Rising Star Jessica Harger Talks M&A, Tax Insurance and What Being a Good Broker Partner Is All About

An M&A expert and tax insurance enthusiast, Aon's Jessica Harger shares some insight into the space.
By: | August 4, 2021



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 that 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 2022.

Here we talk to Jessica Harger, managing director, Aon, and a 2021 M&A Power Broker and Rising Star.

Risk & Insurance: How did you find your way into the insurance business, and what led you ultimately to the M&A space?

Jessica Harger: Somewhat uniquely, I am a tax attorney by trade and started my career working on tax issues in M&A transactions in the Big 4 accounting firms.

My job was to identify and gauge tax risks and potential exposures for my clients, but at that time, we had few recommendations for risk mitigation strategies other than to try and negotiate it into the deal. While working through some of these challenges, I decided to become an insurance broker to help provide alternative risk management options for my clients in their M&A transactions in the form of tax insurance.

R&I: You’ve earned the Power Broker designation multiple years in a row. What would you say is the secret to being a great broker partner for clients?

JH: Everyone has a unique background and skillset. Someone who has many years of insurance experience, for example, may never have come across complex tax risks before — or vice versa.

As a broker, you are acting as an industry specialist and client advocate. You need to be able to tailor your message to your audience and appreciate that your client will also need to relay that message to their own stakeholders.

When embarking on a new relationship, it is key to take time to understand the client’s background — whether they are the deal team, risk manager, tax director or chief financial officer — in addition to the circumstances driving their pursuit of a tax insurance policy.

My background as a tax attorney combined with my experience in M&A and the insurance industry allows me to tailor communications in a way that is understandable in the context of a client’s unique background and situation. Overall, this helps make the insurance process smoother and less intimidating, which has been consistently noted as a benefit by my clients.

R&I: How would you describe your brokering philosophy?

JH: Every day, I am working with my carrier partners and global teams to dig deeper into what’s possible in our industry.

Tax insurance is constantly evolving and so are our clients’ needs as we face unprecedented M&A deal volume, an uncertain market and new tax legislation on the horizon.

The key is to be a continual innovator and keep an eye one step ahead so that the industry is ready with a solution when our client needs change. This includes working closely with experienced and creative underwriters as well as our teams overseas to provide top-quality global services.

R&I: What would you say has been the most challenging thing you’ve encountered in your career and how did you overcome it?

JH: The greatest challenge I’ve faced in my career was having the courage to step away from a well-established business to grow something new.

Although tax insurance has been written since the 1980s, its use — both in M&A transactions and as part of general corporate risk management — has expanded rapidly over the last five years. Our team at Aon has been instrumental in the growth of tax insurance, and I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished and the expanding capabilities of our markets.

R&I: Looking at M&A a little deeper, what would you say are the top trends to keep an eye on?

JH: Taxes! As we head into another round of new tax legislation, I expect taxes to be top of mind in M&A through the end of 2021 and into 2022.

The current economic environment can bring a great deal of uncertainty as deal teams evaluate tax positions and embrace complex tax planning to increase liquidity or protect deal value. The unprecedented speed with which new legislation has been proposed, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming months and years, has left both tax practitioners and taxpayers sometimes challenged.

Not only are we facing new legislation in the U.S. (including the possibility of higher tax rates), we are also facing global reform that could significantly impact deal value.

While working through the changes implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, many of our clients turned to tax insurance as an extremely effective means to achieve upfront certainty for material tax exposures in their deals — a trend that I expect to see again in the next 12-24 months. &

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].

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