your relationship with your asset managers?

Dennis Ho: You're exactly right. It's not just returns when you're a reinsurance business. It's risk adjusted returns, first of all. Understanding how returns interact with capital, and risk management, and regulatory requirements. That's one. Two, we really value partners who can be nimble. Despite the fact that we're growing, that's one aspect. But even if we weren't growing dramatically, the reinsurance business isn't a business where you can take the liabilities in, put assets to work, and set it and forget it. That's just not how it works. Capital is moving daily. As markets move, regulations change all the time. Risk in your portfolio changes as things happen in the markets. And so having somebody who's nimble, who's proactive, who's thinking not just about returns but about risk, is really, really important to us. Because to a certain extent, when you're a reinsurance company, downside risk is really critical to manage. In some cases more so than upside performance.

Colin Gordon: This podcast is part of our investing together series, where we highlight the incredible work that our partners like you are doing. I think I speak for all Barings when I say just how much we value the partnership we've had with you and the Martello team. But Dennis, the best relationships are built on transparency. So let me ask you this to close. What is the one thing you think we're getting right as partners and what's the one thing we can improve on?

Dennis Ho: So first of all, we appreciate the partnership as well, and we appreciate all the time, and effort, and resources that you, Barings, have put together to help us be successful. And the one thing that's really clear is, you guys are invested in our long- term success, day in and day out. It doesn't matter whether things go well, or whether things go poorly, it's really clear that you guys are focused on making sure we're successful. So that's one thing that you can't put a price on. And so we appreciate that and I think that's really helped us quite a bit, build the infrastructure, and set ourselves up for success down the road. In terms of what you could do better, I'll go back to one of the points I talked about earlier. We're a growing, changing company. We started at 14 billion of AUM, we're at 19 billion. We started with five people, we're at 54 people. If you look at our business plan and our growth over the next three or four years, we'll probably double our AUM. And so we're changing dramatically. And so I would say let's continue to be nimble and continue to think about how we optimize before we scale. And as long as we do that, I think we'll be okay.

Colin Gordon: But thank you for joining us here today, Dennis. It's been a pleasure speaking with you today. And on behalf of Barings, it's been a pleasure to work with you and your team for the past two years. Asset management is a very competitive business, and like any competitive endeavor, getting the right feedback loops, the things that tell you what you can be doing better, how you improve, is key to success over the long term. Great clients like Martello, clients who are demanding, but honest and willing to have that transparent, long- term relationship are key to us bringing the best across Barings to benefit for our clients. Martello has been a wonderful client for our firm, and it's been an absolute privilege to serve you for the past couple of years. Thank you very much.

Dennis Ho: Thank you. Those are very kind words and we appreciate the partnership. And looking forward to many more years of partnership together.

Greg Campion: Thanks for listening to this episode of Streaming Income. If you'd like to stay up to date on our latest thoughts on asset classes, ranging from high yield and private credit, to real estate debt and equity, make sure to follow us and leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and more. We publish a new episode every other week. And if you have specific feedback, you can email us at podcastatbarings. com. That's podcast at B- A- R- I- N- G- S. com. Thanks again for listening and see you next time.


Dennis Ho, CEO of Martello Re, sits down with Barings’ Colin Gordon to discuss the creation and rapid growth of Bermuda-based reinsurer Martello Re, and how trusted partnerships have been the key to tackling challenges ranging from investment returns to hiring and beyond.