Risk Scenario

Swarmed

Lack of pre-loss planning leaves a manufacturer and its supply chain vulnerable in the face of disaster.
By: | November 2, 2015 • 9 min read
Risk Scenarios are created by Risk & Insurance editors along with leading industry partners. The hypothetical, yet realistic stories, showcase emerging risks that can result in significant losses if not properly addressed.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

Big Waters

Jill Heald is a woman that loves to focus and hates distractions.

Scenario_Swarmed

Heald paid close attention when an earthquake struck Japan in 2011 and a typhoon flooded Thailand that same year.

The press and the trade press laid out the gory details. Major companies; auto manufacturers, electronics companies and telecommunications companies were hit with supply chain losses they did not see coming. And the losses were big.

As the risk manager for Auto-Spire, an electronics manufacturer that makes integrated circuits used in the automotive industry, the Thailand and Japan losses made a deep impression on Heald. She vowed to herself that that sort of thing would never happen to her company.

Post-2011, shifts in Auto-Spire’s procurement process resulted in the company sourcing semi-conductors from an up and coming Malaysian manufacturer. Looking ahead to 2016, Heald in mid-2015 began thinking about and seeking approval for an ambitious contingent time element coverage insurance package.

“How big are we talking?” her broker asked her when she first sketched her plan in a phone call.

“Based on a brief meeting I had with Auto-Spire procurement folks, I believe a $25 million program should be sufficient, given the redundancy of our supply chain,” Heald told her broker.

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“Well, we’re not going to get it all in one place,” the broker said. “Let me make some calls,” he said.

“How about we set up some face-to-face meetings with some of the underwriters?” Heald said.

“No need,” the broker said. “This is what you’re paying me for,” he said.

Unease gnawed at Heald after she hung up with the broker. It would make her feel a lot better to meet with the underwriters and some of their claims teams.

But the broker was who he was. Nobody had his contacts and he was a wizard with carrier relationships, or so everybody said.

Two days later the broker called her back.

“Okay I’ve got some ideas but we’ve got some work to do,” the broker said.

The nut was this: The CTE program that Heald was envisioning was going to require the participation of two, maybe three carriers. The way the broker presented the story, he’d been burning the midnight oil to connect with underwriters in the U.S. and Bermuda.

“So let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Heald said.

“We’ve got one U.S. carrier on the primary layer at $15 million.”

“Correct,” the broker said.

“And two carriers in the second layer at $5 million a pop. Both based in Bermuda,” Heald said.

“Again, correct,” the broker said.

They both agreed the premium prices were historically very good. The location of the semi-conductor maker was not a high flood risk. And the soft property market was another blessing.

Heald and her broker bound the coverage before Thanksgiving for the year 2016.

In April of 2016, Typhoon Lumba-Lumba, Malaysian for dolphin, strikes Malaysia as a CAT 4.

Confusion

The morning after the typhoon strikes, Heald is online and on the phone trying to determine if the city where the Auto-Spire semi-conductor supplier is located was heavily damaged in the storm.

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The good news is that it did not appear to be. The bad news comes within days when deliveries of semi-conductors from Malaysia to Auto-Spire’s U.S. factories slow to a crawl.

“Do we know what’s going on?” Heald said to an Auto-Spire executive in procurement at the end of the week.

“The communication there is horrible Jill,” the procurement executive said. “I wish I could tell you more, but right now I have next to nothing.”

“How could you have next to nothing?” Heald said to no one after she hung up with procurement. “It’s your job.”

Using her broker’s more robust international contacts, Heald pushes hard and gets some information. It’s just that the information she gets is not comforting.

The information is sketchy but it appears that several suppliers to the semi-conductor maker were knocked out by the typhoon.

Facing millions in lost sales, Heald and her broker file a claim on their CTE coverage for $20 million.

Heald is immediately descended upon by underwriters for the three carriers. The underwriters are demanding answers to a number of questions.

“We see there is no claims handling agreement associated with this program. Who’s the adjuster of record?” an underwriter for the U.S.-based carrier on the primary layer asked Heald.

“Adjuster of record? I’ve never heard of the phrase,” Jill Heald said.

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With no claims handling agreement in place between Auto-Spire and the carriers on the CTE program, Heald spends weeks responding to the various carriers’ document requests.

Three weeks after the storm struck, Heald’s broker calls her with his version of good news.

“Hey, I talked to Ajax Ltd., they’re going to cut you a check for $1 million as an advance while these CTE claims get sorted out,” the broker said.

With semi-conductor shipments from Malaysia at a trickle, Heald takes little solace in this.

“Really? I guess I’ll take it,” Heald says. But the truth is that she’s worn down to a nub in all the back and forth between the carriers.

The lack of a claims handling agreement has translated into weeks of delays in getting claims information filed and adjusted. Each carrier has a different process for adjusting the claim.

All three carriers use the services of outside forensic accountants. Unfortunately, each carrier uses a different accounting firm.

There are also different terms and conditions between the different policies. Whether there could be coverage gaps created by those differing terms and conditions is an ongoing source of stress for Heald.

“There’s got to be a better way to do this,” she told her broker on the phone one day. “We should have had transparency into this ahead of time.”

“Look Jill, I’ve been doing this a long time,” the broker said.

“I don’t care how long you’ve been doing it. You and I could have done it better,” Heald shot back.

And one million is looking like a drop in the bucket next to lost sales to the automakers that are starting to reach into the tens of millions.

It’s now six weeks after the storm hit and the Malaysian supplier is still not fully back up to speed.

A Hellish Grind

The typhoon that struck Malaysia and clipped Auto-Spire’s supply chain resulted in $45 million in lost sales.

Scenario_Swarmed

Heald heaps the blame on herself, even though this is an organizational failure. Heald was led to believe that $25 million of CTE was sufficient but Auto-Spire’s dependence on third party suppliers was increased due to the recent shift in its procurement process.

It wasn’t that the carriers on the program didn’t pay the claim, they eventually did. But the delays caused by the lack of a claims handling agreement created serious tension between Heald and the Auto-Spire C-suites. Not to mention cash flow problems on top of the lost sales due to the crimp in Auto-Spire’s supply chain.

“A promise to pay is a promise to pay…. in a timely manner,” her CFO thundered at her when she broke the news to him that due to delays in adjusting the Malaysia claims the carriers still hadn’t cut Auto-Spire checks.

“They are going to pay Jim, it’s just that the claims process got extended more than we would like,” Heald told him.

“It’s not the carriers’ fault,” she added.

“How do you mean?” he said.

“It’s my fault actually,” Heald said.

“I should have had a pre-loss claims handling agreement in place. That would have streamlined the process much more and given all parties a clearer picture of the claims handling process.

“But you didn’t do that,” the CFO said.

“No, I didn’t,” Heald said.

“What about your broker, shouldn’t he have put something like this in place?”

“I don’t want to blame him either. The fact is that we didn’t do it,” Heald said.

“So how much time do you think that cost us, in terms of getting paid,” the CFO said.

“Hard to say,” Heald said. “Six weeks minimum,” she added.

“Do you know what it costs to borrow $20 million for six weeks?” the CFO said.

“Not off of the top of my head,” Heald said.

“A lot,” the CFO said. “A lot.”

It is also clear to Heald that she needs to develop a better channel of communication with the procurement group so that she can be in a better position to procure adequate insurance for the needs created by Auto-Spire’s supply chain.

She thought she was doing the right thing in putting together a substantial CTE program. Now it all feels like a cruel joke.

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Risk & Insurance® partnered with FM Global to produce this scenario. Below are FM Global’s recommendations on how to prevent the losses presented in the scenario. This perspective is not an editorial opinion of Risk & Insurance®.

What to Do Before a Loss

In most cases, you’ll receive no warning before disaster strikes. If you experience a sizable loss, the loss itself may be your smallest issue. You might also be worried about injuries, deaths, lost market share, revenue stream, notifying shareholders or something else.

When a loss happens, it is similar to the start of a professional sports game. It is a culmination of all the practice leading up to the game, only the practice is the pre-loss planning. That’s why pre-loss planning is so important. Before a loss occurs, work with your broker and/or insurer(s) to develop a plan for loss management that is carefully tailored to meet your unique needs.

The following is a list of the key information your loss management plan should cover:

  • procedures and guidelines for handling loss, including a clear delineation of who will report the loss to your insurance partner(s).
  • a detailed list of names and contact information of members of your emergency response team
  • key contacts at your subsidiaries and remote offices
  • contingency arrangements with emergency services and critical suppliers
  • tailored loss-handling and claims cooperation agreements with other program participants
  • global coordination requirements
  • assignment of emergency duties for local plant personnel, your corporate insurance department, your broker and others
  • a designated liaison to work with the adjuster

Without pre-loss planning, there can be fear of the unknown. However, with pre-loss planning it can be reassuring to know that you just have to pick up the phone and make only one call when a loss occurs, know who is coming to your site and know how your insurer will respond.

Many emotions come with an actual loss. Pre-loss planning can provide you that much needed level of confidence when you need it most in your job.





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Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

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]