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Thinking Outside the (Very Big) Box

Managing, measuring, monitoring with large property.
By: | January 9, 2017 • 3 min read

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In the space where large property brokers play, it’s important to use capital responsibly.

For instance, consider all of the components of a state operation.  This can include buildings, agencies, officials and boards along with universities, parks, airports, and in some cases, sports arenas, as part of the package.  Another example is a multi-media organization. Risks involve network and distribution, and also entertainment and film/video production exposures.  A major retail chain, with tens of thousands of locations from coast to coast and all of the stock and cash flow exposures that are critical business assets, is a third type of a complex operation.

Nationwide_sponsoredcontent_0117And all of these require coverage.

“Brokers need a stable partner with the ability to offer larger property lines. As part of Nationwide, we have a competitive edge to offer significantly more in-house limit capacity than many other carriers,” said Tom Jurgens, senior vice president, Brokerage at Nationwide.

Though Nationwide has the capital to handle high limits, it is very strategic in its approach to writing these risks.  For John Brunette, senior director, Brokerage Property, this means thinking outside a very big box to come up with solutions that provide the perfect balance of protection and profitability.

“The key is leveraging capacity deployment throughout the risk,” he said. “When we deploy capacity in lower layers, we’re also looking to deploy additional capacity in the excess layers. Understanding the concentration and knowing where you can add more –that’s what thoughtful deployment of capacity is really about.”

Nationwide_sponsoredcontent_0117Brunette also emphasized the importance of taking a mindful, measured approach to risk, especially in today’s insurance and financial landscape.

“The economy has improved, and there is capital coming off the sidelines,” he said. “There are lots of deals being made, but many of these investors are not insurance people, and as such, often don’t fully understand the exposure involved.”

For Brunette, this starts with adequately accounting for the catastrophe footprint of the risk and also looking at the design of a building.

“When you look at building design, you want to make sure developers are not skimping on materials and know the building will survive if a catastrophe event should occur,” he said. “You also want to look at ongoing site maintenance.”

Nationwide_sponsoredcontent_0117But building design and structure are just the beginning of a good risk. Other factors Brunette takes into consideration include behind-the-scenes operations, such as electronic surveillance and other protection like sprinklers and alarms. Also, understanding the exposure and matching that with layer structure is critical.

“If I’m insuring a risk in Missouri, I don’t want to be in a position where the totality of the exposure is tornado driven,” he said. “The key to that is spread of risk and attachment point.”

Brunette, who employs a philosophy that includes “managing, measuring and monitoring” when it comes to effective catastrophe underwriting, believes in constantly staying on top of trends and patterns to make sure the solutions he provides are appropriate.

“Insurance is never a ‘one and done’ kind of thing,” he said. “If you’re going to responsibly write a risk, you need to make sure you are not just on top of the game, but ahead of it.”

About Nationwide

An expert in large, complex property accounts, Nationwide writes primary and excess layers for business conglomerates with a multitude of components and diverse requirements though its excess and surplus Brokerage Property division.

Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Not all Nationwide affiliated companies are mutual companies, and not all Nationwide members are insured by a mutual company. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Home Office: One Nationwide Plaza, Columbus, OH. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and other marks displayed on this page are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, unless otherwise disclosed. © 2017 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

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




Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s.

More from Risk & Insurance

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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]