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Edited Transcript of UIHC earnings conference call or presentation 31-Oct-19 1:00pm GMT

Q3 2019 United Insurance Holdings Corp Earnings Call

ST PETERSBURG Nov 2, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of United Insurance Holdings Corp earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, October 31, 2019 at 1:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Bennett Bradford Martz

United Insurance Holdings Corp. - CFO

* John Leslie Forney

United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Charles Gregory Peters

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Equity Analyst

* Cliff Gallant

* Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer

Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate

* Marcos Costa Holanda

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Associate

* Adam Prior

The Equity Group, Inc. - SVP

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings. Welcome to the United Insurance Holdings Corporation Third Quarter 2019 Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please note, this conference is being recorded. (Operator Instructions)

I would now turn the conference over to your host, Adam Prior of Equity Group. You may begin, sir.

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Adam Prior, The Equity Group, Inc. - SVP [2]

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Thank you very much, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. You can find copies of UPC's earnings release today at www.upcinsurance.com in the Investor Relations section. In addition, the company has made an accompanying presentation available on its website. You're also welcome to contact our office at (212) 836-9606, and we'd be happy to send you a copy. In addition, UPC Insurance has made this broadcast available on its website as well.

Before we get started, I'd like to read the following statement on behalf of the company. Except with respect to historical information, statements made in this conference call constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws, including statements relating to trends and the company's operations and financial results and the business and the product of the company and its subsidiaries. Actual results from UPC may differ materially from those results anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of risks and uncertainties, including those described from time to time in UPC's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. UPC specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

With that, I'd now like to turn the call over to Mr. John Forney, UPC's Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead, John.

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thanks, Adam. This is John Forney, President and CEO of UPC Insurance. With me today is Brad Martz, our Chief Financial Officer. On behalf of everyone at UPC, we appreciate your taking time to join us on the call.

As Adam said, we are now publishing an investor presentation in conjunction with our earnings release. You can find it on our website, and I encourage you to review it. While we will not be going slide by slide through that presentation, we will refer from time to time to some of the data and analytics included therein.

$1.05 per share in after-tax cat losses obviously ruined our quarter, and understandably, that's the headline. But for us, the storyline is: a more conservative cat-reserving posture; continued strong organic growth in both personal and commercial lines; and improvement in underlying results as the cumulative effect of rate increases, claims handling and underwriting initiatives takes hold in our book.

On the reserving side, we're just putting a lot more IBNR on cat events, given the development powers we've seen the past couple of years. We've been in the cat business for 20 years. And on the nonhurricane cat events, we're seeing development patterns that have no precedent in the historical record. We are pricing and reserving for that as if it will continue and working hard on the claims handling side to try to mitigate it.

On the growth front, both personal lines and commercial lines continue to show the ability to grow at double-digit annual rates, even with significant rate increases in both lines. See Page 4 of our investor presentation for more details.

Retention remains very strong. We've intentionally ramped down the growth on the personal lines side in areas that have given us loss trouble while we adjust rates and underwriting standards to reflect our recent experience.

The rate, underwriting, claims handling and technology initiatives we have discussed on previous calls are in full swing and being implemented across our geographic footprint. That's why our noncat loss ratio continues to decline, and our underlying results are so much better year-over-year. And that's why we're optimistic that we will finish 2019 strong and have good momentum heading into 2020.

At this point, I'd like to turn it over to Brad for his remarks.

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Bennett Bradford Martz, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - CFO [4]

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Thank you, John, and hello. This is Brad Martz, the CFO of UPC Insurance. I'm pleased to review UPC's financial results but also encourage everyone to review our press release, Form 10-Q and investor presentation for more information regarding the company's performance.

Highlights for the quarter ending September 30, 2019, include gross premiums earned of approximately $345 million, an increase of $41 million or 13% year-over-year; a core loss of $29.2 million or $0.68 a share versus $14.9 million or $0.35 a share a year ago; cat losses of $58.2 million or $1.05 a share from all accident years, with the driver of results for this quarter adding over 30 points to the combined ratio. However, UPC's underlying loss and combined ratios showed significant improvement compared to the same period a year ago. The gross and net underlying loss ratios improved 4.3 and 7.3 points, respectively, from Q3 2018, which also drove a 6-point improvement in the underlying combined ratio year-over-year.

Premiums written for the quarter continued to demonstrate UPC's strong organic growth engine in all regions and lines of business. Florida accounted for approximately 54% of the growth in direct written premiums, with the remaining 46% being well balanced among the Gulf, Northeast and Southeast regions. Assumed commercial E&S premiums declined 47% to $9.2 million in the current quarter due to 1 of our 3 quota share agreements being put into runoff at June 1.

Excluding the assumed E&S premiums, commercial premiums increased over 27% compared to the same period a year ago, further strengthening our industry-leading position in the Florida commercial residential property market.

Ceded earned premiums were 44% of gross premiums earned in the quarter compared to 43.6% last year. The change was due to increased sessions to our quota share reinsurance program, which totaled $42.2 million in the current quarter compared to just $25.8 million last year. So our ceding ratio went down, netting out the effects of the quota share.

Other significant items impacting total revenues during the third quarter included a 13% increase in net investment income and 11% increase in fee income. Unrealized gains from equity securities of $2.6 million were down from $6.1 million a year ago.

UPC's third quarter net loss and loss adjustment expense was $148.1 million, an increase of $27.6 million or 23% year-over-year. This produced a gross loss ratio of 43% and a net loss ratio of 76.8%, but included $50.2 million of current year catastrophe losses and $12.3 million of prior year development. We believe our gross estimate -- loss estimates for Hurricane Dorian plus Tropical Storms Barry and Imelda were conservatively set at $40 million, resulting in a $31.3 million loss net of reinsurance. UPC's gross incurred loss at September 30 for these 3 storms was only $10.5 million. So IBNR was nearly 3/4 of the ultimate loss recognized this period.

The remaining $18.9 million of catastrophe losses was driven by increased retention under UPC's aggregate reinsurance program for 26 other cat events incurred in 2019. As we mentioned last quarter, these cat events are also being reserved more cautiously and included $45.7 million of IBNR, which was 37.3% of ultimate gross loss estimated at September 30, 2019, compare that to the first 9 months of 2018, where UPC estimated only $6.8 million of IBNR, representing 10.3% of the ultimate gross loss estimate. Roughly 70% or $8.4 million of the prior year development was driven by various cat events across multiple accident years.

Noncat development, primarily on accident year 2018 and Florida homeowners, contributed most of the remaining reserve charge as actual loss development continued to exceed the development we expected. Excluding the cat and the prior year development, underlying loss in LAE was $85.7 million, down almost $3 million or 3% year-over-year. This resulted in an underlying gross loss ratio of 24.9%, which was a significant improvement from 29.2% a year ago. This is very encouraging and suggests the profit improvement initiatives we communicated previously have us on the right track.

UPC's nonloss operating expenses were $93.1 million, an increase of $12.6 million year-over-year. The increase was driven primarily by policy acquisition costs, which rose $7.6 million or 14%, which was consistent with the change in gross premiums earned in the quarter. The remaining $4.9 million was driven by salaries and related expenses, which were $2.8 million of the increase, with the balance stemming from a $2 million nonrecurring charge related to capitalized software. Our gross expense ratio was 27%, an increase of 0.5 point from the third quarter of 2018, but would have otherwise been in line with the prior year without the nonrecurring portion.

On the balance sheet, UPC ended the quarter with total assets of $2.7 billion, including nearly $1.4 billion of cash and invested assets. The duration of our fixed maturities remained at 3.4 years with an overall composite rating of A+, but yields continued to move lower during the quarter.

Shareholders' equity attributable to UIHC stockholders was $516 million, with a book value per share of $11.93 or $11.61, excluding unrealized gains. And lastly, the statutory surplus of our group was $426 million at the end of the quarter.

I'd now like to reintroduce John Forney for some closing remarks.

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Thanks, Brad. I have no further remarks at this time. So we're happy to open up the line to any questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) The first question is from Greg Peters, Raymond James.

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Marcos Costa Holanda, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Associate [2]

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This is Marcos calling in for Greg. I was hoping you guys could drill down a little bit more on the prior year development and tell us why should we expect reserves now to be adequate. And I guess more of a big picture question is, how is the strategy changing for 2020 in the context of this year shaping out to be a loss year?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Sure. This is John. I'll take that. So as we tried to emphasize in our remarks, we are adopting a more conservative reserving strategy, especially as it relates to the cat events, because these nonhurricane cat events especially have shown development patterns that differ from historical record. And we have 20 years worth of historical record of events not just in Florida, but across our geographic footprint. And so we did try this quarter to bump everything up. You've heard how much more IBNR we have than we have had in previous years on these cat events. And yes, we're expecting that our reserves for those events are going to be adequate. And that's the bulk of the prior year development was about -- 3/4 of it was on cat events.

For the personal lines side, that was driven by Florida 2018, where we're still running slightly ahead of what we had estimated. And yes, we continue to take that into account when we're setting our current year reserves and how much IBNR we're going to need on Florida, which continues to be a very difficult operating environment.

For next year, our focus is on improving profitability. That's been our focus this entire year. That's why we've put in place all of the underwriting, claims handling technology, rate, agency force management initiatives that we've talked about a lot on previous calls and have included data on in our previous investor presentations. So we're singularly focused on that. That means shifting the areas where we grow. That means stopping our growth in certain other areas. That means putting through big rate increases. That means canceling agents who are giving us books of business with bad loss ratios, et cetera, et cetera. It's all hands on deck to try to make sure that we're taking the actions that we need to take to operate well in the environment that we find ourselves in.

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Marcos Costa Holanda, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Associate [4]

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Okay. And I guess switching to premiums, and there's some healthy organic growth, and you guys singled that out in your remarks. But I'm looking at the assumed premium line. That's down 47% this quarter. Can you guys give us more color there?

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Bennett Bradford Martz, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - CFO [5]

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Sure. This is Brad. I mentioned in my remarks that, that was down because of the -- we have 3 quota share agreements with 3 E&S carriers that participate in the AmRisc commercial E&S program. And one of those 3 quota shares went into runoff.

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Marcos Costa Holanda, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Associate [6]

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Okay. And I guess my final question would be, if you guys could just give us an update on AOB and what you guys are seeing out there, if it's getting better. And anything you could tell us on the Journey, that would be great.

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [7]

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Sure. The AOB legislation was good legislation, but the AOB machine in Florida has not been deterred by that. We still see AOB lawsuits coming in at rates that are higher than they were in 2018. Again, for us, it's not a significant factor because it's mostly a tri-county phenomenon. We don't have a lot of business down there. But there's no evidence to us that the AOB momentum has slowed materially in Florida.

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Operator [8]

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The next question is from Freddie Sleiffer, KBW.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [9]

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So just firstly, on Hurricanes Michael and Irma, where did you see an increase in gross losses in either of those storms? And how much IBNR do you currently have remaining for each storm?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [10]

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Yes. We've seen an increase in gross losses for both of those events, where we bumped our reserves on Irma by about 20% to up to about $1.2 billion. Brad has got to get the IBNR number. We have a significant amount of IBNR on that. And Michael, I think, went up by less than 10%, and Brad will have that number, too, in a second.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [11]

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Okay. While Brad gets those numbers, I'll move on to the next question. So catastrophes came in at $50 million versus your $46 million preannouncement. So just wondering what drove that delta.

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Bennett Bradford Martz, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - CFO [12]

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The delta was primarily our BlueLine affiliates, the commercial E&S business that we didn't have absolute clarity on. We went a little bit more conservative at the end of the day as well. So cat was a little higher than previewed. Reserve development was lower than previewed. Net-net, it was very, very close to the preview. Shouldn't have been any surprises on those 2 fronts combined.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [13]

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Okay, great. And I know it's a little early to talk about the reinsurance renewal, but do you think the recent elevated Japanese typhoon activity could impact your upcoming renewal?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [14]

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We would prefer not to speculate on that. As we mentioned, we have a strong panel of really good reinsurance partners that have been with us a long time. We have win-win relationships with them. We're always seeking to diversify and broaden our panel. And we expect to work collaboratively with our reinsurance partners to put together a successful program next year.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [15]

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Okay. And then just following up on the earlier AOB question. So it sounds like you aren't seeing an impact on your financial results. So is it also correct to infer that AOB so-called benefits won't be impacting rate increases going forward since you've taken quite a lot of rate increases in Florida this year?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [16]

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Right, and continue to take rate in Florida. It's not specifically related to AOB. It's just more related in Florida to the elevated level of nonhurricane cat losses because our noncat loss ratio in Florida continues to decline, not go up. So that's not driving our rate need. It's the cat events like the hailstorms and severe convective storms that are developing and producing much more severity than in previous years that's driving our rate need. And the way that works is, we can't get the rate for those events until you have those events. Regulators won't give you modeled losses on hailstorms. But once you have the actual losses, you can get recoveries for them and pass them through in your rates, and that's what we're doing. So it's not driven by AOB, but rather by nonhurricane cat losses.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [17]

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Right. Then other than the rate increases, are you taking any other actions to improve underwriting results?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [18]

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Yes, and we've talked about those extensively and included them in our investor presentations in the past, which I would encourage you to review. We've got a whole host of underwriting agency management initiatives that are underway that we're seeing good effect from.

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Frederique Suzanne Sleiffer, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Associate [19]

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Okay. And then just lastly, given all the rate changes that you've been taking, some of the expense movements, where do you currently see 2020 loss and expense ratios settling in at?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [20]

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Right. We don't give forward-looking estimates for that kind of information. So we continue to see downward trends in our noncat loss ratios, and we're working hard to manage the cat loss stuff so that we have enough rate in our book of business to handle it. I think Brad might have the numbers you were looking for earlier.

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Bennett Bradford Martz, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - CFO [21]

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Freddie, yes, the Irma IBNR is $276 million, and Michael $30 million. So we're about $306 million of IBNR just on those 2 events.

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Operator [22]

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We have a question from Cliff Gallant, Philadelphia Financial.

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Cliff Gallant, [23]

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Just a little bit more color. And I think you touched on this in your slide shows. But on the rate increases, just -- what's the competitive market looking like in Florida? As you take these rates, are customers staying with you? Are you losing people? How does it -- what's the net effect?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [24]

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Our retention has stayed strong in Florida, Cliff. Even with these rate increases, the market is -- has changed. The landscape has changed a lot, and there's a lot of companies out there that are paying losses on the same events that we're paying losses on, and it's a difficult operating environment. We happen to be, relative to a lot of the competition in Florida, a very big company with lots of capital and lots of claims paying resources. And so we can fight through difficult operating circumstances. And so far, we've not seen significant defections or backlash from the rate increases, which we need to take. And it doesn't matter to us, honestly, if we do have that. If we need to get the rate, we're going to get the rate, and we'll come out the other side.

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Cliff Gallant, [25]

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Also, I was wondering, this sort of happened in October, but we had these tornadoes come through Texas. Was that a geography you're exposed to? Or do you have any comment on that event?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [26]

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Yes. That was a Q4 event, and we did have -- as of yesterday, we had 37 claims on that, with incurred of about $1.5 million.

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Operator [27]

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(Operator Instructions) We have a follow-on question from Greg Peters of Raymond James.

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Charles Gregory Peters, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Equity Analyst [28]

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I just was hoping maybe you guys could give us a quick update on the Journey and how you're leveraging the A.M. Best rating. And when should we expect to see that flowing through financials?

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [29]

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Journey is launched in Florida, currently writing commercial residential business focused on apartment buildings. We've gained momentum consistently on Journey throughout the year, just had our best month ever. And our partners at AmRisc are doing a great job on the marketing and distribution to help agents get comfortable with this new entity and write more business with us, and we're seeing that happen. We've been very conservative and disciplined on the underwriting guidelines and standards, and we're not in a rush to grow Journey into a big company. So we're pleased with the progress that we've made there.

We also have plans to launch Journey in personal lines in Texas. In fact, we filed that product a couple months ago now, and it's working its way through the regulatory process. We expect to be writing personal lines business in Texas with a ground-up differentiated A.M. Best-rated product early next year as well as commercial lines business in Texas and South Carolina. So you'll start to see some more significant ramp-up in Journey next year, and it's going to be an important part of our growth story over the next few years.

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Operator [30]

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This concludes today's question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the call over to management for closing remarks.

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John Leslie Forney, United Insurance Holdings Corp. - President, CEO & Director [31]

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This is John Forney. I just want to thank everybody again during a very busy earnings season to take time to get on a call and talk about UPC Insurance. We appreciate your long-term support and partnership, and we look forward to delivering some better results here going forward. So thanks again for your time.

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Operator [32]

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This concludes today's conference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation. Have a good day, and a Happy Halloween.