Industry Leaders

2014 Executives to Watch

These execs have proven their mettle and will have important decisions to make in 2014.
By: and | December 1, 2013 • 12 min read

Whether it’s the demands made on U.S.-domiciled companies with foreign holdings due to complex claim developments, or marshalling risk management forces to address the fevered advance of cyber risk, the Executives to Watch for 2014 have a lot to think about.

Their dialogue with risk managers, particularly those with property exposures in the Northeast, has shifted due to the large losses that were incurred from Superstorm Sandy. Property rates in New Jersey, New York and other parts of the Northeast were jumping up by double digits by mid-2013.

Terms in property are also undergoing more scrutiny, particularly with regard to the words “flood,” “wind” and “surge.” As Sandy taught us, property owners who thought they might have been protected by their flood policies ended up not being covered. Those types of nasty surprises are something carrier executives and their risk manager counterparts are going to be working hard to avoid in 2014 and beyond.

Risk engineering is also becoming more and more important. Flood and wind events offer lessons, and engineering solutions are out there to mitigate those events.

Many of our Executives to Watch are stepping into leadership roles that are going to give them added responsibility. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s easy to have an opinion until you take the wheel. In addition, achieving excellence is never easy. It requires the tolerance to absorb the pain of transition.

Having said that, insurance carriers can still be counted on to move conservatively when it comes to putting someone in charge of a large book of business. Every one of the executives listed here has proven themselves on other stages.

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Talent — who can attract it and retain it — may never have been as pointed a concern in the industry as it is right now. The well-publicized jump of Peter Eastwood and three other prominent executives from AIG to take on the opportunity that is Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance is one example of the industry’s shifting sands in talent.

On the one hand, the industry is graying; on the other, the industry is doing a better job of showing younger talent why this is such a dynamic, creative way to make a living.

In the words of one executive we interviewed, some of this younger talent knows it is in the deep end of the pool and is swimming as hard as it can.

Here’s to buoyancy, in leadership and elsewhere throughout these organizations.

One Risk and One Conversation at a Time

Dave Brosnan CNA 2David J. Brosnan
Senior Vice President
CNA International

Dave Brosnan is ready to take on the world.

No, scratch that. Brosnan has already been taking on the world for going on three decades, including time spent as division president and chief underwriting officer of ACE Canada, president of ACE Casualty Risk, and European Zone underwriting officer with Chubb.

In May, CNA Financial Corp. tapped Brosnan to lead the insurer’s international expansion as senior vice president of CNA International.

Expansion, however, isn’t just about writing new business, according to the SVP. “It is about focusing on where we want to grow as an enterprise, and placing more resources behind targeted industries like health care, technology and other specialty lines, no matter what geographic location.”

CNA has a strong brand, Brosnan said, and he’ll be placing significant emphasis on increasing visibility and building that brand internationally.

“We already have the ability to serve international insurance needs in more than 200 countries and territories. Now, we need to focus on making sure our agents and brokers understand our capabilities, and begin to think of us on a global perspective.”

Necessary to achieving that goal, he said, is leveraging CNA’s ability to build productive relationships. “The key to our business model is soliciting feedback to better understand what companies are looking for in a carrier,” he added.

A Shifting Paradigm

Fisk Bieker 2Mary Fisk-Bieker
Senior Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer
OneBeacon Technology Insurance

The cyber market is set to take off, and Mary Fisk-Bieker is positioned to see it close up as chief underwriting officer of a global specialty business focused on the technology industry.

Companies of all sizes and sectors increasingly recognize their growing cyber exposures, but that recognition is finally knocking loudly on the boardroom door now that the Securities and Exchange Commission is requiring public companies to disclose cyber events.

“There are leading indicators occurring in governance and regulatory compliance that make me hopeful that a huge turning point in the cyber marketplace will take place,” she said. “It will be a significant growth area.”

That’s just one of the regulatory changes affecting the technology sector, which also must be aware of ever-changing regulations affecting clients, such as in health care and finance. That also means keeping a wary eye on changes that will come when the White House issues new cyber security standards to protect critical infrastructure.

“It’s very easy for a technology company to make mistakes,” Fisk-Bieker said. “It happens, whether it’s human error or a technology error. … What they need to have is a solution that will fill the gap.”

Building a Global Profile

David Frediani Ironshore 2David Frediani
President
Ironshore International

Raised in Europe, educated in the United States, and with 24 years of industry experience in both Europe and Latin America, David Frediani believes he is perfectly suited for the role of president of Ironshore International.

“I’m an internationalist in my blood and in my background,” he said.

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Frediani was appointed to the role in September 2012, after 30 years of fulfilling largely international duties with Marsh & McLennan Cos. His primary responsibility with Ironshore will be “establishing a sustainable presence in Latin America,” an undertaking launched with the opening of a hub in Miami. He said that the underwriting expertise of his U.S. colleagues will help to back up products and build business across the globe.

Second, the executive will focus on increasing submissions from the company’s U.S. offices to its Pembroke Lloyd’s branch in London, strengthening that syndicate’s products. He also plans to expand the company’s global brand and visibility through international marketing and building broker relationships.

Frediani has also been instrumental in rolling out Ironshore’s worldwide terrorism and sabotage program, which has come at a good time considering the rising global concern over terrorism and the uncertain future of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

A New Ballgame

Jeremy JohnsonJeremy Johnson
President & CEO
Lexington Insurance Co.

Since 2000, Jeremy Johnson has transitioned through leadership roles of increasing responsibility at AIG, displaying his talent for the business with each new step. Johnson now takes on a new role as the president and CEO of Lexington Insurance Co., AIG’s excess and surplus division.

Johnson took on the position in April, after serving as specialty product line executive, U.S. & Canada, for AIG Property Casualty, overseeing business lines including aerospace, marine, environmental, SME, trade credit, political risk and surety.

The Oxford-educated executive has taken on the role formerly held by David Bresnahan, who along with former Lexington chief Peter Eastwood and some other AIG executives, left AIG in April to join Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

This will, in effect, pit Johnson head-to-head against his predecessor.

Johnson said that Lexington will remain competitive by hiring, challenging and developing the best talent as well as by “emphasizing innovative responses to our client’s challenges, both for individual clients and for particular industries.”

In addition, Johnson said, Lexington will maintain its leadership role in the E&S market through continued specialization, both with respect to underwriting and claims, and by “leveraging and investing in the science, actuarial and analytical resources across AIG to differentiate risk and opportunity.”

Faith in the Team

Bob O'Leary 2Robert O’Leary
CEO
Philadelphia Insurance Cos.

Taking over the leadership of a company that has been as successful as the Philadelphia Insurance Cos. has been in recent years might intimidate some, but not Bob O’Leary.

“I have not found the position intimidating at all. It’s actually been a lot of fun,” said O’Leary, a 31-year veteran of the company who was named CEO in February 2013. Before that, he served as the company’s Boston-based chief marketing officer.

O’Leary and the company have been in leadership transition, as former CEO and current chairman Jamie Maguire stepped aside in November and his replacement, Sean Sweeney, resigned soon after for personal reasons.

“Our succession planning allowed for a seamless transition in leadership,” O’Leary said. “I’ve been with PHLY for 31 years and the average tenure of our regional vice presidents is 15 years with the company.”

PHLY, as the company likes to call itself, is on some kind of a roll. The carrier has averaged $234 million in net income over the last five years, including a tough 2011, and saw its gross written premiums jump from $2.17 billion in 2011, to $2.39 billion in 2012. Count on O’Leary to look for more growth in 2014.

Success in Primary Casualty

Ken Riegler 2Ken Riegler
President
North America Primary Casualty, XL Group

XL’s North America Primary Casualty business, headed by Ken Riegler, rang up some impressive growth in 2013, shooting up 68 percent.

The additional business included that of several Fortune 500 companies, running the gamut from retail to manufacturing.

Riegler pointed to three areas that he credits for XL’s primary casualty success. One is the ability to tailor an insured’s collateral needs to its overall financial strength. The second is by using a hands-on approach to claims oversight. That means, for example, providing audits for insureds on how well TPAs are performing.

“We don’t just let the insured wallow in a sea of TPAs,” Riegler said.

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“We truly give them oversight so we give them our opinions, right, wrong or indifferent of what we see in the marketplace. Who is handling claims based on their geography and based on industry groups, who is doing it well and who is not,” he said.

The third area where Riegler sees XL making a difference is in international programs.

U.S.-based customers with global operations are concerned about the regulatory environment in foreign countries. They’re also looking to their carriers for help in navigating claims development.

“You are seeing multi-party tort actions in these particular countries,” Riegler said.

Experience in Property

Mike Martin Liberty Mutual 2Mike Martin
Executive Vice President and General Manager, National Insurance Property
Liberty Mutual Insurance

Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Commercial Insurance strategic business unit appointed Mike Martin as executive vice president and general manager, National Insurance Property, in August 2013. He takes on the role after serving as chief property underwriter for the Americas at XL Insurance.

Martin has more than 25 years of commercial property insurance experience, beginning with a strong engineering and underwriting base built at Industrial Risk Insurance. He joined Liberty Mutual because of the company’s strong property operation, which includes in-house risk engineers, a dedicated claims organization, and jurisdictional inspection services. These tools will help Martin distinguish the property line in the market. Traditionally, Liberty Mutual has focused on the problematic workers’ compensation line.

The dynamics of a post-Superstorm Sandy property market make Martin’s task all the more challenging.

The tangible good news for the Boston-based mutual is that it is seeing solid revenue growth, an increase of 8.6 percent in the third quarter, year over year, from $23.77 billion in Q3 2012, to $25.83 billion in Q3 2013.

Martin will work with agents and brokers to provide a full range of property insurance, inland marine and equipment breakdown products and services to mid-sized and large companies.

A New Flood Conversation

Bob Rheel Aspen 2Robert Rheel
Co-Head Global Property/Casualty, Executive Vice President, CDM
Aspen Insurance

Specialty insurer Aspen celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012 by rocketing ahead in its gross written premiums, racking up a 32 percent increase over 2011, to $1.3 billion.

In November, Robert Rheel, executive vice president, Customer, Distribution and Marketing, picked up the additional responsibility of head of U.S. P&C and programs. Rheel will now turn his attention to the company’s specialty niches in the program business and to helping insureds in the Northeast understand the new property world they now dwell in post-Superstorm Sandy.

“Aspen utilizes a blended model to bring both our progam and specialty products expertise to the program administrator and customer,” Rheel said.

“We also partner with a limited number of program administrators with expertise in specialized niches to jointly deliver risk solutions. I think these are the things that differentiate us today,” he said.

Rheel said the conversation with customers around flood has changed.

“I believe that flood is an area where customers have under-purchased coverage,” Rheel said.

Into the Spotlight

IMG_6529Robert Schimek
President & CEO of the Americas
AIG Property Casualty

Insurance executives step into new leadership roles every day. But it’s not every day that doing so means stepping straight into the spotlight, with all eyes tracking your every move. It’s a circumstance that could rattle even some seasoned executives.

But Robert Schimek seems to be taking it in stride. When Peter Eastwood left AIG to take on the lead role at rival Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, Schimek was tapped to take on the role of president and CEO of the Americas for AIG’s property casualty business. Schimek had been in London, serving as president and CEO of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

“More than 50 percent of AIG Property Casualty’s premiums come from the 18 countries in the Americas, which span from Canada to Argentina,” said Schimek. “The success of our region is critical to our business, and leveraging our expertise and scale is key.”

Schimek’s accomplishments internationally will no doubt color his focus in the Americas, with an eye toward broad-scale collaboration. The executive said he is drawing significantly from lessons during his tenure in the EMEA region.

“There, we unified 47 countries with very different market conditions to work as one region and one AIG, initiating sales challenges to increase profitability and implementing programs to leverage our scale and operate more efficiently.”

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She 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 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]