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Column: Roger's Soapbox

The Legacy of Goldfinger

By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

If someone called you a maverick, your reaction would depend entirely on your point of view. A maverick is often a lone dissenter. A person who pursues rebellious, maybe potentially disruptive, policies or ideas. We all know one. I am one.

Insurance being a conservative profession, mavericks and loose cannons are generally unwelcome guests. The lyric of the theme song for TV’s ‘Maverick’ says it all: “Luck is his companion; gamblin’ is his game.”

Ian Posgate died earlier this year. One of Lloyd’s most controversial (and most successful) underwriters, he was the quintessential maverick. He indeed regarded gambling as his game.

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“I was allowed to be a bookmaker on a huge scale,” he once said. “Autocratic. Absolutely outrageous.”

In his obituary, The Times said Posgate “seemed to make the dreary world of insurance sexy.”

No mean trick, that. His career was chequered, but his influence on Lloyd’s was significant. He was known as ‘Goldfinger,’ the man with the Midas touch. He dealt almost exclusively in marine, and at one point controlled a fifth of all marine premiums at Lloyd’s.

Ian Posgate indirectly brought about reform at a global institution that sorely needed it. Not a bad epitaph for a maverick.

Posgate’s most successful line was insuring ships on the Mekong River during the Vietnam War. After losses, incurred primarily in the dry season, He would double the premium (five percent of the monthly cargo value per became 10). Later he found out that the river was just 30 feet wide in the dry season, which made shooting holes in shipping easier than when it rained, and the river widened to three miles.

Goldfinger lived in an age when an underwriter could place policies with more than one syndicate. Talk about your conflicts of interest: the lowest-risk policies were inevitably written for friends, and those less favored often bought the higher-risk policies. This was the Lloyd’s way for a long time.

After Lloyd’s cleaned up its act in the mid ’80s, Posgate joined Alexander Howden, to work alongside Kenneth Grob, known as the Grobfather.

In short: Howden was bought by U.S. insurer Alexander & Alexander; holes were revealed in the Howden financials; Posgate was cleared of misappropriation, but was found to have received “gifts,” including a valuable Pissarro painting. Yes, he took the Pissarro.

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Lloyd’s banned Posgate for life, reduced on appeal to six months, but would never again employ him. Nor would anyone else. He was acquitted of all charges, but at that point he retired to the country and farmed cattle, summering on the French Riviera.

They don’t make ‘em like Posgate anymore, because Lloyd’s reformed its tainted self to see him and his ilk off the premises and out of the industry.

Posgate clearly wasn’t John Galt, from Atlas Shrugged. No one is. But Goldfinger was an original at the waning of the age when giants stalked the land of the insured.

Ian Posgate indirectly brought about reform at a global institution that sorely needed it. Not a bad epitaph for a maverick. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]