The 2019 Agriculture Power Brokers
Jodie DeVries, Senior Vice President, Marsh
Power Brokers distinguish themselves by being more than insurance salespeople; they are true client advocates whose work enables companies to achieve their goals.
When Graceland Fruit made an acquisition early in 2018, for example, the company had enough pieces of the puzzle to fit together on the operational side without having to also worry about the impact to its insurance program.
Marsh’s Jodie DeVries was able to take this piece off their plate, combining the two programs to achieve a savings of roughly $100,000 along with stable premiums, while maintaining full coverage. This all while her team was short-staffed.
“She lost one of her right-hand team members this past year, but it was almost seamless how she was able to pull together the right resources to keep servicing clients,” said Laura Reznich, director of finance, Graceland Fruit.
When another client suffered a big loss, DeVries stepped in to ensure the claim process was as painless as possible.
“For a risk manager, this is really the moment of truth. We bound the coverage, we paid the premiums and now it is time for the insurance carrier to deliver and pay the claim,” said Cheryl Schmandt, director of credit and risk management, Michigan Milk Producers.
“Jodie organized and monitored a team of Marsh professionals working on our behalf to successfully resolve the large and complicated claim.”
Sandra Gulick, Senior Vice President, Aon
In 2018, Sandra Gulick, director of Middle Market Brokerage with Aon, was handed the challenge of restructuring a franchisee program including more than 350 franchises and nearly 3,000 individual policies. The client wanted a lower-cost program that was easier to administrate and did not sacrifice breadth of coverage.
“Sandra was instrumental in moving our corporate franchise program to a new a carrier, setting up the coverage enhancements and getting it launched. She helped us finalize all the technical details,” said Mike Niehaus, director, insurance and risk management, Ilitch Holdings.
“She brings a lot of experience to the table and is always on top of the latest changes and exposures we bring and how they interact with our insurance program.”
RPT Realty also called on Gulick to help reorganize their program halfway through the year.
“We underwent a big name change and had a lot of transition in our senior management. It happened really fast, and Sandra and her team went above and beyond to make sure there were no hiccups in coverage,” said Sophia Loveless, risk management analyst for the real estate investment trust.
“Our company owns a strip mall, and our general liability losses were getting pretty high. Sandra got us in a pool with other shopping centers to help reduce our premium. And she put me at ease, because she always had a backup plan. If we got thrown out of the pool or it wasn’t working for whatever reason, she knew what to do.”
Katherine Glancy Johnston, Assistant Director, Aon
Heavy catastrophe losses in 2017 made many companies nervous about 2018 property renewals. Even those that sustained no significant losses anticipated rising rates across the board.
“Heading into our year-end property renewal last year, we were quite concerned. There had been a number of large CAT losses, which had us afraid there might be a large premium increase or potentially not enough capacity to underwrite our program,” said Marty Breese, VP and global treasurer for logistics company HAVI.
“[Aon’s Katherine Glancy Johnston] proactively got out in front of this issue and was able to secure us an early renewal of the existing property coverage at a flat renewal rate.”
The property challenge was even more acute for expanding organizations taking more facilities into their portfolios.
“We went through a complete marketing exercise from 2017 into 2018, and through that process, Katherine identified opportunities to enhance our current global insurance program and made sure the structure fit the growth of the organization,” said Robert Greiber, VP of risk management, Reyes Holdings.
That process involved facilitating meetings with new markets and getting them comfortable with new property exposures by hosting facility tours and presenting detailed engineering data. Johnston was able to secure a rate reduction despite rising average rates. For another retail client, Johnston was similarly able to restructure a property program.
John Riley, Regional Director, Gallagher
Compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act is an ongoing challenge for the agriculture sector due to increased scrutiny from the FDA. Food and beverage companies are under greater pressure to verify the practices of their vendors and supply chain partners while also controlling food safety risks in their own operations. Obtaining comprehensive coverage and understanding how to transfer risk effectively is critical.
John Riley, director of Gallagher’s Food & Agribusiness Practice, helps his clients assess the scope of their exposure and ensures all their bases are covered.
“Specifically in the seafood industry, which we play in, his coverage recommendations are just spot on. He knows the industry. He knows what we need and don’t need, and he spends our money like it’s his,” said Warren Vogel, CFO of Ruggiero Seafood.
Justin Marx, CEO of Marx Foods seconded that sentiment: “He 100 percent understands our business and can help me figure out how remote or how serious any given risk is. He’s pragmatic and super realistic; he’s not just trying to sell me as much as he can. He looks at our relationship from a long-term perspective, so he makes sure I have the right products that I need and only the right products that I need.”
Communication and fast service are also two of Riley’s strong suits. Marx said he usually gets a response to a query within minutes. Vogel said, “We weren’t getting the right level of service and communication with our former broker, but John’s always been accessible.”
Brian Sebold, Senior Vice President, Aon
Just because an insurance program is working doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Aon’s Brian Sebold never takes the path of least resistance, always scouring the market for better coverage at better rates for his clients.
“He doesn’t just look at something and say ‘renew as is.’ He always strives to provide better limits and very similar prices,” said the director of risk and insurance at one supermarket client.
“This past year he helped to present our insurance program to our senior leaders — president, vice president, COO and general counsel. He’s very willing and able to break things down to the Nth degree so we understand what we’re buying. He’s become a strategic partner and someone on whom we depend when we have challenges presented by our business leaders.”
“What sets him apart in my mind is simply his tenacity.
He’s always on target with details, and he has the relationships and experience with all of the markets to really negotiate strongly and continually on our behalf,” said Chris Mangelsdorf, corporate risk manager for Martin Sprocket & Gear Inc.
“His knowledge of what we do and how we do it is second to none.”
When one of his largest clients was acquired in 2018, Sebold went head to head with the buyer’s broker to see who could produce a stronger combined program. Sebold ultimately was able to save the company $1.4 million in premium.
Charles Storm, Director, Willis Towers Watson
There’s no question severe weather presents a risk to every business, but for produce farmers, packers and shippers, a bad storm can ruin a good harvest and wipe out an entire year’s profits.
After the hurricanes of 2017, one farming organization found their property coverage did not pick up business interruption losses. The risk manager, a former client, reached out to Willis Towers Watson’s Charles Storm.
Storm and his team tailored a stock throughput policy to address the business interruption loss of raw food materials, both sold and waiting for sale, and broadened transportation coverage to better reflect the farm’s operations.
“He was able to save us over 40 percent in premiums while improving coverage. Our incumbent broker had been with the company for over 15 years, and it was a difficult decision to make the switch, but Chip made it well worth it,” the client said.
Others lauded Storm for being proactive, communicative and knowledgeable. “I feel that Chip is constantly scanning the insurance universe to find new products, better deals and a different way to approach issues,” said the CFO of another vegetable grower.
“We are a pretty nimble organization. We add and subtract facilities and acquire businesses somewhat regularly. Chip is always available to handle these extraordinary events.” The COO of that company added: “Chip does a perfect job of keeping us posted.”