Sponsored: Aspen Insurance

Rising to the Challenge

Aspen Insurance’s Onshore Construction team demonstrates how a dedicated specialty market can compete and continue to grow by attracting top talent, building relationships and maintaining sound underwriting principles and discipline.
By: | September 7, 2017 • 5 min read

The insurance market is constantly changing, creating challenges for insurers, brokers and clients. Margins are thin and competition remains aggressive in a number of sectors as companies seek to maintain market share and look at ways in which they can remain relevant.

Aspen Insurance’s Onshore Construction team — underwriting within a market segment that has also experienced its ups and downs — demonstrates how a dedicated specialty market can compete and continue to grow by attracting and developing top talent, building relationships based on unparalleled expertise and mutual understanding, and by maintaining sound underwriting principles and discipline.

“We have a great story to tell,” said Ryan Hucker, Vice President, Construction, Aspen Insurance. ”Our approach and focus as a specialty insurer allows Aspen Insurance to respond to our client’s needs while delivering exceptional service. We want the right clients and the right business where we are able to supply thought leadership and offer a value proposition, as opposed to just capacity.”

Leveraging Experience and Expertise

Ryan Hucker, Vice President, Construction

“Our team is by far our biggest asset,” added Hucker. “Brokers and clients recognize our deep industry expertise, from our global leaders to our production underwriters and risk engineers. I regularly hear people in the market talk about the talent we have on our team.”

Aspen Insurance operates as an integrated business with its highly-skilled underwriting and claims personnel working as “one team”. This approach creates a seamless end-to-end client experience, with knowledge transferring between underwriting and claims to the broker and client.

“We value long-standing relationships with our brokers and clients, and strive to provide tailor-made solutions to meet their needs. Our ability to evaluate their multiple exposures and commit capacity based on this understanding allows us to build meaningful, long-term partnerships within the construction segment. Our claims personnel possess the necessary skills to actively respond to complex claims scenarios and deliver on our contractual commitments. This approach, and successful execution of our commitments, creates demand for our involvement on future projects.”

The organizational structure at Aspen, characterized by a global footprint and culture of collaboration and sharing of expertise, allows the underwriting teams to appropriately evaluate construction opportunities, regardless of where or how a potential client approaches them. This teamwork is particularly visible when reviewing new construction projects as the Energy and Construction unit regularly works hand-in-hand with the Inland Marine and E&S Property teams. Each has a different area of construction segment focus suited to meet the needs of their client base. The teams review submissions on a case-by-case basis to determine which has the most suitable expertise, experience and resources to successfully underwrite the project. “We carefully consider the appropriate internal team so that we can provide the best experience for the client,” Hucker said.

Disciplined Underwriting

This culture of cross-team collaboration also allows Aspen Insurance to consider construction projects from new angles and offer additional coverage solutions from a multi-line perspective.

“We have recently expanded into civil infrastructure space, for example, and have a strong appetite to underwrite these complex risks,” Hucker said. Infrastructure projects – including transportation systems, roads, tunnels, bridges and railroads – are large endeavors that typically involve several stakeholders. “Civil projects represent unique underwriting challenges and often involve many different technical exposures. Our approach evaluates the technical aspects of the project work but also focuses heavily on the professionals performing the work and their risk control and mitigation strategies,” Hucker said.

Given their size and complexity, all civil projects are expected to encounter unexpected conditions, and the contractors overseeing the work have to be experienced enough to recognize the situation and develop appropriate solutions.

“We carefully evaluate the contractor’s history and experience as well as their key project management personnel. We determine the work activities they are self-performing, how much they are subcontracting to third parties, and what the selection criteria is for key subcontractors,” Hucker said. “We focus on obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the methods the contractor will deploy to monitor and control the project exposures which then permits an appropriate commitment of our capacity, coupled with meeting the client’s coverage needs.”

On energy-related projects, the technology involved and a demonstration of its acceptability is also a key factor in the underwriting equation. Whether it’s a simple cycle gas turbine, a combined cycle power plant, or a large renewable energy project, Hucker’s team examines whether the technology is tried and true, or more of a prototype.

“We have an appetite for prototypical technologies, but this exposure should be approached with caution. The research and development risks associated with newer technology should be mostly absorbed by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) until they can demonstrate the technology is fit-for-purpose. Transparent communication between the OEM, contractor, owner, broker, underwriter, and risk engineers facilitates the evaluation and acceptability of technology risks. We then work closely with our brokers to tailor policy wording that appropriately apportions the technology risk.”

Looking Forward with Optimism

Looking ahead, Hucker is confident that Aspen Insurance’s Construction team is well positioned for the future. “Our brokers and clients want Aspen on their projects because they value our expertise and commitment to the construction segment. They recognize we are a long-term market and our intention is to be here over the long haul through prudent delivery of underwriting capacity coupled with a high level of innovation and service quality,” he said.

To learn more about Aspen’s Energy and Construction practice, visit https://www.aspen.co/Insurance/Insurance-lines/Marine-Aviation-Transportation/US-MEC/.

This article is provided for informational purposes only, does not necessarily represent Aspen’s views, and reflects the opinion of the authors in light of market, regulatory and other conditions which may change over time. Aspen does not undertake a duty to update the article.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Aspen Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Aspen Insurance is a business segment of Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited.

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]