2017 Power Broker

Real Estate

A Key Innovator

Robert Colburn
Principal
ColburnColburn, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

One of Robert Colburn’s clients faced challenges with the historic renovation of some of its buildings and the purchase of vacant distressed properties. Colburn was able to create and negotiate a program with the carriers to successfully mitigate the risks and costs across the entire portfolio.

Another developer, owner and property manager just recapitalized a high-rise office property with extensive catastrophe exposure and a high total insurable value. The lender imposed a new set of loan and insurance terms including high limits for flood and wind coverage. But because capacity wasn’t readily available in the traditional marketplace, Colburn had to go directly to the carrier’s top management to obtain the necessary limits to meet the lender’s requirements.

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“Even while on a family vacation in a different time zone, Robert accommodated several conference calls, which is a clear example of dedication,” said his client, William Gilbert, vice president and corporate controller at REDICO Management.

For another client, he leveraged his relationship with a carrier to create a stand-alone property program with comparable terms to its historic master global property program run by its joint venture partner. He was able to negotiate significant savings on the property rate and lower the attachment point in line with the client’s risk tolerance.

“Once Robert has the ball on something, I don’t need to worry about whether it gets done — I know it will,” said his client.

Man of Many Talents

Michael Feinberg
Executive Vice President
Alliant Insurance Services Inc., Boston

When one of Michael Feinberg’s clients was left without a competitive policy for its multi-building phased development project, Feinberg was quick to act.

Designing an $80 million-limit residential builder’s risk coverage in a secondary market policy form, he was able to achieve best-in-class coverage terms as well as a lower price and more favorable security terms than quoted by the incumbent.

Another client suffered fire damage to a $500,000 HVAC chiller at one of its properties in South Carolina, but the insurers were only willing to replace the control board with a retrofit model. When the client insisted that a new chiller was the only way to ensure proper HVAC operation, Feinberg spent more than six months advocating to 11 insurers and received a $530,000 payment to replace the chiller.

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In another case, he redesigned a large residential real estate client’s property insurance placement after the incumbent declined to renew after substantial flood losses.

Feinberg successfully procured the same coverage at a lower rate, including a $20 million flood aggregate with a $10 million aggregate in high hazard to meet the lender’s requirements.

“Mike has a personal feeling for every loss — he treats it like it’s his own,” said his client Edward J. Easton, owner of the Easton Group. “He’s extremely professional and highly responsive to everything that we do to meet our insurance needs.”

A Force of Nature

Alexandra Glickman
Managing Director
Arthur J. Gallagher, Glendale, Calif.

Starting a multimillion dollar five-star destination resort from scratch is never easy. Risks to consider include potential business interruption due to offshore pollution and contingent business interruption for shipments of one-of-a-kind materials.

That’s not to mention the decision to go with owner controlled or contractor controlled insurance programs.
That was the challenge facing Alexandra Glickman when her client Caruso Affiliated announced a new California coast development.

Having gone out to about 30 markets, she came up with a comprehensive and highly manuscripted insurance and risk-financing program that satisfied all parties’ needs.

She also put together a liability and property insurance program for a real estate investment trust that runs an incubator for startups in its properties across the country.

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“To be able to structure a deal that protected not only our interests and the interests of the landlord, but also to provide the startups with a simple license solution was a big win for us, both in terms of coverage and cost,” said her client.

“Alexandra is a force of nature — she’s probably one of the best brokers on the West Coast, if not in the country.”

Another client said: “Alexandra sets the tone immediately in familiarizing her clients with delivery expectations, given her real estate knowledge and stellar relationships with the insurance markets and professional networks.”

‘He’s That Good’

Mike Gong, CIC, CAWC
Area Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Fresno, Calif

Mike Gong discovered that a self-storage client was paying far more than necessary for flood insurance. Working closely with the client and a risk management company specializing in flood risk, Gong proved that the majority of the client’s buildings weren’t in a flood zone, and convinced the client’s lender to amend its insurance requirement, saving the client 80 percent on its flood insurance premiums.

“Mike understands how our business works and is quick to resolve issues that arise from time to time,” said Charlie Fritts, COO for Storage Investment Management. “Because of his extensive experience he knows many of the underwriters whom he will contact personally when he feels he can make a good argument for a lower rate.”

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He has also come up with a solution for self-storage clients whose properties don’t conform to local zoning laws, which enables them to rebuild their real estate asset and indemnifies against losses.

“Mike’s key strengths are his knowledge and customer service,” said another client, Terry Aston, vice president at Carlo Development Co.

“I just send something to him and I never even have to think about it again — he’s that good.”
Another client said: “I have dealt with many brokers and agents during my time but Mike is up there with the best.”

Taking It to the Next Level

Tony Lorber
Senior Vice President
EPIC, San Francisco

When one of Tony Lorber’s clients told him it wanted to purchase earthquake insurance on its large portfolio of properties, it was time to put his thinking cap on.

Leveraging the use of earthquake models and analytics as well as his knowledge of the market, he quickly identified specific criteria where the client didn’t need to buy cover on all of its properties, on a program the client admits is difficult to insure.

This allowed the client to maximize the amount of coverage it could purchase at the best value. Last year, his client asked him to develop a new methodology that would significantly increase the number of properties included without a rise in premium.
He was able to achieve this by looking at every building on a case-by-case basis and then utilized his contacts to find the best carriers.

In another case, he recommended that his client could take greater control of its general liability losses if it had a larger retention, while also providing cost savings.

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He took about six months to finally convince the carrier that this approach made sense for his client and how it could implement this practice going forward.

“Tony is probably the most experienced and knowledgeable broker that I have ever worked with,” said Shanna Berrien, director of risk and insurance at CWS Capital Partners.

Another client said: “Tony just takes broking to a new level with his unique approach, hard work and dedication, meaning that he always exceeds our expectations.”

The One to Rely on for Complex Projects

Fred Zutel, CIC
Senior Vice President
Willis Towers Watson, Miami

When real estate development company BH3 Management decided to build a $200 million-plus ultra-luxury condominium project on Miami’s last private island, they turned to Fred Zutel.

He managed to secure an extremely competitive program, reducing the projected premium spend by more than $1.5 million, while leveraging analytics to negotiate insurance requirements with the lender and optimizing the builder’s risk program.

For another developer working on a condo project of similar size, he structured a unique surety program that saved millions and significantly reduced overall exposure.
Rocco Carlucci, director of risk management at Property Markets Group, for whom Zutel designed a new program, said: “Over the course of the 11 months that we worked together, Fred has brought to light issues that previously existed that we were then able to address at renewal, as well as to make sure that we are adhering to industry best practice.

“Fred has gone out of his way time and time again to make sure I understand what we’re discussing and why it’s important. He’s taken the time to make me feel comfortable with the options presented and in determining what solution works best.”

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Another developer client said: “Fred has always provided exceptional customer service.

“He is extremely responsive and has a quick turnaround. He always delivers when or before he says he will.”

Finalists:

Nancy Ayers
Senior Vice President
Alliant/Mesirow Insurance Services, Chicago

William Bray
Vice President
Wells Fargo, Houston

Robert Mazzaro
Managing Director
Marsh, New York

Caroline Parrish
Senior Property Broker
Aon, Miami

Nicholas Rawden
Vice President
Marsh, 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]