Rising Star Melanie Waltrich on Marine Risk and Brokering Through a Hard Insurance Market
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 2022.
Here’s a look at Melanie Waltrich, vice president at Marsh, and a 2021 Marine Power Broker and Rising Star.
Risk & Insurance: How did you find your way into insurance? What ultimately led you to brokering in the marine sector?
Melanie Waltrich: In my sophomore year at Temple University, I was looking for a technical subject area to complement my international business major, when I was exposed to insurance though an Introduction to Risk Management class.
The concept of risk and insurance on a commercial scale was intriguing and led me to add risk management insurance (RMI) as a second major.
The RMI program at Temple provided an excellent foundation of my insurance knowledge and helped me network with companies in the industry.
During my summer internship with Marsh, I was placed into the marine cargo specialty practice. It was a perfect fit for me — I could leverage my passion for international business with my risk and insurance knowledge.
I started a full-time position with Marsh marine in 2016 and the rest is history.
R&I: What would you say have been some of the toughest challenges in your career so far and how did you overcome them?
MW: The toughest challenge for me has been coping with a difficult insurance market.
When I entered the industry in 2016, rates were low and pricing was on a downward slope. However, market conditions began to shift in 2017.
Since then, we’ve seen an upward trend in pricing — according to Marsh’s Global Insurance Market Index, Q2 2021 was the 15th consecutive quarter of rate increases in the global commercial insurance market.
Dealing with an insurance market where premiums and rates are increasing has challenged me immensely to come up with new ideas and solutions for clients. I’ve also been forced to have some hard conversations with clients and insurers when negotiations get intense.
My approach is that I do not rest until I know I have exhausted every option or strategy. Being persistent and resilient is how I’ve managed to overcome obstacles and get the best results for my clients.
R&I: Looking deeper at marine risk, what are some of the key areas you are focused on right now and why?
MW: The pandemic has caused a lot of activity in the marine industry.
The price of a new shipping container built today is at an all-time high due to the intense scramble for container capacity. An immense volume of trade coupled with bottlenecks and port blockages puts pressure on cargo shippers.
Vessel sizes are increasing to accommodate more cargo, but as this trend of accumulation continues, it gives rise to frequent major loss events — containers lost overboard, vessel fires and vessel grounding (i.e. the Ever Given in the Suez Canal).
Regulations are being developed to improve vessel safety and strengthen lashing equipment, but we are still in the early stages.
One of our key areas of focus is the push toward digitization in shipping/logistics and cargo insurance. Digital solutions like smart containers will improve data that is exchanged between ships and ports to assist in speeding up movement of goods and reduce port accumulation.
Digitization will also drive efficiencies for logistics companies, which can use digital platforms to book and track shipments as well as sell cargo insurance to their customers.
I am hopeful these technological advancements will improve efficiency and reduce operational costs for all stakeholders in the shipping industry amidst the immense volume of trade we are seeing today.
R&I: How would you describe your brokering approach? What makes is resonate with clients, in your experience?
MW: I’m all about client service.
I aim to be responsive, detailed-oriented, well-prepared and professional at all times.
I have found that many of my clients place high value on these qualities and come to see me as their partner and risk advisor for all things marine cargo.
When working with insurers, I utilize all the data and tools at my disposal to paint the best picture of my clients to obtain the most favorable results. In this challenging marketplace, I always strive to obtain multiple options for every client — to empower them to make an informed insurance-buying decision.
R&I: What does it mean to you to be recognized as a young professional in insurance?
MW: It’s a great honor to be recognized as a Rising Star and a Power Broker. My hope is that more young people will be inspired to join the insurance industry after seeing the success of so many young talented people. &