2018 Power Broker

Finance

A True Captive Adviser

Kathryn Christensen
Senior Consultant
Aon, Los Angeles

Some brokers simply sell products; others also help their clients understand their insurance needs. Kathryn Christensen excels at the latter.

Christensen advised Katie Smart, assistant vice president, risk management, Macerich, on the process of setting up a captive as it involves big capital commitments.

“Kathryn focused on our business and what we were looking for and did not try to fit our business into a captive model,” Smart said.

“The information was very detailed and accurate. She took a complex concept and did a good job at dialing it down to a straightforward one that was very useful for us when we needed to translate it upwards in the company.”

Having access to high-quality information led to a well-made decision. In Macerich’s case, Christensen helped the client assess that the time had not come to take a step ahead after all.

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“The changes modified our return on the captive, so in the end we decided not to set it up,” Smart said. “But the analysis and support that Kathryn provided was really instrumental to help us make the right decision.”

The reward, in this case, comes in the form of trust. Smart noted that, some years ago, the company already considered creating a captive but suffered at the hands of its then broker. If the topic comes up again, Christensen will be the go-to person.

Valuing a Hands-On Approach

Carmela Inneo
Managing Director
Marsh, New York

Not all brokers are able to make full use the services available to the benefit of risk managers. Carmela Inneo is the noticeable exception.

She is praised by risk managers for her ability to leverage the resources of a large organization and for her willingness to deploy those resources into the service of clients whenever the necessity arises.

“I know that, no matter if it is a small or large issue, I can talk to Carmela, and she will get it done,” said the risk manager of a large reinsurance and insurance company. Inneo helped them set up a D&O and professional insurance program.

“Carmela goes way above and beyond what anyone can expect from a broker,” agreed the vice president of a life insurance firm. “She is a pleasure to work with and she is always available, no matter if it is a weekend or holiday.”

She said that Inneo’s quick action proved vital, for example, when some of the company’s facilities were affected by the hurricanes that hit large swaths of the country.

“During the hurricanes, I received a call from our CEO’s chief of staff asking about our coverages,” the VP recalled.

“It was not exactly in my area of responsibility, but I decided that I should come up with an answer. The first person I contacted was Carmela, and she provided me with ideas and information to deliver an answer to queries from the higher levels of the company.”

Client Is King

Scott Kegler
Family Office Practice Leader
Aon, Philadelphia

Sure insurance brokers like to say the client is king. But how many act on those words?

Insurance buyers can testify that not all do. Pam Paladino, VP of HR, U.S. Fence Solutions Company, endured some frustrating experiences with brokers before working with Scott Kegler.

“Scott has been a godsend,” she said.

Her company is the kind of company that sometimes does not receive the best treatment from its insurance intermediaries. In Paladino’s words, it’s not a huge firm but it’s a complicated one — with a portfolio of companies with high needs in terms of HR coverages and employee benefits.

But Kegler managed to stand out from the broking crowd by doing the basics.

“He pays attention, which maybe does not sound an incredible thing, but, these days, it surely is. It is great when someone stops and listens to what your needs are,” Paladino said.

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By listening, she added, Kegler gained enough knowledge to set up a team of brokers to meet their different needs. In 2017, he and his team helped the firm to consolidate its employee benefits program.

He also negotiated an expansion of the firm’s existing policies in order to make them valid for a recently acquired company that operates in a sector where they did not have previous experience and which included government procurement.

Paladino also praised the way that Kegler educates himself about the business and goes the extra mile to help its development.

Expert on Acquisitions

Ammad Mahmood
Senior Vice President
Aon, Glen Oaks, N.Y.

Ammad Mahmood helped a client tackle the intricacies of evaluating risks and existing coverages of an acquired company.

Ian Fitzgerald is principal and associate general counsel for the client, Ares Management. Fitzgerald said Mahmood was a key player in the optimization of insurance programs and the evaluation of potential liability legacy issues.

“Ammad helped us to go through what the appropriate go-forward policy would be, given all the ramifications of the acquisition and our growth in size. He also enabled us to negotiate the best prices, fitting the new, expanded coverages into the budget of the company,” Fitzgerald said.

For his part, Brian Smith, vice president, corporate insurance, Prudential Financial, stressed how knowledgeable Mahmood is when structuring D&O and E&O programs.

“In the last two renewal cycles, as team lead, Ammad has exceeded our service expectations related to coverage, price and insurer selection,” he said. “He used that knowledge to construct and negotiate manuscript policy terms on D&O and E&O, plus fiduciary and EPLI.”

Also, importantly, Mahmood delivers results in a timely manner — a feature that risk managers in financial companies tend to show a particular degree of appreciation for.

“Ammad is very accommodating when it comes to turning things around, be it market information or even some historical data related to our own company,” Fitzgerald said.

E&O and D&O Master

Shawn Walsh
Senior Vice President
Aon, New York

Asset management is a globalized business where complex, multinational financial structures can provide a decisive advantage for companies in a very competitive environment. It also creates risks for executives who are exposed to different kinds of legislation and sometimes aggressive regulators.

Setting up D&O and E&O coverages in such circumstances is a tricky job, and Shawn Walsh aids his clients in dealing with that challenge.

Such was the case of Neal Wilson, chief operating officer, EJF Capital, who called Walsh to arrange professional coverages related to a new closed-end fund. It was the first time that the company employed this fund structure for one of its investment vehicles.

“We had to think through how the D&O and E&O coverages would be different from our other funds, and Shawn handled that in a quick, impeccable and professional way.”

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With Walsh’s help, EJF also revamped its general D&O and E&O programs in 2017, obtaining better coverages and similar rates, even though the company had grown.

Walsh was also praised by the chief risk officer of a U.S.-listed, Bermuda-based reinsurer for supporting the company as it looked for directors’ coverages in the market. He said the company employs a strategy similar to a hedge fund and, as such, presents some particularities regarding their D&O and E&O needs.

“Shawn helped us to find the coverages we needed, and rates and conditions were better than expected,” the CRO said.

Music to an Investors’ Ears

Barry Weiner
Managing Director
Aon, Philadelphia

In the world of private equity, any dollar saved by the companies in an investment portfolio matters. Barry Weiner helped one of the titans achieve significant savings by bringing together the cyber insurance programs of several of its companies.

For Thomas Kim, director and global risk manager, KKR, this is how a broker can leverage resources to the benefit of clients.

“Barry was directly responsible for bringing innovative cyber insurance solutions into the company,” he said. “He single-handedly leveraged a team of a dozen Aon experts that ultimately won the business.”

Weiner also implemented cyber risk solutions and other improvements to the risk management program at health care company Avalon, according to CFO Anne Stuart.

“We did not have cyber insurance, even though we are an IT-centric company,” Stuart said. “Barry and his team helped us to look at different kinds of exposure, and we are underwriting the policy right now.”

Other solutions Weiner helped implement at Avalon include a system to monitor and analyze workers’ comp losses and updated insurance accounting procedures to optimize the risk management structure.

With a focus on the private equity market, Weiner claims that the efficient insurance programs help not only to improve the company’s bottom line but also increase its market value, which sounds like music to investors’ ears.

Finalists:

Bryan Pritchet, ARM, CIC
Senior Broker
Aon, Clayton, Mo.

Graig Vicidomino
Associate Director
Crystal & Company, New York

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 an 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]