2016 Power Broker

At Large

Clout in the Market

Cara Cortes Vice President Aon, Pittsburgh

Cara Cortes
Vice President
Aon, Pittsburgh

Few things are more important to boards of directors and corporate officers than directors and officers coverage – and that is where Aon’s Cara Cortes excels.

One private equity portfolio company needed D&O coverage at the end of the month. They couldn’t get an extension and an application had yet to be filled out.

Two days before coverage expired, the company asked Chip Gutshall, CEO of Work Comp Strategic Solutions, another of the portfolio companies, for help. He immediately called Cortes, who raced to the rescue.

“She got a 60-day extension for the application,” Gutshall said. “That was awesome. She carries a lot of clout within the market to pull something like that off.”

Cortes has also been extremely helpful in D&O and employment practices liability claims, he said.

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“I wouldn’t trade her for anyone,” he said.

A risk manager in the Midwest said that Cortes “does a great job at matching up our exposure, our risk, with the best potential partners.

“We were able to significantly improve the coverage in several respects and to reduce the cost beyond what the [soft] market was.”

Cortes’ assistance with cyber coverage for St. Clair Hospital was what stood out the most for Linda Lattner, corporate compliance officer at the hospital.

Longstanding Expertise

Craig Howser Executive Vice President Alliant, Chicago

Craig Howser
Executive Vice President
Alliant, Chicago

There’s a limited market for professional lawyer liability, and Craig Howser is an expert at searching out the best specialized coverage for his clients.

“He’s at the top of my list as a business partner for our firm,” said Judy Vetkoetter, executive director of Gardere Wynne Sewell.

“He is really on top of our business and the kinds of challenges the legal industry faces. He is very connected and resourceful as far as market options go. I sing his praises.”

Instead of market-driven premium increases at renewal, Howser has been able to point out to underwriters the uniqueness of Gardere’s effective risk management to put together a solution that lowered the firm’s self-insured retention.

He is also a strategic thinker, introducing Gardere to new underwriters even when there wasn’t an immediate need. That approach paid off a few years ago when a previous lead underwriter decided to change its approach to insuring large law firms.

Howser assisted the Gibbons PC law firm when it left a captive program it had been with for 25 years and entered the commercial marketplace.

“We have saved millions and millions of dollars in premiums over the past few years,” said Patrick Dunican, chairman and managing director.

In addition, the firm’s coverage was broadened by a manuscripted policy form that included possible future exposures such as cyber liability or data breaches.

On the Cutting Edge

Randy Nornes Executive Vice President Aon, Chicago

Randy Nornes
Executive Vice President
Aon, Chicago

The risks and exposures of companies in the new sharing economy receive significant media attention and face uncertain regulatory demands.

Although many insurers steer clear of such high-profile risks, Randy Nornes was able to do “extraordinary work” in helping one such company gain the coverage it needed, according to a risk executive at a sharing economy company.

“He was really, really good. He is No. 1,” said the executive. “I can’t give you a lot of detail but he was able to help us develop things in the market from scratch from financial structure to policy writing.

“He connected us with the right resources to create something that the market was not very open to getting involved with,” he said.

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“His most important asset was to help insurers get comfortable with the risk,” the executive said.

And Nornes is constantly available. “He is like an ER, working 24/7. It is outstanding customer service.”

Nornes is also a crucial asset in helping clients and insurers better understand the risks associated with the Internet of Things. IoT risks are broader than the privacy, reputational and liability exposures typically included in cyber coverage, as IoT also includes physical risks.

One of the Team

Michael Falvey Executive Vice President Willis Towers Watson, Norfolk, Va.

Michael Falvey
Executive Vice President
Willis Towers Watson, Norfolk, Va.

Weis Markets Inc. lost its risk manager this year, but rather than replacing the position, it relied more heavily on the expertise and knowledge of Michael Falvey.

“He really goes above and beyond the normal insurance broker,” said Chris De Tray, director, safety and risk management, Weis Markets.

In addition to placing insurance and shepherding renewals, Falvey is “the best business partner out there,” helping Weis proactively deal with risk management concerns, including vendor risk transfer and safety reviews.

“He absolutely is an extension of our department and understands what our model is. He does a very, very good job of making sure we are not at risk,” De Tray said.

For the Virginia Port Authority, Falvey helped Chris Harrell, vice president, contracts and risk management, rebuild the insurance program “from the bottom up. When I say the program, I mean 3,000 employees, six marine terminals and every policy you can think of from executive liability coverage to auto to human resources to ships on terminal.

“When we rebuilt it, it consolidated a lot of things,” he said. “It was a big value add.”

Marti Dickman, vice president, risk management, ADS Waste Holdings Inc., said “the quality and level of performance we get from Michael is exceptional.”

Active in acquisitions, ADS has been challenged with the structure and poor claims history of some legacy programs.

Responsive and Knowledgeable

Jeanna Madlener Vice President, Senior Sales Executive Wells Fargo Insurance, Portland, Ore.

Jeanna Madlener
Vice President, Senior Sales Executive
Wells Fargo Insurance, Portland, Ore.

Whether it’s addressing workers’ comp issues or the diverse needs of nonprofit organizations, Jeanna Madlener is creative, responsive and knowledgeable.

“Jeanna is tremendous,” said Vincent Salvi, risk and compliance manager at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which provides educational services to associations worldwide.

The insurance requirements from some schools can be “quite unusual,” he said, but Madlener resourcefully helps NWEA work through those challenges.

Two challenges affecting The Dussin Group, whose restaurant portfolio includes the Old Spaghetti Factory, were workers’ compensation and letters of credit, said Dean Griffith, president.

“Our outstanding letters of credit were frustrating to us,” he said, noting that Madlener “worked very hard to get those down.”

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She was also instrumental in collaborating with the company’s medical provider to take responsibility for an expensive workers’ comp claim with reserves in excess of $250,000. The loss was decreased to just over $25,000, reducing the impact to Dussin Group’s premium expenses by more than 15 percent over the next three years.

Scrutinizing safety issues is also crucial, Griffith said. The company doesn’t want “rainbows and sunshine” from her store audits, he said. “A safe work environment is not just great on the cost side, but also for our people.”

Navigating Cyber Policies

Kaitlin Upchurch Managing Director Wortham, Houston

Kaitlin Upchurch
Managing Director
Wortham, Houston

Placing cyber policies is a complex undertaking, but for retail and health care organizations, that task is significantly more demanding. Kaitlin Upchurch nails it.

“She is just very, very good,” said Margot Roth-L’Heureux, global director of risk management, Whole Foods Market Inc. “She did a tremendous job.

“As anyone in the insurance world knows, cyber is not easy for anybody in retail,” she said. “You have to count on your broker to structure your program correctly and manage your expectations.

“Cyber has a lot of visibility with your officers and board right now. She brought good candidates to the table and different configurations for not only the best way to use money in our budget but to get us the best coverage,” Roth-L’Heureux said.

James Banfield, director of risk management/associate general counsel at Baylor College of Medicine, echoed those sentiments.

After years of self-insuring, Baylor wanted to explore going to market for cyber coverage. Upchurch took the lead, offering information and helping Baylor complete the “fairly extraordinary” applications.

When Baylor was dismayed about the prospect of completing each insurer’s separate application, Upchurch was able to convince the insurers to use a common document, with Baylor providing additional information if needed.

BlackBar

Finalists:

George Gionis, Account Executive, Aon

George Gionis, Account Executive, Aon

Thomas Sewell, Senior Vice President, Insurance Brokering Executive, Wells Fargo Insurance

Thomas Sewell, Senior Vice President, Insurance Brokering Executive, Wells Fargo Insurance

Patrick Walsh, Regional Executive Vice President, Arthur J. Gallagher

Patrick Walsh, Regional Executive Vice President, Arthur J. Gallagher

Peter Ballas CISR, Senior Broker, Aon

Peter Ballas
CISR, Senior Broker, Aon

Timothy Egan Senior Vice President, NY Global Property, Willis Towers Watson

Timothy Egan
Senior Vice President, Global Property, Willis Towers Watson, NY

 

 

 

 

 

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.

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Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.


R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.

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We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?

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Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.

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Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.

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More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]