Building Upon Strengths
Craig Graham secured an unheard-of deal for a contractor that was building a tunnel underneath a rail yard for a railroad, while simultaneously constructing several high-rise buildings that rested on a platform over the yard, for a real estate developer. An owner-controlled insurance program covered the building project, but it was not economically feasible for Graham to roll the tunneling project into that program, as the railroad’s coverage demands did not give consideration to the world’s “most difficult” New York construction insurance market.
Graham, senior vice president at Alliant Insurance Services, then convinced the OCIP carriers to also participate in a “relatively affordable” contractor-controlled insurance program for the tunnel, by demonstrating how the contractor could enhance safety on both projects, and how claims management could be coordinated.
“Craig Graham crafted some really creative solutions to the more problematic markets, such as New York State with its challenging labor laws,” said Bill Buchan, vice president, risk management, at Tutor Perini Corp. “Often the coverages can be very expensive and placing them is a challenge, but he’s been very creative structuring a solution to minimize costs and maximize coverages.”
Graham was able to secure a comprehensive OCIP with “very fair pricing” for the Los Angeles Unified School District, by thoroughly explaining the district’s claims and safety services, said Robert Reider, director of risk finance.
Changing the Game
One of Paul Healy’s clients wanted to bid on construction projects on U.S. military bases in Japan, but the bid specifications referenced the Japan Ministry of Finance approved list of surety companies — which didn’t actually exist, making it impossible for non-Japanese companies to bid on the work. Given the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was the ultimate owner for these projects and a U.S.-based company with a local office in Japan wanted to bid the work, Healy had to get the agency to change the bid specifications.
To accomplish this, Healy, national practice leader, Construction Services Group at Aon, prompted several U.S. surety companies and their industry trade association to lobby for some political pressure on the Corps’ head office in D.C., to prevail upon the agency’s Japan-based representatives to make the bid requirements reasonable. The agency eventually agreed to change the bid specifications to accept surety bonds from companies on the U.S. Treasury list of approved sureties, in addition to the referenced Japan Ministry of Finance list.
“Paul Healy has been very helpful getting us a bond in Japan,” the client said. “He’s also helped us evaluate various prospective joint-venture partners from a financial perspective.”
“Paul Healy is a strong advocate for us,” said Robert Alger, president and chief executive officer of Lane Construction Corp. “He’s been fabulous to work with and really has the clients’ best interests at heart.”
“Paul was very helpful in placing three new, fairly complex surety agreements for us,” another client said.
Last year, Keith Jurss was hired to help secure a cutting-edge professional liability policy for a Fortune 100 “diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise” that had started to use the integrated project delivery method on its capital improvement projects.
The IPD method, which requires a multiparty contract between the project owner, designer and contractor, incorporates mutual waivers of liability and financial incentives for the parties to work collaboratively to deliver the project on-time and on-budget.
However, because of select contractual provisions, the corporate professional liability policies of the design and construction team would not respond appropriately, thus requiring a project-specific alternative.
Jurss, senior vice president at Willis, was able to help underwriters understand the contractual incentives built into the program, and to convince them that the IPD team was truly committed to working collaboratively. Jurss then customized the project solution utilizing a variety of coverages from select carriers. The result was a solution that gave the design and construction team protection for rectifying design and construction errors without having to bring suit against each other. The solution also incorporated best-in-class professional liability coverage to protect against potential third-party claims.
“The challenging element of an IPD is the lack of a mature insurance marketplace,” the client said. “Since my organization has a very active creative and design process on some pretty unique projects, we had a short timeline to have something in place by May.”
En Route to Top-Notch Service
Jamie Pincus, vice president and account executive commercial at Wells Fargo, goes far beyond the call of duty.
For the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — which oversees the Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports, the Dulles Toll Road, and Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project in the D.C. area — Pincus helped with the transition of the aviation owner-controlled insurance program and the implementation of a rail OCIP.
On the authority’s projects, Pincus scheduled vendor, contractor and subcontractor information sessions to ensure that “clear, open communication occurs internally and externally.” She has also deployed a Wells Fargo Insurance loss control/safety specialist to ensure protocols are being followed at the authority’s numerous worksites. Pincus and her team provided similar attentive services for the OCIP of the Maryland Transit Administration.
“The scope and size of our projects and the amount of administrative detail is staggering, but Jamie does an excellent job,” a client said. “She’s very adept at coverage analytics and has superior technical abilities.”
For Swire Properties’ Brickell CityCentre construction project in Miami, Pincus advocated for the placement of webcams with 24/7 surveillance and a process to badge contractors for secure worksites. “Jamie Pincus is outstanding — she has been able to put in a very unique insurance program for us and she’s saved us a lot of money,” said David Gross, construction accountant for Swire Properties.
Wells Fargo’s Jamie Pincus is a firm believer that the best insurance policy is the one that you might never need.
“In the construction industry, it’s not just about the insurance placement, it’s about the people working on the construction site, providing a safe environment and seeing something develop that others will benefit from and there must be a business understanding of what our client is looking to accomplish,” Pincus said.
Pincus is a big believer in voice-to-voice communication with clients.
“Email is efficient but a lot gets lost in electronic delivery,” she said.
Pincus serves as a mentor to young professionals, not just handing down instructions but giving them the tools to do their jobs better.
“I lead by example. There is nothing I like better than digging into a policy to learn about what coverage is provided and researching a client’s exposure to have a complete understanding about their risk,” she said.
“I’ll do this as a mentor on a daily basis to demonstrate good service.”
In her community, Pincus involves her family in her efforts to help the less fortunate. Her eldest daughter recently joined her and other Wells Fargo team members to deliver groceries and prepared meals to 77 families in the Washington, D.C. area.
She brought all three of her daughters along for a more recent project, painting and repairing the house of a family in need.
Expertise in Action
One of Susan Schwartz’s clients partnered with two other contractors for a large construction project, but the disparity between the contractors on how to handle insurance for the newly formed limited liability company was holding up finalizing the contract.
To help get the $70 million project started, Schwartz, a director at Aon, discussed the completed operations extension with underwriters, negotiated more favorable coverage and pricing terms, met with the contractors and their brokers to discuss the insurance program, and worked out an equitable broker compensation solution.
Schwartz met regularly with another client to discuss estimates for coverage and pricing of a contractor-controlled insurance program at various loss ratio levels, and detailed the merits of project-specific coverage for various lines including professional liability, pollution liability, builders risk and contractor default insurance, potentially saving the client more than $500,000.
“With short notice, Sue was able to work with my company and team leaders from other companies and brokerage firms to develop a comprehensive strategy and risk solution for a complex joint venture project,” said Kathy Norris, director of risk management at Fred Weber Inc. “Her clear view and analysis of situations coupled with her can-do attitude, professionalism, and her willingness and ability to listen to the opinions of others and share ideas make her a valuable resource.”
“Sue Schwartz is by far the most knowledgeable when it comes to construction issues and coverage,” said Monica Settle, insurance risk manager at Western Construction Group.
Matthew Walsh was tasked to respond to a significant uptick in large, complex construction projects undertaken by both private and public sector clients throughout the world.
Walsh, managing director, brokerage practice leader, global/complex clients, Construction Services Group at Aon, built a unique analytics and brokerage platform to address the risks in these complex global projects, including rapidly changing laws impacting construction risk, geographic challenges from catastrophe, and increasingly complex project delivery methods that blur the lines of responsibility between project owners, designers and contractors. It can be used to address various unique legal challenges in some of the world’s most challenging construction liability jurisdictions, or structured for global responsiveness to a single owner undertaking projects simultaneously.
“Matt Walsh goes above and beyond to meet his clients’ needs,” said Ted Wickenhauser, vice president, risk management at McCarthy Building Cos. “He does a phenomenal job at being a client advocate as well as liaison between the markets and his clients. He is never afraid to confront any challenging situation head-on, take ownership of it and move it toward resolution.”
“Matt is very knowledgeable on construction management, as well as the insurance industry,” another client said. “I also think he’s extremely talented from a people skills standpoint, and he’s highly regarded at all levels of the insurance industry.”
The global upturn in commercial construction is, on the face of it, good news.
But many of our risk management sources caution that there is great risk in this upturn. Geographic challenges in catastrophe-prone areas and rapid changes in laws governing construction risk are just a few of these factors. Aon’s Matthew Walsh has built a unique analytics and brokerage platform tailored to address the risks of stakeholders in complex, global undertakings.
Walsh’s base in his 25 years in the business is Chicago, which as a venue ranks as either first or second in construction liability risk from year to year. He feels he’s learned a lot about the business, which is why he is so passionate about passing his knowledge on to a new generation of brokers.
“What has remained constant is that you need a vast team, with vast knowledge and access to vast resources to deliver in these environments,” Walsh said.
“Going it alone was, and never is, an option; it’s all about our team and always will be,” he said.
“At present, I am privileged to have a talented group of young people recruited from our career development program, and young leaders from the construction risk management community, to develop a new generation of construction risk tools delivered through a web portal environment.”
Driving Success for GM
Al Gier, GM’s director of Global Risk Management & Insurance, felt so strongly about Elisa Black’s work in 2013 that he nominated her personally as a Power Broker®. That’s quite an endorsement. In fact, Gier and Frida Berry, GM’s manager of Liability Risk Financing, agree that not only did Black manage that critical global juggling act, but she did it with her professional, focused style.
“Elisa was instrumental in helping reduce collateral requirements and improving the efficiency of the global claims handling process,” Gier said. “Her client philosophy focuses on being prepared and setting the marketing standard at the forefront of the negotiation.”
Gier explained that any broker can negotiate with a carrier post-quote. More impressive is doing the legwork so you come to the table prepared to negotiate ahead of time, a Black trademark. Also, for a large global enterprise, he said, timing is everything. So finalizing financial negotiations early allows the time to fulfill the administrative and contractual obligations of an insured — the lifeline of most international programs.
Gier said Black is great at articulating obligations and time constraints.
Bermuda Excess Market Wizardry
With the automotive market continuing to recover, the Bermuda excess market is looking to boost premiums come renewal time. To help alleviate that pricing stress, Chris Heinicke and his Aon team do their best to negotiate with markets to keep premiums from climbing.
In 2013, Heinicke faced a specific challenge for a client that was in the midst of a claims issue with one market that had a sizable amount of capacity on the excess casualty program. The issue was on a completely separate line of business, but was enough of a problem that the client had made the decision to cut this market from all of their lines of business. That decision was made after the entire program had already been quoted at the expiring premium and there was little to no capacity left in Bermuda. Heinicke and his team worked quickly by increasing capacity with the only market in Bermuda that had something available, and then worked with the U.S. and London teams to get the terms, pricing and capacity needed to replace the market. In the end, the client was pleased with the results and impressed at the quick response.
“Chris’ knowledge of the Bermuda markets helped us structure a program with the broadest coverage,” said the liability risk financing manager from another large automaker. “We have a very good risk profile, and Chris ensures we aren’t being charged improperly.”
A risk manager from a third automaker credited Heinicke with doing a “fantastic job” in helping the company identify critical areas the Bermuda markets focus on, as well as what is needed to communicate those key areas to underwriters.
Marshalling the Marsh Resources
In this case, the product over-shipment would create a much larger balance sheet exposure than the client would normally face. Also, the client’s treasury department wanted to use the large shipment to enhance cash flow as well as its borrowing base. Kowalski found a solution involving both private insurance and governmental support to manuscript a program that not only provided vital risk mitigation, but also enhanced this client’s cash flow management needs.
To make things happen, Kowalski often collaborates with Marsh brokerage teams on a global scale — from Detroit, New York, and Chicago to Bermuda, London, Zurich and various offices throughout Asia. Along the way, he has successfully placed complex risk finance programs involving more than 73 global markets and billions of dollars of capacity for a single line of coverage.
“Michael is our client executive and we have worked together for a number of years,” said Al Gier, director, Global Risk Management & Insurance at General Motors. “He has the skills we like to see in a broker — mainly, responsiveness and delivering the proper resources quickly.”
A Renaissance In U.S. Energy
America’s energy resurgence is one of the biggest economic game-changers in modern global history. Current technologies are extracting more oil and gas from shale, oil sands and beneath the ocean floor.
Domestic manufacturers once clamoring for more affordable fuels now have them. Breaking from its past role as a hungry energy importer, the U.S. is moving toward potentially becoming a major energy exporter.
“As the surge in domestic energy production becomes a game-changer, it’s time to change the game when it comes to both midstream and downstream energy risk management and risk transfer,” said Rob Rokicki, a New York-based senior vice president with Liberty International Underwriters (LIU) with 25 years of experience underwriting energy property risks around the globe.
Given the domino effect, whereby critical issues impact each other, today’s businesses and insurers can no longer look at challenges in isolation one issue at a time. A holistic, collaborative and integrated approach to minimizing risk and improving outcomes is called for instead.
Aging Infrastructure, Aging Personnel
The irony of the domestic energy surge is that just as the industry is poised to capitalize on the bonanza, its infrastructure is in serious need of improvement. Ten years ago, the domestic refining industry was declining, with much of the industry moving overseas. That decline was exacerbated by the Great Recession, meaning even less investment went into the domestic energy infrastructure, which is now facing a sudden upsurge in the volume of gas and oil it’s being called on to handle and process.
“We are in a renaissance for energy’s midstream and downstream business leading us to a critical point that no one predicted,” Rokicki said. “Plants that were once stranded assets have become diamonds based on their location. Plus, there was not a lot of new talent coming into the industry during that fallow period.”
In fact, according to a 2014 Manpower Inc. study, an aging workforce along with a lack of new talent and skills coming in is one of the largest threats facing the energy sector today. Other estimates show that during the next decade, approximately 50 percent of those working in the energy industry will be retiring. “So risk managers can now add concerns about an aging workforce to concerns about the aging infrastructure,” he said.
Increasing Frequency of Severity
Current financial factors have also contributed to a marked increase in frequency of severity losses in both the midstream and downstream energy sector. The costs associated with upgrades, debottlenecking and replacement of equipment, have increased significantly,” Rokicki said. For example, a small loss 10 years ago in the $1 million to $5 million ranges, is now increasing rapidly and could readily develop into a $20 million to $30 million loss.
Man-made disasters, such as fires and explosions that are linked to aging infrastructure and the decrease in experienced staff due to the aging workforce, play a big part. The location of energy midstream and downstream facilities has added to the underwriting risk.
“When you look at energy plants, they tend to be located around rivers, near ports, or near a harbor. These assets are susceptible to flood and storm surge exposure from a natural catastrophe standpoint. We are seeing greater concentrations of assets located in areas that are highly exposed to natural catastrophe perils,” Rokicki explained.
“A hurricane thirty years ago would affect fewer installations then a storm does today. This increases aggregation and the magnitude for potential loss.”
On its own, the domestic energy bonanza presents complex risk management challenges.
However, gradual changes to insurance coverage for both midstream and downstream energy have complicated the situation further. Broadening coverage over the decades by downstream energy carriers has led to greater uncertainty in adjusting claims.
A combination of the downturn in domestic energy production, the recession and soft insurance market cycles meant greatly increased competition from carriers and resulted in the writing of untested policy language.
In effect, the industry went from an environment of tested policy language and structure to vague and ambiguous policy language.
Keep in mind that no one carrier has the capacity to underwrite a $3 billion oil refinery. Each insurance program has many carriers that subscribe and share the risk, with each carrier potentially participating on differential terms.
“Achieving clarity in the policy language is getting very complicated and potentially detrimental,” Rokicki said.
Back to Basics
Has the time come for a reset?
Rokicki proposes getting back to basics with both midstream and downstream energy risk management and risk transfer.
He recommends that the insured, the broker, and the carrier’s underwriter, engineer and claims executive sit down and make sure they are all on the same page about coverage terms and conditions.
It’s something the industry used to do and got away from, but needs to get back to.
“Having a claims person involved with policy wording before a loss is of the utmost importance,” Rokicki said, “because that claims executive can best explain to the insured what they can expect from policy coverage prior to any loss, eliminating the frustration of interpreting today’s policy wording.”
As well, having an engineer and underwriter working on the team with dual accountability and responsibility can be invaluable, often leading to innovative coverage solutions for clients as a result of close collaboration.
According to Rokicki, the best time to have this collaborative discussion is at the mid-point in a policy year. For a property policy that runs from July 1 through June 30, for example, the meeting should happen in December or January. If underwriters try to discuss policy-wording concerns during the renewal period on their own, the process tends to get overshadowed by the negotiations centered around premiums.
After a loss occurs is not the best time to find out everyone was thinking differently about the coverage,” he said.
Changes in both the energy and insurance markets require a new approach to minimizing risk. A more holistic, less siloed approach is called for in today’s climate. Carriers need to conduct more complex analysis across multiple measures and have in-depth conversations with brokers and insureds to create a better understanding and collectively develop the best solutions. LIU’s integrated business approach utilizing underwriters, engineers and claims executives provides a solid platform for realizing success in this new and ever-changing energy environment.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.