The 2019 Fine Arts Power Brokers

Kierstin Johnsen
Account Manager
Risk Strategies/DeWitt Stern, Richmond, Va.

Kierstin Johnsen, Account Manager, Risk Strategies/DeWitt Stern

“Kierstin doesn’t just do it by the book or with the best practices; she’s doing her job at the highest level in extreme circumstances. Effortlessly, it seems,” Louie Lane, studio manager, IDY, LLC said.

His studio sends art all over the world, and this past year, Lane had several last-minute changes with a show on exhibit in Brazil. “They’re very strict with their policies. If any ‘i’ isn’t dotted or ‘t’ isn’t crossed, there would be trouble.”

Lane’s show had to move locations, leaving little time to prepare, and since he could not purchase the needed insurance, Kierstin Johnsen stepped in and worked with the studio and the institutions in Brazil to keep the art safe.

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“She’s understanding of the circumstances that come with a living artist who houses their own artwork,” said Steve Polaner, studio manager, LaMonte Fine Art Inc. Polaner’s wife is that artist.

When the couple wanted to switch storage facilities, Johnsen knew what to do. “Through the convoluted turns, she was rock steady and stopped the enormous feelings of stress of the artwork being moved.”

“She is diligent, extremely responsive and timely,” added Marilu Knode, director, exhibitions and programs, Milwaukee Downtown Inc./Sculpture Milwaukee. As an outdoor exhibition of artwork, Milwaukee has to be up-to-date on insurance policy changes.

“Kierstin knows the nuances of our artwork, which is helpful in her giving me feedback on the additional security measures we take to protect the work and the public,” said Knode.

Rose Proby
Senior Vice President, Head of Fine Art
Marsh, London

Rose Proby, Senior Vice President, Head of Fine Art, Marsh

“This year happened to be a year of dynamic change,” said Charles Reno, VP, risk management, Sotheby’s.

Broker Rose Proby was tasked with some major changes from Sotheby’s: Negotiate 14 different renewal options while facilitating approval support for a new art collector’s New York-based storage facility, all while securing a global art risks cover program for the record-breaking wine division that Sotheby’s recently entered.

“Her team provided us with extraordinarily clear diagrams of the year-over-year savings. When putting together our renewal program, Rose spoke with over 40 individual representatives who make up our program. And getting 40 representatives to the table is a Herculean feat itself,” Reno said.

“We have an eight-hour time difference, and I still get an almost always immediate response,” said Linda Somerville, risk manager, The J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty needed to increase its limits in what Somerville described as a very hard market.

Proby was able to increase coverage within 48-hours. “She loves art, so she understands art and the nuances behind it. It’s not just a desk that needs to be insured; its Louis XVI’s desk that needs to be insured. She knows her stuff.”

A third client said her institution’s policy is placed on behalf of a department that understands very little about insurance. “Rose responds to the wide variety of queries and concerns [that] come her way immediately and is able to explain in a way that speaks the language of her clients.”

Anne Rappa
Senior Vice President
Aon, New York

Anne Rappa, Senior Vice President, Aon

Anne Rappa of Aon/Huntington T. Block likes to meet face to face. It’s a method that works for her.

“I met Anne through a class I was taking,” said one client. “Anne came to speak with the class, and afterwards I had her give a presentation to my team.”

“We’ve had Anne come and visit the museum to meet with the finance committee and review their collection coverages,” said Warren Bunn, collections and exhibitions manager, The Corning Museum of Glass.

David Gray, executive director, The Greenwich Collection, added, “She is glad to attend board meetings, explaining to the board what insurance options are best.”

But face-to-face isn’t where Rappa’s service stops; after speaking with her clients, she strives to get things done right.

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The Greenwich Collection, for example, is a nonprofit, and “Anne works with incredible detail to ensure the coverages are the best fit for our nonprofit needs,” said Gray.

One senior director said that after a serious hurricane damaged an apartment under her company’s care, she leaned on Rappa. “She helped us source a local warehouse, movers, and she helped us source conservators at a moment’s notice.”

Right now, Bunn and his team are working on a 2019 exhibition featuring a survey of contemporary glass pieces. There are 100 artists across the globe being featured in the exhibit, and Bunn has been in constant conference with Rappa, trying to make certain they have the right coverage to get the pieces to the exhibit safely and within budget.

Molly Slattery
Account Executive
Aon, Washington, D.C.

Molly Slattery, Account Executive, Aon

Private art collector David Werner had to ship a two-piece antique chair set from Finland to Sweden and then to the U.S. While they were in transit, Werner got the call — the package was lost.

“It was a 130-pound, 5-foot package,” Werner explained. “I called up Molly and she reassured me; ‘Don’t worry, we have them covered.’ Then she immediately put me in touch with the person who handles claims.” Within five hours, Molly Slattery made him feel comfortable about the situation. And luckily, a day later, the chairs were found.

Jeanne Jarvaise, another private art collector, was working to secure her father’s artwork after he passed but ran into a challenge: Some family members didn’t understand why she wanted to insure the art and took legal action. Because she could not get the art appraised, Jarvaise did not want to transport it off her father’s estate.

“My stress levels were super high, but Molly made it all easier, and she worked with me.” When a decision was reached, Jarvaise had four days to get the work inspected, appraised and transported. “She knew what needed to happen and the order it needed to happen in,” Jarvaise said.

Another client, Alvaro Leal, owner/corporate art collector, Global Pacifica LTD, has a large show to protect this year: “We put together a major exhibition, featuring artworks from Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, Clemente and B. Kruger.

“The insurance value was over $20 million, and we were working with multiple collectors. Molly worked very hard to obtain the proper coverage for this show in record time.”

Casey Wigglesworth
Assistant Vice President
Aon, Washington, D.C.

Casey Wigglesworth, Assistant Vice President, Aon

What makes a good broker great? “I want to know that when I put the information together for an exhibition, that they will respond quickly and get all certificates of insurance together on time,” said Karen Frederick, curator of museum collections, Greenwich Historical Society.

For Frederick, Casey Wigglesworth fits that bill. The society was considering purchasing an expensive painting from a private collector and decided to house it on loan. The process set in motion two last-minute certificates of insurance.

First, to house the painting for a week, and then again for a two-month period. “Casey had to get the same certificate with the same amount of coverage for the same painting in just one week,” Frederick said.

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The society had another instance where they borrowed paintings for an armory exhibition: “All I wanted to do was sleep here and make sure nothing happened to those paintings. But Casey made sure everything was in order and taken care of on time,” said Frederick. “When we’re talking about housing major paintings — paintings worth over $1 million — I’m happy to know it’s Casey getting it done, both in transit and onsite.”

Grant Quertermous, curator, Tudor Place Historic House & Garden, couldn’t agree more: “Any curator or collections manager will tell you that objects in the museum are like children — caring for them is expensive.

“When they travel, you’re concerned about their well-being from the minute they leave your museum until the minute they return. Casey shares that concern, so I always feel better knowing she’s looking out for the objects in our collection.”

Blair Wunderlich
Account Executive
Aon, Washington, D.C.

Blair Wunderlich, Account Executive, Aon

Hillwood Museum wanted to include a Fabergé-exclusive exhibit in its facilities.

“These were rare artifacts to be borrowed from private collectors, museums around the world and the Prince of Monaco,” explained MJ Hagan, collections manager.

Broker Blair Wunderlich worked directly with the institute’s lawyers for each piece’s loan contract. She guided Hagan on whether adding the collection under their overall blanket policy made sense or if they should take out a separate policy just for the Fabergé.

“She facilitated meetings with other agents who worked on similar projects in larger museums to get us the advice we needed to take on this collection,” Hagan said.

And now, Fabergé artifacts — from the world-famous eggs to handcrafted sculptures — have a home at the Hillwood exhibition.

Kele McComsey, director, museum division at Mana Contemporary, said Wunderlich is great to work with: “She’s on top of things,” he said.

“And that’s really what your agent should be doing — going out and being active in your business.” For example, Wunderlich was integral in reviewing Mana’s policies. “She helped us navigate through recent claims,” and has been able to lower premium year over year while giving advice on best practices.

“Blair took over our account from a previous agent who retired,” said a third client. “We were having issues with our renewal due to claims from the year before, and Blair did incredible research to get us what we needed. She has been an invaluable resource to us.”

The complete list of 2019 Power Broker® winners can be found here.

Finalists:

Michelle Abecasis
Account Executive, Fine Art & Special Risks
HUB International, New York

Margaret Bussiere
Vice President, Fine Arts
DeWitt Stern, A Risk Strategies Company, New York

Kristina Marcigliano
Senior Account Executive
DeWitt Stern, A Risk Strategies Company, New York

Ever Song
Account Executive
Aon, Washington, D.C.

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]