Re-Evaluating Risk and Renewals
When American Commercial Lines wanted to move its entire marine package program back to the U.S. domestic market from the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, it meant building up vessel pollution and tower of excess liability limits. Some thought the move could not be done in the short time frame given. But Danelle Heathman, a senior vice president at Marsh, got it done. Michael Fuqua, risk manager for American Commercial Lines, called her work “instrumental.”
“Danelle and her team continue to comb over our coverage, vessel lists, COIs, claims, contract language and loss control program in order to assist us with managing the complicated and ever evolving risks of our business,” he said. “I believe that I’ve had the opportunity to learn with the best through Danelle and her team.”
Another client faced a poor renewal due to back-to-back operational accidents on a newly built fleet, though the company had taken the necessary steps to protect themselves to the best of their ability. Heathman worked with underwriters to show them her client’s proactive approach on heading off similar accidents and was able to leverage a favorable renewal with no premium increase.
Kenny Nelkin, president, CEO and owner of Candy Fleet, LLC, also praised Heathman’s thorough work.
“She knows what we need to do to get new vessels covered through the shipyard. She goes through the entire program at every renewal and doesn’t just get a new price.”
Building a Network for Success
Brokering is a relationship-based business, in terms of bridging gaps between clients and carriers, and making connections in the marketplace. Paula Hoots, senior vice president in Marsh’s global marine practice, distinguishes herself by her ability to mend strained relationships and build trust. Her strong support network provides her with contacts to turn to for help in finding solutions, or in staying up to date on industry news.
“From a customer service standpoint, she helps bring the company, broker, and carrier together and closes any gap in understanding,” said Joel Zehr, director of finance and treasury at OHL Acquisition Corp. “She ensures that our needs are met, and that all needs are understood across the table. That sets her above some other individuals I’ve worked with.”
Communicating needs can be especially difficult when a company like OHL feels misunderstood in the marketplace. “We’re primarily a warehousing company,” Zehr said. “Traditionally, in the insurance market, there’s a heavy focus on the cargo marine side as well as transportation. Paula has done an exceptional job engaging with us to fully understand the nature of our business and to become an advocate for us. She was able to teach the markets about our model.”
Oscar Marina, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Elizabeth Arden Inc., shared that sentiment. He said Hoots has been meticulous in planning renewals and giving his company realistic expectations of what the insurance markets will demand. And saving his company premium dollars in the bargain.
People-Focused Client Service
The best brokers advocate for their clients, going to bat for them to get the best deals possible. Courtney Jones, vice president with Aon, did some clever negotiating with a carrier to help her client recover from years of losses that led to a loss ratio of more than 800 percent. While premiums and deductibles inevitably went up, she was able to get the company’s loss record considered “zero” for the purpose of calculating profit share. This enabled the client to earn back some premium while waiting for the loss ratio to come down.
Faster-developing crises don’t faze her, either. Darrell Bryan, president and CEO of Clipper Navigation Inc., described a time when one of the company’s catamarans was stolen. “I reached out and she got back quickly for some options we could pursue. Luckily we got it back unharmed. I am totally adamant about documentation, and she’s always there to support and determine which route to take with our underwriter.”
Working with various underwriters requires some well-developed people skills, Bryan said. “Not everyone in our business is easy to deal with. She’s learned how to deal with people. She has grown increasingly sophisticated as to how to approach different members.”
Drema Woods, corporate secretary for marine towing and repair company Amherst Madison, points to Jones’ speedy customer service as a distinguishing attribute. “She is always available to me no matter what, either by email or by phone. If I leave a message, she always gets back to me.”
Insuring Your Morning Joe
Coffee makes up a substantial portion of U.S. trade, but long shipping routes and storage issues make it vulnerable to staining and mold, and those food safety concerns drive up premiums for vendors. Adam Rekerdres, vice president of Rekerdres & Sons, was able to devise a loss control program that attracted the top players in the coffee industry. Adam’s work earned him an invitation to “Let’s Talk Coffee,” an industry conference in the heart of Colombia attended by growers, roasters and big buyers. Rekerdres hosted a workshop inside an actual shipping container, demonstrating how damage can occur and how to properly “dress” a container for shipment.
He also makes annual visits both to his clients and places where coffee is grown around the world to assess their operations and look for ways to reduce risk.
“It was probably five to seven years ago when I realized we had finally grown to a size where we could work with Rekerdres,” said David Griswold, founder and president of Sustainable Harvest, a specialty coffee importer. “It was so amazing what the difference was working with a broker who understands the coffee and commodity trade like them.”
“The most innovative solution they’ve come up with for us is the establishment of a captive for our company so we can self-insure our risk in a more professionalized manner,” said Travis Walsh, senior financial analyst for Ecom Trading. “That’s where he’s really added some value. He took some processes we used to do on a more informal basis and really professionalized them and came up with ways for us to lower our costs to insure these risks.”
All Hands on Deck
Companies with adverse loss histories don’t have to be at the mercy of underwriters. Some creative thinking by brokers can be the difference between massive premium increases and massive savings. Toni Trapani, vice president at Marsh, was able to save a client more than $135,000 in premium increases by restructuring a primary layer of insurance to meet the demands of underwriters wanting a smaller risk.
She also doesn’t back down from a challenge. Sherry Ardito, director of global insurance management for ARAMARK Corp., said her company carries “a risk that a typical marine insurer would not want to be a part of.”
They run recreational marinas for the national park service, renting out boats for days at a time to vacationers who don’t necessarily have a lot of boating experience. That, Ardito said, “leaves an opportunity for mishaps, claims, accidents, etc.” On top of that, the company was also expanding its program. Trapani organized trips out to the marinas so underwriters could see how well they were run. She used her relationships across the market to fill spots where carriers were balking.
Ardito continued, “She is probably the most proactive broker I’ve ever worked with. Whenever there’s a new development or something I need to know about, she puts in a phone call to me to explain everything. She doesn’t put problems in my lap; she puts solutions in my lap that she’s already implementing. Which is something, as a buyer, that you have to love and respect.”
“Since she’s been with us, she’s been trying to find solutions for us,” said another client.
Flexibility and Leadership Yield Success
Last-minute changes are rarely good for business, especially when they threaten to increase costs. Melissa Wirthlin, vice president and marine client advisor with Marsh, met this challenge head on when one target market changed their pricing on a builder’s risk contract and sent her team scrambling to put together a competitive program in excess of $128 million in a tight time frame. It required some heavy marketing in the United States, the U.K. and Belgium markets, and restructuring of primary and excess layers, but the job was done in just a few days.
Availability and responsiveness play a role in the quick turnaround time, as well as equal dedication to all clients’ projects.
“She is on the west coast and our corporate office is in Delaware, so it’s difficult for us to do business with them or our European and Asian group because of time restraints,” said Chuck Baese, manager, International Loss & Recovery & General Average for DuPont. “But I’ve had my people contact her when we’ve had issues after hours. We’ve also had issues in South America on Saturdays. Melissa has always made herself available to help us arrange for insurance policies, evidence of insurance, risk management, that sort of thing. From a leadership standpoint, I’d have to tip my hat to her.”
A 17-year veteran in marine brokerage, Wirthlin has also taken on the role of mentor, having taught several continuing education courses. She also advises colleagues, leading webinars for fellow Marsh brokers on how to use and issue cargo certificates of insurance electronically.