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Services to Support Private Equity

Mergers and acquisitions continue apace, driven by low interest rates. But the risks involved are broad and complex.
By: | May 2, 2016 • 5 min read

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The year 2015 was a record for mergers and acquisitions, driven by an
environment of low interest rates, low organic growth and shareholder pressure for value.

For private equity firms, those conditions presented opportunities for expansion, but also made it more challenging to deliver high returns for investors year after year. A quiet IPO market adds to the pressure, robbing firms of their traditional exit strategy.

“IPOs launched within the past two years have been trading lower than their initial offering price,” said Andy Peterson, head of private equity for Zurich Global Corporate in North America.

“Scale does matter, and it’s been increasingly hard to go it alone. Mergers and acquisitions are ways to help spur growth.”

Activity in the private equity field remains high, and increased fundraising in 2015 means there is cash ready to keep M&A at the forefront of conversations in the deal room in 2016.

The risks involved in bringing two companies together are broad, complex and can diminish the value of any deal without proper mitigation. With far fewer IPOs, private equity firms are holding onto their portfolio companies longer, increasing their exposure.

Zurich_SponsoredContent“The right carrier partner can provide value at every step of the investment cycle — deal generation, due diligence, postacquisition and exit — through a mix of insurance products and enterprise risk solutions.”
— Andy Peterson, Head of Private Equity for Zurich Global Corporate in North America

Insurance not only protects PE firms from liability shouldered by acquired companies, but also acts as an asset to bring to a negotiation.

The right carrier partner can provide value at every step of the investment cycle — deal generation, due diligence, post-acquisition and exit — through a mix of insurance products and enterprise risk solutions.

“Zurich has the best-in-class capabilities to support our customers’ goals at every phase,” Peterson said.

Enterprise Risk Solutions

Enterprise risk solutions help private equity firms conduct due diligence more thoroughly, and can help them decide whether to continue with a deal or pull the plug.

Many of Zurich’s most valuable risk management insights relevant to private equity decision-makers come together in its proprietary Zurich Risk Room, an online aggregation of data that customers can reference as they research target companies, their industries and the risk exposures they may present at home and abroad. The tool can help customers identify the correlation between various risks and test assumptions before making a strategic decision.

“For example, a private equity customer is considering an acquisition in Germany. They can use tools in the Zurich Risk Room to create a flood map and determine flood exposure at the property. That could either bolster their confidence in the acquisition or convince them not to go through with the deal because the risk is too high,” Peterson said.

Zurich Onsite is another innovative tool that is changing the game for risk engineering solutions provided to many customers. The tool increases the transparency of the whole risk assessment process, and enables customers to obtain better insights from site visits than ever before.

These insights enable more informed conversations with the risk engineer during visits, prompting quicker action on risk improvement actions and helping businesses deliver on their loss prevention strategies.

Sophisticated Structures

Once a deal gets the green light, PE firms familiar with the utilization of captive insurers may be positioned to leverage that experience to manage many and perhaps all of their risk portfolios. Building a self-insured structure for an entire portfolio within a captive can deliver a high degree of flexibility while providing coverage for the risks that a firm could inherit from its assets. In effect, a captive helps minimize risk and maximize financial freedom.

“How we structure a program will differ depending on a client’s unique goals and risk appetite, but captives provide a way to pull an array of risks under one roof,” Peterson said.

International Capabilities

Companies looking to expand globally face additional challenges with local regulatory and compliance requirements. While North America still leads the way in terms of investment and deal generation, Europe is not far behind and Asia is gathering steam. Additionally, emerging markets offer more and more opportunities for companies to establish an international footprint.

“Your insurer has to have the capability to write local policies back to a U.S. master policy, and doing that well is a daunting task,” Peterson said.

He noted that Zurich is one of a few carriers with the international capabilities to support expansion and acquisitions abroad.

The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. We do not guarantee the accuracy of this information or any results and further assume no liability in connection with this publication. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of this information. This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers through the companies of Zurich in North America, provided solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product underwritten by individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company, 1400 American Lane, Schaumburg, IL 60196. The policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes the coverage, terms and conditions. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. Some coverages may be written on a nonadmitted basis through licensed surplus lines brokers.

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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 Zurich. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Zurich Insurance Group, Ltd is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Report: Manufacturing

More Robots Enter Into Manufacturing Industry

With more jobs utilizing technology advancements, manufacturing turns to cobots to help ease talent gaps.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 6 min read

The U.S. manufacturing industry is at a crossroads.

Faced with a shortfall of as many as two million workers between now and 2025, the sector needs to either reinvent itself by making it a more attractive career choice for college and high school graduates or face extinction. It also needs to shed its image as a dull, unfashionable place to work, where employees are stuck in dead-end repetitive jobs.

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Added to that are the multiple risks caused by the increasing use of automation, sensors and collaborative robots (cobots) in the manufacturing process, including product defects and worker injuries. That’s not to mention the increased exposure to cyber attacks as manufacturers and their facilities become more globally interconnected through the use of smart technology.

If the industry wishes to continue to move forward at its current rapid pace, then manufacturers need to work with schools, governments and the community to provide educational outreach and apprenticeship programs. They must change the perception of the industry and attract new talent. They also need to understand and to mitigate the risks presented by the increased use of technology in the manufacturing process.

“Loss of knowledge due to movement of experienced workers, negative perception of the manufacturing industry and shortages of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and skilled production workers are driving the talent gap,” said Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting.

“The risks associated with this are broad and span the entire value chain — [including]  limitations to innovation, product development, meeting production goals, developing suppliers, meeting customer demand and quality.”

The Talent Gap

Manufacturing companies are rapidly expanding. With too few skilled workers coming in to fill newly created positions, the talent gap is widening. That has been exacerbated by the gradual drain of knowledge and expertise as baby boomers retire and a decline in technical education programs in public high schools.

Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting

“Most of the millennials want to work for an Amazon, Google or Yahoo, because they seem like fun places to work and there’s a real sense of community involvement,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance, Daimler Trucks North America. “In contrast, the manufacturing industry represents the ‘old school’ where your father and grandfather used to work.

“But nothing could be further from the truth: We offer almost limitless opportunities in engineering and IT, working in fields such as electric cars and autonomous driving.”

To dispel this myth, Holden said Daimler’s Educational Outreach Program assists qualified organizations that support public high school educational programs in STEM, CTE (career technical education) and skilled trades’ career development.

It also runs weeklong technology schools in its manufacturing facilities to encourage students to consider manufacturing as a vocation, he said.

“It’s all essentially a way of introducing ourselves to the younger generation and to present them with an alternative and rewarding career choice,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to get across the message that just because we make heavy duty equipment doesn’t mean we can’t be a fun and educational place to work.”

Rise of the Cobot

Automation undoubtedly helps manufacturers increase output and improve efficiency by streamlining production lines. But it’s fraught with its own set of risks, including technical failure, a compromised manufacturing process or worse — shutting down entire assembly lines.

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More technologically advanced machines also require more skilled workers to operate and maintain them. Their absence can in turn hinder the development of new manufacturing products and processes.

Christina Villena, vice president of risk solutions, The Hanover Insurance Group, said the main risk of using cobots is bodily injury to their human coworkers. These cobots are robots that share a physical workspace and interact with humans. To overcome the problem of potential injury, Villena said, cobots are placed in safety cages or use force-limited technology to prevent hazardous contact.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them.” — David Carlson, U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader, Marsh

“Technology must be in place to prevent cobots from exerting excessive force against a human or exposing them to hazardous tools or chemicals,” she said. “Traditional robots operate within a safety cage to prevent dangerous contact. Failure or absence of these guards has led to injuries and even fatalities.”

The increasing use of interconnected devices and the Cloud to control and collect data from industrial control systems can also leave manufacturers exposed to hacking, said David Carlson, Marsh’s U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader. Given the relatively new nature of cyber as a risk, however, he said coverage is still a gray area that must be assessed further.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them,” he said. “Therefore, companies need to think beyond the traditional risks, such as workers’ compensation and product liability.”

Another threat, said Bill Spiers, vice president, risk control consulting practice leader, Lockton Companies, is any malfunction of the software used to operate cobots. Then there is the machine not being able to cope with the increased workload when production is ramped up, he said.

“If your software goes wrong, it can stop the machine working or indeed the whole manufacturing process,” he said. “[Or] you might have a worker who is paid by how much they can produce in an hour who decides to turn up the dial, causing the machine to go into overdrive and malfunction.”

Potential Solutions

Spiers said risk managers need to produce a heatmap of their potential exposures in the workplace attached to the use of cobots in the manufacturing process, including safety and business interruption. This can also extend to cyber liability, he said.

“You need to understand the risk, if it’s controllable and, indeed, if it’s insurable,” he said. “By carrying out a full risk assessment, you can determine all of the relevant issues and prioritize them accordingly.”

By using collective learning to understand these issues, Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting, said companies can improve their safety and manufacturing processes.

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it.” — Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it,” Mayo said. “They can also use detective controls to anticipate these issues and react accordingly by ensuring they have the appropriate controls and coverage in place to deal with them.”

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Manufacturing risks today extend beyond traditional coverage, like workers’ compensation, property, equipment breakdown, automobile, general liability and business interruption, to new risks, such as cyber liability.

It’s key to use a specialized broker and carrier with extensive knowledge and experience of the industry’s unique risks.

Stacie Graham, senior vice president and general manager, Liberty Mutual’s national insurance central division, said there are five key steps companies need to take to protect themselves and their employees against these risks. They include teaching them how to use the equipment properly, maintaining the same high quality of product and having a back-up location, as well as having the right contractual insurance policy language in place and plugging any potential coverage gaps.

“Risk managers need to work closely with their broker and carrier to make sure that they have the right contractual controls in place,” she said. “Secondly, they need to carry out on-site visits to make sure that they have the right safety practices and to identify the potential claims that they need to mitigate against.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]