The 2019 Renewable Energy Power Brokers

Amanda Lania
Account Manager
Beecher Carlson, Boston

Amanda Lania, Account Manager, Beecher Carlson

“We have had the privilege of watching Amanda’s career as she has truly developed as an insurance broker,” said a risk manager of Beecher Carlson’s Amanda Lania.

“Recently, we were putting together — at the 11th hour, of course — an extensive request-for-proposal bid response. Amanda, without blinking, jumped on our difficult and time-sensitive bond request and was even early with the results. Amanda was extremely involved in our property and casualty renewal and worked tirelessly on our behalf with underwriters and carriers.”

“We have had construction projects that have run into many delays and they have worked with the insurance companies many times to get our builder’s risk policies extended,” said an assistant executive director. “During our annual renewal, she worked with the markets to get our premiums reduced this year.”

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A new waste-to-energy client was struggling with drastically increased renewal pricing as part of their facility operator’s master insurance program. The cost had doubled, despite the client having no losses. Lania was able to work with the underwriters to get them comfortable with the exposure.

By pulling them out of their operator-controlled master insurance program and putting them on a stand-alone placement, the client achieved a 40 percent rate savings and their own dedicated limits. The client was so pleased with the results that they chose to cancel their placement then in effect mid-term in favor of the alternative that Lania had developed.

Mary Leighton
Senior Vice President
Beecher Carlson, Boston

Mary Leighton, Senior Vice President, Beecher Carlson

“Mary saved us thousands of dollars in premium when she came on the program,” said the CEO of one of Mary Leighton’s client companies. “We are a waste-to-energy facility, which is very different than a big conventional power generation company. She reviewed not just our current insurance policies, but all of our contractual obligations: power-purchase agreements, interconnects, equipment supplier relationships, everything,” said the CEO.

“We have rolling renewals through the year, and over the course of that time she explained to everyone how we were different in our operations and our risks. She brought them to a new understanding.”

Sometimes clients just have a rough year, and rather than score a big win for them, the broker is a hero for making the best of a bad situation.

“This year has been a struggle for us,” said one risk manager. “We had two large claims. They are still in process. We are also in the second year of a three-year policy, so we are already looking to the renewal, and she is starting work on that even as she wrangles these claims. None of this would be possible without her.”

It was a tough year all around. “There were more [catastrophic] failures in 2018 than ever before,” said one company president, “and we expected rates to go higher. Mary went out to a lot of markets and the initial indications were even higher than we anticipated. But she worked with a few and got the increases down to what we could handle.”

Chris Shorter
Senior Vice President
Aon, Houston

Chris Shorter, Senior Vice President, Aon

“Chris has an impressive technical knowledge and has been obtaining improvements to our casualty program this year,” said one risk manager of Aon’s Chris Shorter.

“This year in particular, we had an outstanding renewal and Chris was instrumental to our success. We had a good rate reduction to the primary program this last renewal. Also, Chris came up with a new structure to the excess liability tower to give us the best terms and conditions.”

A client with a large fleet of vehicles had two large claims in recent years. That made the 2018 renewal particularly challenging. Because of the state of the automobile market, the client was projected to incur a steep rate increase, impacting overall premium spending.

Options were tight. Shorter had conducted a comprehensive marketing initiative only two years prior, so a new marketing push wasn’t likely to be productive.

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Instead, Shorter went to the incumbent with extensive details on the client’s safety program, including changes that had been made to minimize the risk of future occurrences.

Shorter also contacted the underwriter that had lost that account as a result of the marketing effort, let them know they had an opportunity to win it back, and reminded them why the effort was worth their while.

It took about a month of negotiations, but Shorter was able to get the auto line placed with just a single digit rate increase, and without increasing the retention. This was not only a win on the auto, but it also assisted in keeping the umbrella premium down.

Scott Smidlein, ARM, CPCU, OTA
Assistant Vice President
Marsh, Phoenix

Scott Smidlein, Assistant Vice President, Marsh

“Scott took on the role of not just broker, but risk management advisor for us in 2018, in the absence of the necessary resources internally,” said one insurance risk manager of Marsh’s Scott Smidlein. “I rely on Scott to identify exposures and help with the transfer of risk. Scott was instrumental in the marketing of our property program. He was able to negotiate a two-year deal amid the hardening market and double-digit rate increases for peers.”

One of Smidlein’s clients began a complete transformation from traditional to renewable energy. After reviewing the current placement, Smidlein determined it was better to modify the existing program rather than start tabula rasa.

Smidlein came back from the markets with insight that helped to hone the insured’s long-term renewable-energy initiative. The revised insurance program modified the acquisitions plan, helping to determine which facilities to buy and which to let pass.

Another client had a large storm-related loss to their solar assets. The size of the loss was due to a design flaw, and the client was confident most of the loss would be recaptured in subrogation.

Unfortunately, subrogation was not final prior to their renewal, which also took place shortly after Hurricane Harvey. Through an extensive marketing effort, reviewing various structure options, and assuring the market that subrogation proceeds for the previous loss were expected, Smidlein and his team were able to achieve a 7 percent rate decrease year-over-year.

Marc Toy
Senior Vice President
Beecher Carlson, Seattle

Marc Toy, Senior Vice President, Beecher Carlson

“Marc has been an outstanding resource for our company,” said one director of finance of Beecher Carlson’s Mark Toy.

“He played a critical leadership role in helping us consolidate and streamline our complex insurance program. Our project submission process is now much simpler, and we’ve seen premiums for parts of our portfolio fall by up to half of what we were paying previously and with improved coverage.

“We can now submit projects on a quarterly basis, with automatic back coverage to the beginning of the quarter,” the finance director added. “He found carriers that specialized in our asset types and better understood the risks of our business. As a result, our risk was viewed more fairly by underwriters and premiums were much lower.”

Another client is a utility-scale solar generator. “Marc started on our account just this year,” said a vice president of asset management. “He took over a complex account with complex financing: tax equity, debt, and capital sponsors.

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Everything is complicated, our contracts, our insurance, our compliance, and our renewals. Our previous broker just assumed that our program was in compliance, but Marc dug in and found places where we were overexposed and underexposed. He got us better rates and filled those gaps.

“Getting a better rate from our hundreds of contracts was a heavy lift. We could not have done it without Marc’s attention to detail, hard work and understanding of our comprehensive situation.”

Erin Yamada, ARM, OTA
Assistant Vice President
Marsh, San Francisco

Erin Yamada, Assistant Vice President, Marsh

A client of Erin Yamada’s was facing a very difficult property renewal. “We still have potential claims relating to 2016 storms that are in question,” said the company’s chief risk officer. “We believe these are covered claims, but the carriers are claiming that these are not due to multiple occurrences.”

Many carriers, including some that wouldn’t be affected if the claims were covered, had priced those claims into their premium, despite being unpaid.

“We have similar situations from 2017 and 2018 fires, where there may be claims but these have not been finalized,” the risk officer continued. “In addition, many of the carriers have also participated on our liability program that has experienced losses in recent years.

“This all required a great deal of sensitive negotiations, focusing carriers on relevant facts and taking emotion out of the pricing. Erin was a key member of the team that helped us to achieve a result that we are happy with.”

Yamada is an equally vital part of the team for her smaller clients.

“I am a one-person shop,” said the risk manager for a solar company. “Erin really stepped up for me this year, and I value that highly because my expertise is in project finance, not insurance.

“This was particularly important in 2018 because there was a constriction in the sector as a result of CAT losses. Erin dug into our program and demonstrated to the market that there were reasonable maximums on our losses. She also broke down our limits into tranches that the market was comfortable with.”

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

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]