GuideOne National Insurance Co., a specialty insurance subsidiary of West Des Moines-based GuideOne Mutual Insurance Co., announced Wednesday that it is entering the excess and surplus (E&S) lines of insurance business.

The West Des Moines-based insurer has partnered with Chicago-based Ryan Specialty Group and RT Specialty as its wholesale partner to offer E&S coverage. Launched as a startup in 2010 by Pat Ryan, former president and retired founder of Aon Group, Ryan Specialty Group is currently the second-largest E&S broker in the United States.

As defined by the International Risk Management Institute, excess and surplus lines insurance is “any type of coverage that cannot be placed with an insurer admitted to do business in a certain jurisdiction. Risks placed in E&S lines markets are often substandard as respects adverse loss experience, unusual, or unable to be placed in conventional markets due to a shortage of capacity.”

The move is a further diversification play by the mutual insurer, which until three years ago had just two products and one distribution channel, said Jessica Snyder, who joined GuideOne as CEO in 2017. For decades, the company has focused on church, education, nonprofit and senior living policies. The company added small business insurance as a national offering a year ago, but will maintain its traditional church/nonprofit insurance as one of its niche areas.

“We had a clear strategic path, that we were going to act like a 70-year-old startup company,” Snyder said during a launch event at GuideOne’s headquarters. “But first we had to bring our company back to profitability, and we had to [re-underwrite] a business that wasn’t profitable.”

As a category of insurance, E&S has grown from a single-digit percentage of the insurance market to upwards of 15% of the commercial insurance market, “and we expect that that’s going to continue,” said Pat Ryan, who flew in from Chicago for the launch event at GuideOne’s headquarters.

“The winds are at our backs, because there have just been so many risks added to our society,’ Ryan said.

GuideOne has made a number of key hires in the past year, among them a new chief information officer, chief actuary and most recently, a leader for the E&S business. Mark Groenheide, who recently joined GuideOne as senior vice president of specialty, will lead the E&S lines of business.

Groenheide was most recently vice president of engineering lines, North American underwriting with HDI Global Insurance Co. in Chicago. Before that, he held senior leadership roles with Generali and Zurich North America.

GuideOne National’s E&S coverage will initially focus on the infrastructure, construction and energy industries, Groenheide said. “Those are our three industry verticals for the initial launch, but there will be others,” he said.

Groenheide didn’t provide specific numbers, but he said the company would be hiring “top talent” from outside the state as well as working with institutions such as Drake University to develop and keep home-grown insurance talent in Iowa.