Risk Management Education

Butler’s Risk Business

A university risk management program establishes a student-run captive; and in the process succeeds in impressing incumbent risk management professionals.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 7 min read

Butler University’s bomb-sniffing dog Marcus is being insured by a student-run captive.

Butler University’s Zach Finn possesses such a passion for risk management that steam practically emanates from the top of his head when he talks about it.

So when the former J.M. Smucker Co. risk manager got the chance to work with a university risk management program, he jumped at the chance to begin teaching and innovating.

And one of his dreams was to guide his students in developing a student-run captive.

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“One of the reasons I wanted to set up a student-run captive at Butler was to show not only students what they could do with a risk management degree but show the industry what students could do with a risk management degree,” said Finn, the director of the Davey Risk Management & Insurance Program at Butler.

The program was launched with funding from 1947 Butler graduate William Davey, who enjoyed a long career with the Indiana Department of Insurance, including being appointed Insurance Commissioner in 1955.

The captive, which underwrites risks for Butler University’s liberal arts college, came into being in April, is licensed in Bermuda, and will become operational this month.

But the direct roots of the program date back to 2015, when Finn sat down with Michael M. Bill, the founder of MJ Insurance, to begin planning.

“I spent a lot of time in my career sitting down with people saying, ‘This is what this means, this is how this could be a benefit to the organization,’ ” Finn said.

Finn built a class within Butler’s risk management curriculum charged with putting together a feasibility study on the captive formation. He then hand-selected students from the risk management program to work on the study.

Zach Finn, director, Davey Risk Management & Insurance Program, Butler University

One recruit was Kentucky native Brad Weber, who was brought to Butler to play football and is now a risk professional, having landed a job as a risk analyst with the Moog Corporation after graduating from Butler’s risk management program in May.

“Butler University as a whole is all about experiential learning and it sounded like a great way to learn about insurance and not just from a textbook,” Weber said.

“Plus there was the opportunity to take a trip to whatever domicile was selected,” Weber said.

“That ended up being Bermuda, which was a really cool trip.”

After the class wrote its feasibility study and vetted it with the captive program’s professional advisory board, Finn and his students sent out inquiries to 10 domiciles.

“To their credit, Vermont and Bermuda were the only domiciles that responded,” Finn said.

Akilah Wilson, an assistant director of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, recalls her department being contacted by Butler University in September.

“Their original e-mail provided an Insurance Captive Brochure which outlined their initial proposal and demonstrated their commitment to establishing a captive. It was very well constructed from the outset,” she said.

“From what I gathered during the initial conversation, the students were very independent in producing their feasibility study on domiciles,” she said.

“They also led the first question and answer session. This demonstrated that they were leading the charge, with the help of their professors, of course.”

“One of the reasons I wanted to set up a student-run captive at Butler was to show not only students what they could do with a risk management degree but show the industry what students could do with a risk management degree.” — Zach Finn, director, Davey Risk Management & Insurance Program, Butler University

Don Ortegel, Aon Chicago managing director and a member of the school’s advisory board, also recalls being impressed with the Butler students when his team presented their RFP in the effort to win the job of captive manager.

“It was very clear from the process that the students were very engaged, very thoughtful,” he said.

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“They not only reviewed the RFP we had to present to them, they made the recommendation for the final decision,” Ortegel said.

What is now known as the MJ Student-Run Insurance Company Ltd. was established with a cross-class aggregate limit of $265,000 and will insure science equipment, books and fine arts collections in Butler University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“We are insuring the first $150,000 of all of the scheduled fine arts and inland marine. Travelers will sit in excess,” Finn said.

Part of the students’ risk management work is performing loss control tours of the college’s library and its observatory.

As part of their analysis they determined that the college’s 38-inch Cassegrain reflector telescope was underinsured, by about $1 million. They also found out that they could automate closure of the observatory’s dome to close it remotely in the event of inclement weather.

Butler University’s student-run captive is insuring the university’s telescope; and conducting observatory safety evaluations.

“If the power goes out [in a storm] and somebody has to go over and manually shut the dome and it doesn’t happen, we’re out $2 million,” Finn said.

“That’s a $2,000 fix,” he said.

The captive is also insuring the university’s bomb-sniffing dog, Marcus. In an era when the alarming threat of terror attacks is on almost everyone’s minds, Finn thinks he has hit on a way to not only teach students about terrorism, but use risk management to fight it.

Finn and his Butler student team are developing a line of duty endorsement to the policy covering Marcus. The endorsement will allow for two dogs to rise up and take Marcus’ place should he ever be lost in the line of duty.

“Once we have developed this endorsement, we are going to float it out to the entire insurance industry. We’re going to ask that any carrier that insures a police dog or a bomb-sniffing dog include this line of duty endorsement.”

Butler grad Brad Weber said the experience he picked up in establishing a student-run captive in Bermuda proved invaluable in the job interview process.

Don Ortegel, managing director, Aon

“I would say what was really valuable about the class, more than what we learned which was specific to the captive industry, were project management skills,” Weber said.

“I think my education did a lot for me,” he said.

The position Weber is in at Moog required two to three years’ experience.

“Which I didn’t have coming right out of school,” Weber said.

“I was able to write a cover letter talking about how I would be able to handle all of the other requirements,” he said.

“And why my education gave me the experience required for a job like this,” he said.

Aon’s Ortegel said the Butler University accomplishment of establishing a student-run captive is a game changer.

“This isn’t necessarily about education,” he said.

“This is about the way we bring students or talent to the industry.”

As a result of the experience of helping to develop a captive at Butler, Ortegel said he and his teammates at Aon have been approached by other university risk management programs.

“We have had multiple inquiries and multiple conversations as a result of this,” he said.

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Given that only the domiciles of Vermont and Bermuda responded to the initial inquiries from the Butler team — although other domiciles later entered discussions — one might surmise that many didn’t take the Butler students seriously.

One who had no problem taking the Butler risk management students seriously was Bermuda’s Akilah Wilson, who holds a risk management degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University.

“Being a graduate of Temple and a member of the Fox School of Business & Management’s Gamma Iota Sigma Chapter, I understood that there is a level of real world experience that you are exposed to during one of these programs,” she said.

“It actually did give me a greater appreciation for their initiative. I thought it was a great, practical hands-on experience for students to embark on.” &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.

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Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.


R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.

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We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?

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Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.

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Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now and where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.

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More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]