Ensuring COVID Vaccine Distribution on a Global Scale: How Marsh’s Julie Martin Got It Done

From government underwriter to 2022 Nonprofit Power Broker®, Marsh’s Julie Martin has quite the story.
By: | April 10, 2022

Like many seasoned insurance brokers, Julie Martin did not begin her career in the industry.

Rather, her interests in both international relations and economic development led her to a State Department internship after she completed her undergraduate work.

Following her internship, Martin began working for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which she explained as a “U.S. government agency that provides political risk insurance and finance for companies investing in emerging markets.”

“I worked for the U.S. government for 20 years for this agency, [underwriting] political risk insurance, which is not really like other insurances,” Martin said. “It was fascinating.”

Eventually, Marsh recruited Martin to come on as a broker, and she’s been navigating the brokerage landscape ever since.

Her experience as an underwriter has provided Martin with a unique perspective, to the benefit of her clients.

“I like to think of myself as more of a technical broker because [of my] 20 years as an underwriter, so I bring a deep understanding of policy wording to negotiations,” Martin said.

“That technical background hopefully is an advantage to my clients.”

COVAX and the Gavi Alliance: A Power Broker-Worthy Solution

While Martin works with a range of clients, from mining to manufacturing, it was a solution she helped craft for a nonprofit client that awarded her 2022 Power Broker® recognition.

The client, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, is a nonprofit organization that works to “save lives and protect people’s health by increasing equitable and sustainable use of vaccines,” per its mission statement.

GAVI has worked to co-lead the COVAX Facility, which was founded to vaccinate the worldwide population against COVID-19, ensuring that 92 low- and middle-income countries receive access to COVID-19 vaccines. This is a crucial initiative as the globe races against the clock to vaccinate people against a still raging and mutating virus.

For COVAX to achieve its mission, GAVI had to be able to secure insurance coverage to mitigate any risks or issues that could arise throughout the mass vaccination effort.

That’s where Martin and her team at Marsh came in and got to work.

“GAVI had an issue that they weren’t sure how to resolve, and so they turned to insurance,” Martin said. The first step was identifying the issue GAVI expressed and then drafting an insurance policy.

Martin marketed the coverage to the carriers and updated policy wording to alleviate underwriting concerns. Additionally, operational controls had to be implemented because of “reporting requirements related to the policy about the exposures,” Martin explained.

A premium payment system also had to be created, because the coverage was needed in advance but payment was going to occur in arrears.

“It was going to be very volatile, fluid and fluctuating, so [making sure] the premium correctly reflected exposure [was crucial],” Martin said.

Martin also worked to explain and dissect insurance terminology, which “would make no sense to somebody outside of this realm,” to the scientists at GAVI.

Along with these challenges, the coverage needed to be created faster than a usual policy as global vaccination efforts needed to begin as quickly as possible.

“GAVI needed to roll out [this program] to get vaccines in arms, so we really did almost work 24 hours a day, along with our London colleagues,” Martin said.

In the end, GAVI and COVAX received the necessary coverage and have provided 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses across the world to date, with 85% of doses being delivered to 86 low- and middle-income countries.

None of this would have been possible without the work of Martin and her team at Marsh.

In addition to successfully insuring GAVI and COVAX, Martin did this under a tight timeline in a completely unprecedented situation: “We have template policies, but they didn’t fit this particular circumstance, so there was a lot of modification involved to try and fit what the issues GAVI [and COVAX were] facing,” Martin said.

“To be a part of that initiative was very rewarding.”

A Philosophy Built on Educating

Though insurance professionals work to sell coverage and policies to their clients, Martin views her role as a broker as much more than that.

“I think of myself less as a salesperson of insurance and more of an educator and problem solver,” she said. “I’ve always loved [those aspects] about my job.”

She continued, “When [clients] come with an issue, we try and help them peel apart what that issue is and understand what portions of it we might be able to mitigate.”

Because no two issues are the same, Martin helps the client find which solution provides optimal results, whether it be working directly with Martin or looking to the market for guidance.

Martin only wants her clients to find solutions to their problems, an admirable quality to have in a broker.

Another quality she possesses is her humility, especially when discussing Marsh’s success with GAVI and COVAX.

Throughout discussing the solution that won her a 2022 Power Broker® award, Martin kept reiterating one important sentiment: “It really was a team effort.” &

Emma Brenner is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

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