2017 Power Broker


Stand Out Broker

Michele Centeno
Senior Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Boca Raton, Fla.

Michele Centeno is always prepared and takes extra steps to learn everything she can about each client. Not surprisingly, the results are lowered costs and stronger policies.

“I have worked with a variety of brokers, and by far, Michele stands out,” said an insurance manager at a window manufacturing company. “She knows how to develop a team to meet our needs better than any other broker I’ve worked with. She is extremely dedicated and she has amazing resources within the industry.”

This past year, Centeno deftly piloted this insurance manager through an acquisition that coincided with a major policy renewal.

Whether its benchmarking, exploring cyber coverage or brokering an international aviation deal, “I would say almost all lines of coverage we have, have been enhanced since we’ve gone to her as our broker,” the manager said.


Centeno has strong technical skills on management and liability lines, said Mike Lubben, director of risk management at CC Industries.

When Lubben faced significant workers’ compensation exposure in Texas, Centeno found ways to improve the safety programs and save money, he said. She also created a program to track and maintain communication with injured workers, which improved retention and lowered legal costs.

“We ended up looking like heroes,” Lubben said.

Finding Captive Wins

Chris Kakel
Senior Vice President
Woodruff-Sawyer, Denver

A large logistics company was in a bind. The transportation market was tightening. Risk transfer options were shrinking. Past brokers said the company didn’t meet risk sharing rules for a captive.

The company brought on Chris Kakel. After a thorough program review, Kakel was able to completely overhaul the company’s risk strategy with an economical, creative risk transfer solution utilizing a captive, with reduced fixed premium costs and improved coverage.

“Our costs have gone down, and the markets have opened up,” said the company’s president. “Operationally, we just have so many more options in terms of providers we can now work with. It’s a huge win for us.”


Kakel has a “good grasp of both the things that can be done now in the present, as well as where we want to take our program in the future,” said John Norman, senior director of loss prevention and risk management for The Save Mart Cos. “He has led and helped Save Mart restructure [casualty] policies and garner better coverage at lower premiums.”

Save Mart also increased auto liability coverage significantly and reduced the umbrella/excess attachment point.

“These changes to auto coverage were a net win in terms of premiums,” Norman said.

Kakel’s solid working relationship with major players in the industry helps his customers, Norman said.

“It certainly helps that he can have those conversations with major carriers.”

A Strong Producer

Liam Murphy
Managing Director
Aon, Little Rock, Ark.

A large truck leasing business came to Liam Murphy with a problem: Some customers may not have the correct insurance coverage and the current controls may not be adequate for both drivers and equipment.

In addition, many customers needed a better insurance product and wanted to outsource the risk on leased vehicles due to growing concerns over misclassification of independent contractors.

Murphy put together occupational accident coverage for the drivers’ insurance program and created a captive insurance company, with reinsurance protection, for physical damage and liability. Then he put together a streamlined platform since the program needed to cover hundreds of individual companies and thousands of drivers.

In the end, he not only solved a potentially serious economic risk but he produced an additional revenue stream for his client.


“I can’t imagine anyone who knows the business, especially the transportation insurance business, better or more thoroughly than Liam Murphy,” said another client, John McManama, managing director at Bedrock Logistics.

McManama worked with Murphy previously at a larger company and sought to bring him over to his new business when he recently changed jobs.

“He shouldn’t have picked us — we’re too small,” he said.  “I begged him.”

“He said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ And, he’s with us today.”

Tackling Railways’ Cyber Risks

Tricia Piccinini, AINS
Vice President
Aon, Baltimore

Tricia Piccinini, vice president of property brokerage at Aon, tapped into her more than 25 years of experience in placing complex property risks when a railway client asked her to address the industry’s growing cyber security challenges.

Working with a knowledgeable group of experts from Aon and a leading insurer, Piccinini tackled the very real exposures that railroads experience, especially with the continued evolution of train movement through computerized dispatch centers.

“The product she helped create, we both agreed, is something we needed to do for the industry not specific to my company, which to me is probably even more gratifying,” one rail client said. “I feel we have a responsibility to our industry.”

Piccinini can address questions about terrorism, insured value and risk modeling, and when she is unfamiliar with a topic, “she has the ability to get me the answer, she gets it quickly and she delivers,” the railway executive said.


“I believe we are benefiting from the respect the carriers have for her,” said a manager at a state treasury department. “She always keeps us abreast of changes to expect on renewals or in the market, as she is always looking out for us.

“As a past insurance professional myself, I have been truly amazed at the renewal pricing and terms she has been able to negotiate,” her client said. “I do honestly believe that is because of the quality of her work in submission completeness and her high standards.”

Navigating the Tightening Auto Market

Josh Thompson
Executive Director
Aon, Little Rock, Ark.

When AIG and other insurers pulled out of the excess market for trucking in late 2015, it created challenges in the placement and renewal of excess coverage for several customers. Josh Thompson was there to offer a new path forward for clients.

“With the capacity change in the market, coupled with the fact that we had an unprecedented loss within 12 months of  our renewal, it created sort of a little Bermuda Triangle for us,” said Leigh Anne Battersby, vice president of risk management at U.S. Xpress Inc. “We were able to retain replacement coverage on terms that we could live with.”

“He is just a pleasure to work with,” Battersby said. “He takes the time to work closely with me and my staff so when we do meet with our excess markets we are putting our best foot forward and focusing on what is critical to them.”


For Dependable Highway Express, Thompson created a replacement program through another very large, well-established insurer that was price competitive. He secured a predetermined collateral agreement with the second insurer to mirror the existing agreement even though the new insurer didn’t normally offer a collateral program of this nature.

“Not only does he take the initiative, he puts himself in our shoes as the client in trying to solve problems and achieve what we would be trying to achieve to mitigate risk at the best cost,” said Ginnie Henkels, CFO at Swift Transportation, another client.

Finding Solutions

Tim Zimmerschied, CPCU, CIC, ARM-P, ALCM, AAI, AMIM
Area Senior Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Greensboro, N.C.

Jason Dickerson, CEO of a national transportation company, told broker Tim Zimmerschied that he was frustrated. His company managed claims well but it paid more than he thought was deserved because the policy was lumped in with the rest of the industry, including lower performers.

Zimmerschied helped develop a captive program for the company, starting with physical damage and now including most lines of coverage.

“We manage our claims really well yet we just weren’t getting the benefit of the doubt,” Dickerson said. “Some underwriters and insurance companies really wanted to toss us in that bucket with the other companies.”

Another client, Yvonne Moebs, told Zimmerschied she was in need of assistance. As a county government risk manager, she had already heard from another broker that the sheriff’s bond she inquired about wasn’t needed or even possible at a reasonable price.


Moebs sought a second opinion from Zimmerschied. Within an hour, Moebs had completed the application and Zimmerschied had secured a sheriff’s bond for $100, in accordance with the county statute.

“It’s amazing,” Moebs said. “In an hour it went from not being able to be done, to being done at $100.”

“He is very successful because he’s honest, he’s a people person and he truly cares about his clients and future clients,” Moebs said.


Grant Goldsmith
Vice Prsident
Avalon Risk Management, Humble, Texas

Sanju Rajan
Aon, Baltimore

Jeremiah White
Account Executive
Aon, Frederick, Md.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]