Hart teams up with ex-Hallmark duo and Newlight to launch $200mn+ E&S carrier

January 25, 2021

Former Narragansett Bay Insurance Company (NBIC) CEO Todd Hart has teamed up with James Damonte, Mark Morrison and former NBIC colleague Pamela Byron-Button to launch E&S carrier Upland Capital Group with $200mn of backing from Newlight Partners.

  • Upland secures start-up capital of $200mn from Newlight Partners
  • Texas-based carrier will target E&S casualty, property and specialty
  • Hart was formerly CEO of Narragansett Bay Insurance Company
  • Management includes former Hallmark president and CEO, and E&S president
  • Latest entrant to fast-hardening E&S marketplace

Newlight is a former investor in NBIC, the Northeast-focused homeowners insurer that was bought by Heritage in 2017 for $250mn.

Dallas, Texas-based Upland is the latest start-up or reboot vehicle aimed at the fast-hardening US
E&S market, where most lines have been in hard market territory for more than 18 months, with no sign of momentum letting up in 2021.

In addition to the $200mn start-up investment from growth equity investor Newlight, the new
company’s executive management team have also invested in the vehicle. Upland will offer a diversified portfolio of E&S casualty, property and specialty insurance products, with an initial focus on excess casualty distributed through select wholesale brokers.

In a statement, the company said the initial capital raise will fund its immediate build-out and
organic growth plans.

Upland’s executive leadership team is headed by Hart (pictured above left) as chairman, president and CEO. Hart was most recently CEO of Rhode Island-based NBIC.

Damonte takes the position of president of insurance operations and CUO. He was most recently a senior managing director at Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions, but previously spent a decade at Hallmark Financial Services, including as president of its E&S operations.

Morrison (above right) is the former president and CEO of Hallmark and takes the position of executive vice president and CFO at Upland.

The fourth member of the founding management team is Byron-Button as senior vice president and chief administration officer. She is a former colleague of Hart’s at NBIC, where she was vice president of service operations.

Commenting on the launch, Hart highlighted the “highly experienced, accomplished team of talented executives” assembled at the start-up. “Key to success is that our core executive group have all worked together, developed relationships built on trust and mutual respect and bring complementary skill sets.

“We intend to build a company based on our core values of culture, service and support, combined with modern problem-solving to provide solutions to our customers’ specialty insurance needs and requirements,” he added.

Newlight partner Srdjan Vukovic said: “Having worked closely with Todd Hart on numerous other ventures over the past 15 years, we have seen first hand his integrity and commitment to operational excellence.

“The Upland team brings substantial experience in building profitable insurance platforms and shares our values and philosophy of building sound, sustainable businesses. We are confident that Upland will be well positioned to become a best-in-class specialty insurance company and partner to its customers well into the future.”

Start-ups and scale-ups

The Upland launch comes as speculation continues about a number of potential small to medium sized E&S start-ups lined up to enter the market in 2021. They would follow several start-ups and scale-ups already targeting the fast-hardening segment, including the rebooted StarStone US platform Core Specialty, Vantage, rebranded and repositioned Skyward Specialty, as well as Stephen Sills’ hybrid Bowhead Specialty, and a number of MGAs.

Meanwhile ProSight is expected to target the sector for growth opportunities following its recapitalisation deal with TowerBrook and Further Global that brought in new management led by Jonathan Ritz.