August 22, 2016
Executive Profile

Doherty finds growing niche in Hartford's insurance ecosystem

HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
Lisa Doherty's Business Risk Partners has doubled its gross written premiums since 2010 to $40 million.

VIEW: View a video clip of Lisa Doherty's interview.

Lisa Doherty

President and CEO, Business Risk Partners, Windsor.

Highest education: Bachelor's degree in international relations and economics, Brown University, 1987.

Executive insights:

"I just think fundamentally integrity is everything … you deliver on your word and you do what you say you're going to do and you be upfront about it. We try to be really transparent with our partners."

Lisa Doherty's approach to her insurance business: Work hard, do things a little differently and have fun doing it.

"I love insurance," said the president and CEO of Windsor-based Business Risk Partners (BRP). "I just think insurance is interesting. It's legal. It's financial. It's risk. It's deal making. I love it."

She's in her element at Business Risk Partners and helping 30 employees grow with BRP, which more than doubled its gross written premiums from 2010 to 2015, hitting $40 million last year. Doubling again to $80 million in five years is possible, but $60 million in three to five years is very achievable, she said. BRP's headed toward $45 million this year.

BRP underwrites and administers professional liability insurance, also known as E&O (errors and omissions); management liability insurance for directors and officers, employment practices, fiduciary liability, crime and excess; cyber liability insurance; and similar products for banks and broker/dealers.

"The easiest way to describe it is we're an insurance company that has outsourced the risk-taking," said Doherty, 51.

The risk-takers are Lloyd's of London, Liberty Mutual and Great American Insurance Group, for which BRP does underwriting, tapping a network of about 600 U.S. insurance agencies. BRP's discussing a new product line with a fourth carrier Doherty said she can't yet identify.

She co-founded BRP in 2000 with her oldest of three sisters, Linda Boborodea, chief operating officer, to quench their entrepreneurial thirst. They considered everything from buying a gun distributorship to a gravel business, which required significant capital. Instead, they tapped Doherty's years of insurance experience at AIG, Executive Risk and Marsh, and Boborodea's experience at major financial institutions to launch BRP.

They targeted small to midsized businesses in the E&O space with average premiums of about $6,000, thinking that market was underserved.

"It was less underserved than we thought, but we were the beneficiaries of, 'If you do things well, you're always going to get traction,' " Doherty said.

Its typical insured company for E&O has revenues between $10 million and $75 million.

The sisters knew they were making it when about three years after starting, their father, well-known Springfield lawyer Paul Doherty, started charging them for legal advice, Doherty said. He was their lawyer for about 15 years before dying in January.

The sailing wasn't always smooth, though. BRP underwrote policies for title agents before the real estate crash in 2008. It had one carrier at the time, Lloyd's, and title agents were about 20 percent of BRP's business. As the real estate crisis unfolded, Lloyd's paid about $2 to $2.50 for every $1 of premium BRP wrote for that business, Doherty said.

BRP feared losing Lloyd's backing. It mostly exited that book of business, diversified its products and expanded carriers.

"We knew we could be profitable again in terms of our underwriting and we wanted to show that to Lloyd's," Doherty said. "That is one thing that I am hugely proud of, that we were able to turn it around and do right by them and strengthen the partnership."

Boborodea says Doherty is a natural leader, back to her days as senior class president at Longmeadow (Mass.) High School. She's also an innate teacher, Boborodea said.

"We compete for [underwriting] employees with the big Hartford insurance companies … so I think that's one of the things that we've been able to do is take people that are new or early in the industry and really expose them to a lot of different lines of business and types of insurers … so they're able to develop professionally in a small-company environment," Boborodea said.

The sisters' skills are complementary, Doherty's in selling and deals, Boborodea in operations and details.

Doherty — who has 6- and 9-year-old boys with her wife, Jean, a financial planner — loves sports. She was a walk-on squash player in college and today enjoys playing paddle tennis, mostly, and tennis. She also appreciates good wine.

Fighting back tears, Doherty shared a message she delivered at her father's service to his grandchildren: "If you can … live the way he did, which would be to always be generous and always take the high road, you'll go far in life."

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