As more players in the world of M&A come to realize its tremendous value, there have been several big changes in the use of Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance to protect Buyers and Sellers post-transaction. (Any financial loss resulting from a breach of the Seller’s representations in the purchase-sale agreement are paid by the insurer because they take on the indemnity obligation from the Seller.)
I’ve mentioned previously that the number of insurance companies offering this specialized type of coverage is more than 20 today, compared to just four in 2014.
There are also more policies being written than ever before. A part of that is the fact that just a few years ago insurers only felt comfortable insuring deals of $100M or more, and then only with audited financials.
Now, they are offering coverage for deals under $20M… in fact, they’ll now go as low as $15M… without requiring a strict financial audit during the due diligence process.
The reason? The R&W market has matured, so to speak. Insurance companies are more comfortable with it as they’ve had successful experiences with larger deals. Underwriters are familiar with the product and the claims process. (Only about 20% of deals result in claims.)
Now, insurers are looking to increase their bandwidth and increase the number of clients they cover. And that means they have to look at smaller clients.
The risks are smaller and can’t be mitigated as much as with larger clients. But by bringing down the rates enough, they can cover the small deals. And because the amounts involved are so low, there isn’t much financial risk.
Still, sub-$20M deals are different in a few key ways:
- Fewer insurance companies are willing to cover the small deals.
- There are few Brokers who truly understand R&W insurance and have the right experience.
- Of the Brokers who do understand it, there is an even shallower pool of those who are willing – or able – to do work on smaller deals. (Many Brokers prefer the larger risks – and the higher commissions – that come with the big transactions.)
- Brokers working these small deals need to know which insurance companies will take on these deals and the Underwriters with the right experience on these policies.
- In smaller deals, you have less experienced parties on the buy side and sell side. For most, it’ll be the first time they’ve encountered R&W insurance, and the Buyer is not inclined to learn about it, so it’s critical that an experienced broker is engaged to guide the parties through the process.
- The Seller really drives demand on this product, often not being willing to move forward on a deal without it. And for good reason, as they can’t afford to have millions of dollars of exposure out there. They’re not serial entrepreneurs who can survive that loss. They’re ready to collect more cash at closing so they can pay out investors and move on with their lives.
- Despite the smaller deal size, pricing is still in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, including all fees, premium, and taxes, which is similar to what policyholders pay for much larger deals. Insurers aren’t willing to take any less to make it worth their while.
- Buyers must do third-party due diligence on the acquisition target’s tax situation, IP, financials, operations, HR, and more as those are the biggest exposures out there.
There are many more M&A deals on the smaller side that don’t get the press of the big-name transactions. And I think the use of R&W insurance to cover transactions at any level can only go up as it becomes more well-known, especially among PE firms and VC funds.
I’m an optimist by nature. But if there is a slowdown in the economy, you will see a lot of owners and founders running to the door to close out business – that’ll cause a spike in sub-$100M transactions.
And in order to capitalize on their return and secure more cash at closing in uncertain economic times, they’ll want an R&W policy covering the deal.
If you’re involved in an M&A deal under $20M and are interested in the protection that comes with Representations and Warranty insurance, I’d invite you call me, Patrick Stroth, at 415-806-2356 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m experienced in deals of all sizes and I have the contacts at the insurers to secure the coverage you need.