When numerous facilities in Prince Georges County, Md., including 76 school buildings and the court building were hammered by a succession of weather-related catastrophes, Meaghan Haney “rode herd” on the insurance companies, said Steve Middleton, risk manager of the self-insured risk pool that insures the county’s public works. She made sure that the 100,000 boxes of court records that had been underwater were restored and the buildings repaired with the least possible amount of downtime, even wrangling a $5 million advance in emergency cash so the county could start repairs, Middleton said. “She made us her priority. She’s one of the most energetic account managers I’ve ever known.”
Pam Schroeder, chief of the division of risk management in Montgomery County, Md., confirmed Haney’s tenacity when its self-insured risk pool was considering cyber liability insurance, despite a lack of uniform terminology. “It was hard to compare coverage,” Schroeder said. “Meaghan put it into charts for us to make line-by-line comparisons. She helped explain the terms, and found references we could check. I trust Meaghan.”
And she has negotiation chops. When the University of Memphis stumbled over additional liability for an RV that staff, students and volunteers sometimes drive, school officials were ready to pull the plug on non-staff drivers. Haney stepped in and negotiated coverage that names the state as the additional insured. “We use Meaghan as a member of our staff,” said Rodney Escobar, director of risk management in the Tennessee state treasury department.
When Dan Mahle transferred in 2005 from Portland, Maine to Syracuse, New York, he maintained the same hands-on relationship with many of his clients, including James Kelley, procurement and risk manager at Bowdoin College in Maine. “He’s so connected with us,” Kelley said. ‘He knows when we want to self-retain risks. He’s an excellent negotiator on our behalf with carriers. It’s personal.”
Richard Nale, risk manager and associate director of human resources at Colby College, values Mahle’s creative negotiation and solid relationships with carriers and underwriters. Three years ago, he suggested Colby, then a new client, put 50 percent of its insurance out to market. The coverage he found saved nearly 30 percent of Colby’s gross premium.
Early on a Saturday morning even before the ink was dry on the new policy, the gym and field house flooded. “Dan and his team connected immediately with the company and had all the answers by Monday morning. I hadn’t even written the first quarter premium check, and the insurance company was writing me a check,” said Nale.
Mahle is thorough, said Ted Coviello, director, contracts, compliance and risk management at St. Lawrence University. When students go off campus for internships, liability is ambiguous because it’s unclear who employs the intern. The problem gets even stickier when interns work out of state. “Dan took it upon himself to put some parameters around the liability problem. The issue is complex, and there’s not a lot of case law. Dan is putting together a paper to give us guidance in the future.”
Master Problem Solver
Forced by cuts in state funding to find other revenue sources, Central Michigan University increasingly partners with industry, such as the brand-new CMU College of Medicine’s partnership with two local hospitals. But how to best insure students and faculty?
“There was so much to consider,” said Jan Trionfi, the university’s director of risk management, environmental health and safety. Jerry McKay and his team steered CMU through the research and cost-benefit analysis. “As a leader and partner,” Trionfi said, “Jerry’s the best.”
The success story continues. As McKay reviewed contracts with industry partners, he found unreasonable demands around professional liability.
He proposed a creative hybrid product that saved CMU a lot of money in premiums. “We didn’t have to go to commercial insurance,” Trionfi said, “and the excess carriers gave us an affordable price.”
Timothy Kellogg, director of business services for Western Michigan University, said McKay’s problem-solving abilities are at the top of the list.
“He never gets flustered,” said Kellogg.
For example, an actuary unrelated to Marsh had changed the methodology for calculating risk without telling the school, Marsh or the self-insured consortium to which the school belongs.
“When Jerry saw the reports, he stepped in before the group even knew about the problem and had it fixed before it became an issue,” Kellogg said.
“It wasn’t easy for him, but he made a potential failure into a success.”
Jack of All Trades, Master of All
Universities are as complex as small cities, said Chris Weber, the manager of risk management and insurance for Ferris State University. They require coverage that ranges from common to exotic: health care, employee-related research, travel abroad, kidnap and ransom, foreign exposure, work arrangements with external organizations, facilities and data-mining issues. Brokers who service these accounts must have deep knowledge of all of these topics. Michigan Universities Self Insurance Corp. (MUSIC), the insurance consortium of 11 public Michigan universities to which Ferris State belongs, is one of the best, said Weber, and “Tony is largely responsible for that.”
With his Marsh colleague Jerry McKay (also a 2014 Power Broker®), Rey helped Grand Valley State University join MUSIC, one of the 20-odd higher ed consortia Marsh manages.
“We didn’t want to be in a commercial insurance environment,” said Mick Doxey, director of risk management for Grand Valley and president of MUSIC. “We wanted more control over coverage and claims, and they made it possible.”
With 11 universities, only some of which employ risk managers, consortium members need different levels of care, said Jan Trionfi, director of risk management, environmental health and safety, Central Michigan University. “Tony recognizes each member’s needs to keep everybody satisfied and happy.”
“The important thing that makes him a Power Broker® is that he loves what he does,” Weber said. “He loves helping us. He helps the program be the best it can be.”
Tony Rey is enriching the lives of young people in his personal and professional life. As an education broker, he was challenged to help give college students better access to professional training by designing coverage for university internship programs. Students and faculty members were being stymied by the lack of insurance coverage for professional liability as they competed for work outside of the university. He was able to construct coverage and negotiate with the excess carrier to include the program at no additional costs for the members.
In addition, Rey gives freely of his time to a number of nonprofit organizations, including personal participation and involvement in fundraising activities. Among his activities are donating blood to the Red Cross, aiding the Rotary Club as it donates to many community causes, and involvement in the United Way. He also organized a day of volunteering at the Children’s Hospital in Detroit, and coaches Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
Rey also aids the industry’s future by mentoring new employees and participating in local chapters of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter society. In addition, Rey works to increase morale among co-workers by involvement in his organization’s Employee Committee.
A year and a half ago, Seton Hall University had to make a sticky transition. “We discussed it with Steve,” said Lori Brown, Seton Hall’s director of compliance and risk management. “He handled it gracefully. He navigated us through the transition while managing our expectations.”
“He brings not just his knowledge of insurance but developing trends across higher ed,” said Helen Schneider, associate vice president for facilities and campus services, Loyola University. Recently Loyola worked on a pollution policy, and Schluter raised the issue with the five self-insured universities in the risk management consortia. “He asked, ‘Do we need to look at this collectively?’ He encouraged us to look at attitudes within higher ed towards pollution, where the insurance market is going and what needs we aren’t aware of.”
Schluter also guided consortia members into the waters of cyber insurance, helping them understand how to mitigate cyber risks, and connecting them with the right experts at Aon. The result: lower risk and better coverage for all of the group’s members.
“Steve helped us figure out how to allocate our hours with Aon so that we came to best practices together,” said Schneider. “Nobody monopolizes billable hours, and we don’t duplicate effort.”
“People skills are his special gift,” said Brown. “He sets up teams of people who specialize in various areas of insurance.” In a policy like Seton Hall’s that involves many pieces, she said, “that connection to resources is very valuable.”
Making the Client Look Good
Robert Altholz hired Scott Wightman twice, first as risk manager at St. Louis University, and later — despite 900 miles between them — as insurance broker and risk manager, after Wightman left academia to become a broker and Altholz became CFO of Long Island University.
“You’re only as good as the people around you, and Scott made me look good,” Altholz said. “Scott’s role as LIU’s risk manager helps him understand our every need.”
As universities increasingly form partnerships with industry, they enter “a new world” of risk, Altholz said. For example, when students in the pharmacy school complete a practicum in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities, questions arise: Who is responsible for their coverage? Who employs them?
“Scott and I decided together the student is still a student, and we are responsible for professional liability. He helped negotiate terms of employment with our partners.”
The work Wightman began a few years ago for the Missouri United School Insurance Council continues to reap benefits for the self-insured consortium. When CFO Mark Stockwell’s Parkway (Missouri) School District had the worst workers’ comp experience of all the group’s 470 participants, he called Wrightman and said, “I need help.”
Wightman helped establish safety and return-to-work programs, quickly reducing the size of claims. “I was doubtful at first, but Scott was spot-on. Scott’s programs turned our workers’ comp experience around.”