Rising Star Courtney Cassidy Sees Many Paths to Success in the Insurance Industry

CAC Specialty broker Courtney Cassidy shares her brokerage journey and how her passion for a clean energy future is fueling her work today.
By: | May 12, 2023

Come see the Stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk & Insurance®, with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars — those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokering talent.

Look for these expanded profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds now and continuing into 2023.

Here’s our conversation with Courtney Cassidy, assistant vice president, Natural Resources, CAC Specialty and 2022 Renewable Energy Power Broker winner.

Risk & Insurance: What led you to pursue a career in brokerage, and then from there, how did you get into natural resources?

Courtney Cassidy: To be honest, P&C brokerage wasn’t an obvious career path. I joined the industry right out of college at the encouragement of a family member who had a long and successful career in brokerage.

Once I joined, I realized how robust the insurance industry was and how many different paths you could take within it.

I worked for around four years at two different large P&C brokers, focusing on commercial real estate clients, when I started to get disillusioned with the industry. I realized how male-dominated the industry was and felt that my work lacked meaning and purpose.

This led me to pursue a position in higher education fundraising.

Leaving a familiar industry and venturing into a new one can be pretty daunting, but I thought it was the right time to explore other opportunities that could directly contribute to positive change in the world.

Despite my best intentions, fundraising didn’t turn out to be all that I had hoped for and, while I was able to contribute to important causes, I felt overwhelmed by the bureaucracy and red tape holding up the important work we were doing.

This break from the insurance industry really opened my eyes to what I enjoyed about brokerage work. I decided to explore new opportunities that blended my P&C knowledge with a positive environment.

R&I: Where did your search take you?

CC: This search led me back to insurance on a female-led power and renewables team — a very rare instance in this industry.

That, combined with the ability to work with cutting-edge renewable energy clients that are working day in and day out to contribute to a more sustainable future has been very invigorating for me.

I’ve been working with renewable clients for three years in this role and have found a renewed sense of purpose. I appreciate the opportunity to use my insurance knowledge to support clients that are making a positive environmental impact.

In a small way, I am contributing to a clean future, which is something I’m extremely passionate about.

R&I: Are there any developments or innovations in energy that you’re especially excited about? What are a couple?

CC: I work with a lot of clients in the battery energy storage sector (BESS). People are beginning to realize what a critical role BESS will play in the future of renewable energy.

Since renewable sources, such as solar and wind, are highly dependent on weather conditions, this causes a generation of excess energy during certain time periods and shortfalls during others. BESS can really fill in the gap and help balance these fluctuations by storing excess energy when it’s generated and releasing it when it’s needed.

It’s simple supply/demand economics that a lot of people can get behind.

Not only can these systems manage these fluctuations, they also help integrate renewable energy sources into the grid more effectively, providing grid stability, better power quality and reliability.

R&I: How is the global transition toward use of low-carbon energy sources impacting your clients’ insurance coverages?

CC: Many of these projects will use non-recourse project finance — a type of commercial lending that entitles the lender to be repaid only from the profits of the project the loan is funding, not from any other of the borrower’s assets.

At the same time, insurers have paid many claims in the renewable energy space, some of which are for newer technologies. We will continue to see a push and pull between what the banks want and what insurers can provide.

We see our role as advocating for our clients’ best interests throughout these negotiations.

R&I: How is global uncertainty, such as the Ukraine War, impacting your clients’ insurance coverages?

CC: Inflation and supply chain issues are impacting coverage with respect to limitations from a property damage standpoint for replacement parts that exceed the value declared at time of binding.

They are also impacting coverage from a business interruption standpoint with more scrutiny on a spares strategy as a way to mitigate long lead times for replacement parts.

R&I: Energy companies may be able to access funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. How do you see that boost impacting your client’s insurance coverages?

CC: It’s great news, but we expect to see a bit of a supply/demand imbalance between the number of projects needing insurance and the available capacity in the market, especially for newer technologies or Nat CAT-exposed locations.

R&I: What impact do you see the banking crisis (Silicon Valley Bank and others) having on the energy markets? How are you preparing clients for any potential fall out?

CC: A banking crisis like the one we’ve seen with Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse can have a significant impact on the energy market. The most immediate impact I can think of is that, if a group of banks are experiencing these difficulties, this can lead to a reduction in credit which could greatly impact our client’s ability to finance new projects, operations, or investments.

We’ve seen so much investment and financing activity in renewables due to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, but we are concerned that investors will scale back their support of renewables due to their newer technology and perceived higher risk.

R&I: What are the pillars of your brokerage philosophy? How have they helped you support your clients through economic volatility?

CC: I’d say responsiveness and tenaciousness. Because we are experiencing a hard market, it is incredibly important to be consistent with our responsiveness not only to our clients but also to our underwriters.

We really need to get out in front of the renewal cycle/new placements and be thoughtful about our submissions, in addition to keeping an open conversation on both sides so expectations are managed in a positive way.

There’s no way but [to go] through when it comes to weathering a hard market, and that requires a level of tenaciousness and grit that I see our team give every day and am very proud to be a part of it.

R&I: Are there any other issues affecting your clients and their insurance coverages that you’d like to mention?

CC: With the increase in project activity, underwriters are swamped. We see our role as helping our underwriter partners navigate this moment by providing clear, concise submissions and a commitment to long-term partnerships with our clients and their carriers. We pride ourselves on our consultative role and ability to help our clients navigate the challenges the market creates. &

Annemarie Mannion is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].

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