Exceeding Even the Highest Expectations
A new client of Monica Brecka’s posed a significant challenge for the renewal of its complex umbrella and excess casualty program. The savvy client, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, set the bar high right from the start — a 10 percent premium reduction.
“We had some aggressive goals on our renewal and high expectations,” said Dave Glasgow, the company’s director of risk and insurance. Brecka’s ability to meet that goal relied heavily on her keen sense of how underwriters tick, and how to strike just the right balance at negotiations. She held her ground on the lead layer umbrella, and got exactly the reduction she asked for.
The client was fully marketing the excess, but all layers were renewed — with premium reductions — with the incumbent carriers. The end result was a 15 percent reduction in the total program premium. “It’s not an easy task to meet our goals let alone exceed them, but she did,” said Glasgow. “Not just in delivering results but giving us alternative options as well, and explaining them so that we can feel confident that we’ve made the right choices.”
“She is very good at understanding our unique risk exposures and how to structure the contracts to address our needs,” said Brian Merkley, global director of corporate risk management for chemical manufacturer Huntsman Corp. Brecka helped Hunstman secure coverage for a sizable acquisition that included plants in nine countries.
“She made it a very smooth transition to make sure the coverage was there from the day we closed the deal.”
A Spirited Partner
Trinchero Family Estates, also known as Sutter Home Winery, took some serious hits during the Napa earthquake in late 2014, with substantial damage to barrels and racking equipment. The adjustment process lingered on well into 2015, partly because the storage system was not specifically included in the policy language as an item subject to loss. EPIC’s Mark Niebuhr leveraged his industry expertise and his relationship with the carrier and made a successful case for including the racks in the claim, recovering a substantially higher sum for the client.
“That was a good million-dollar plus swing in our favor,” said Anthony Torres, the winery’s principal, vice chairman and director. “Mark did a great job.”
He also negotiated updated wording on the policy to ensure against future conflict. In addition, he helped connect the winery with safety engineers to assess ways to design a more quake-resistant racking system. Torres said the winery now has a plan in place to create a new system that might even become the new standard for the industry.
For brewer Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., recent growth prompted a need to get a better handle on the company’s risks. Niebuhr helped develop a custom risk matrix to better evaluate and prioritize all of the company’s risks from A to Z. “Mark really helped drive it,” said the company’s CFO, Paul Janicki. He said he and Niebuhr are now collaborating on developing new crisis management plans.
Always Above and Beyond
A Northeast food manufacturer faced a tricky situation: A customer was burned while using one of its products. The carrier swiftly determined that the fault was with the packaging manufacturer and dismissed the claim.
Patti Orbell, however, astutely observed that her client might wind up getting burned as well if the customer decided to take her case to the court of social media. Orbell worked with the company’s legal team to arrange an offer of financial compensation, paired with a carefully worded agreement that would protect the company from further legal or reputational issues.
“She did a terrific job,” said the company’s head of quality assurance. “She didn’t have to do any of this — I didn’t even have to ask her to.”
John Porter, corporate director of environmental health and safety for Wyle Laboratories, said he was lucky to have Orbell in his corner when one of the company’s primary medical provider networks in Texas was found to be submitting false claims.
“We had to change to different doctors’ offices, get everything transferred over … This was like — chaos,” said Porter. “We had to get all of the claims adjusters involved.”
He said that Patti was instrumental in facilitating the process and keeping the adjusters on track.
“She doesn’t take no for an answer,” he said. “[She lets them know] ‘this client is too important not to pay attention when we have an issue like this.’”
Fighting the Good Fight
Technical Consumer Products was having an intense year. A lawsuit filed against the company by its former general counsel kicked off a domino effect of litigation, including securities litigation following a subsequent drop in stock price.
Chris Rafferty and his team “were all over it,” said Brian Catlett, the company’s CFO. “Making sure we communicated when we needed to, making sure we followed the right procedural steps to protect our coverage, and just in general counseling us and being a shoulder to cry on, so to speak. It was just invaluable.”
Catlett said that Rafferty has been simply phenomenal. “As the client, it’s just reassuring to know that we’re not alone. And we’ve got someone with experience in this area, someone that’s responsive to us and fighting the good fight for us.”
Rafferty also negotiated a renewal in spite of the ongoing litigation, Catlett added, “without a premium increase by the way!”
Meetings with the client began five months prior to renewal to review the existing structure, coverage for pending complex claims, renewal and coverage objectives, and strategies for engaging the primary insurer at both senior underwriting and claims level. Rafferty drew upon his relationships with underwriters and the trust level he had built with them. Backed by concrete figures and analytics, he helped secure multiple options, putting the client in a better position to recover from its financial and reputational challenges.
Bernie Steves, Aon’s crisis management practice leader, carved out a niche in the area of food safety and product contamination risk management, establishing himself as a market leader and the all-around go-to guy for the segment.
In addition to his work implementing Aon’s comprehensive Recall Crisis Response Center, Steves invested much of his time last year working with underwriters to innovate progressive coverage enhancements, such as government recall enhancements that address new FDA regulations relating to 2015’s Food Safety Modernization Act, and adverse publicity enhancements to address evolving challenges related to the management of social media and brand reputation risks.
The relationships that Steves forged in the course of such efforts are what really helps differentiate him for clients. Explained one client, “In a market that’s relatively limited, it’s crucially important to have solid market relationships. His market relationships were better than anybody’s we’d seen.”
The client also praised Steves’ commitment to developing clients’ relationships with the crisis response team.
“I’ve met everyone who would help us in the event of a claim,” he said.
“I know exactly who’s going to be doing what, and who’s going to be quarterbacking what effort. In this line of coverage, that’s crucially important. … Having the opportunity to meet the response team was really comforting for us.”
Mastering Complex Challenges
A large manufacturing client faced a serious claim. Worse, it reached a stalemate with the excess carrier’s adjuster over recovery, even though the claim was covered and the policy limits were adequate.
Watts saw that the situation was especially sticky — the underwriter would not communicate with the client, and was shutting the client out of conversations with judges and mediators. Watts tapped top resources from Willis Towers Watson for support in untangling the situation.
Through a deep understanding of the client’s coverage, persistence, and skillful coordination of resources, Watts helped get the claim settled out of court, saving the company potentially millions in damages. The CFO said that were it not for Watts and her team, the company likely would have been forced out of business entirely.
“She really knows the resources of her firm,” said another client, “so if an issue comes up in a particular area, she always knows which ‘guru’ to reach out to within the firm. “She’s very high energy. She understands the business,” he added, noting that Watts is so attentive to his company that it almost feels as if they’re her only client.
He praised Watts for her work this year in helping his company with a significant acquisition — a U.S.- based company with a large presence overseas. “The integration of the new business into our insurance program was quite challenging,” he said. But Watts worked hard to ensure that there were no gaps in coverage.