Here’s to the Risk & Insurance Power Brokers. But Let’s Not Forget the Underwriters Who Work Alongside Them

By: | March 11, 2021

Rob Cruz is Executive Vice President, Head of Field Operations, Sales and Distribution, for the Starr Indemnity & Liability division of Starr Insurance Companies in North America. He can be reached at [email protected]

Risk & Insurance® recently published its annual Power Brokers list. The magazine recognized 188 brokers for their creative, entrepreneurial spirit to find solutions for their clients.

These are well-deserved accolades.

Not to be forgotten is the critical role underwriters are playing leveraging their knowledge of clients’ businesses and delivering thoughtful solutions in an unprecedented crisis.

Finding the right solutions for all kinds of commercial insurance buyers can be challenging — especially in a tight market. Add a pandemic to the mix and it’s that much more challenging.

Insurance buyers, brokers and underwriters were already facing a tightening market when the COVID-19 crisis hit in early 2020. A decade of industry rate decreases converged with long-tail losses driven by catastrophes and social inflation to create an unsustainable market.

The strain was particularly taxing in the markets for property, directors and officer’s liability, and excess casualty. COVID itself created new business risks and underwriting challenges.

Then, virtually all the work went remote.

Brokers were already remarketing every program because of changes in terms and condition and reduced capacity — particularly in property, with contraction in limits, and in D&O and excess casualty. Brokers had to go back to find new ways to complete programs. Incumbent brokers faced poaching efforts from outside brokers for clients’ business. Underwriters had to redouble their efforts as submissions surged.

We saw double-digit percentage increases in 2020 from 2019 in overall submission flows in some lines.

Further complicating the process, underwriters had to work with clients to return premium for those businesses that had reduced payroll and revenues or postponed projects.

Social distancing made the underwriting process easier in some ways. Underwriters could spend more time generating quotes and less time commuting and getting to meetings, but the lack of face-to-face interaction makes communication and relationship-building harder.

For the most part, underwriters did not miss a beat, meeting service expectations and delivering insurance solutions to the brokers for our mutual clients.

We’re starting to see light at the end of this dark tunnel.

It’s almost guaranteed the way we do business is changed for good, with virtual connections playing a bigger role than the way we did things pre-COVID. The hard market continues in many lines, as the industry continues to adjust to years of unrealistically low pricing.

But this is still a relationship business, and nothing will replace getting together in person to conduct business. I’m looking forward to seeing our broker partners and clients face to face again.

But throughout a challenging last year, our industry maintained its momentum and reinforced its vital role in protecting businesses and helping the U.S. and global economies to grow.

And all of us — Power Brokers, yes, but also clients and underwriters — used our own superpowers to find ways to get the cover business needed amid all the uncertainties of a global pandemic. &

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