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Steve Yahn

Steve Yahn is a freelance writer and based in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. He has more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. He can be reached at

Expedition Exposures

Brokers Bankrolling Adventures

Retracing the route of Amelia Earhart is the most recent adventure made possible by brokers.
By: | September 2, 2014 • 7 min read

When it comes to great adventures, youth will be served by large insurance brokerages.

On June 26, weather permitting, 31-year-old aviatrix Amelia Rose Earhart will embark on an around-the-world flight retracing the route of her famous namesake. If successful, Earhart will become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft.


Earhart and her aircraft will be insured on a pro bono basis through policies structured and secured by Kansas City, Mo.-based Lockton Cos., the world’s largest privately held insurance broker.

“Lockton is thrilled to be a part of this legendary journey,” said Ty Carter, aviation producer at Lockton and the liaison coordinating the insurance protection for Earhart and for the Pilatus aircraft that she will be flying.

“We are passionate about aviation and appreciate Amelia’s efforts to raise awareness of the opportunities and experiences she provides. Her tenacity and spirit are truly inspiring.”

Though she is not a blood relative of the late Amelia Earhart, Amelia Rose Earhart has had a love of flying from an early age.

“I started dreaming of flying when I was 18 years old, and I’ve been flying for 10 years,” said Earhart, who planned the entire 17-stop route of her flight, which originates in Oakland, Calif.

Journey to the South Pole

Explorer Parker Liautaud and Willis Global Director of Communications

Explorer Parker Liautaud and Willis Global Director of Communications Nathan Hambrook-Skinner at the South Pole.

This venture was preceded by another headline-making adventure that teamed Willis Group Holdings plc with Parker Liautaud, a 19-year-old sophomore at Yale University who on Christmas Eve became the youngest man to ski to the South Pole.

Liautaud and companion Doug Stoup set a new speed record for the fastest-ever unsupported walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole in 18 days, four hours and 43 minutes.

Known as the Willis Resilience Expedition, the venture was jointly sponsored by Willis and EMC, a large global technology company.

On their expedition, Liautaud and Stoup were tracked by sophisticated communications housed in Ice Broker, a custom-built Toyota Hilux six-wheel truck that broadcast live around the world and on the expedition’s website. The truck was created by a team assembled by Willis and tested in Iceland.

“It was Parker who first approached Willis,” said Nathan Hambrook-Skinner, London-based director of communications for Willis Global. “He came to us early in 2013 with the idea that he wanted to ski to the South Pole.”

For Liautaud, it was the end of a long journey.

Until he connected with Willis, Liautaud spent 8 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. “every night without fail in the basement of the nearest library sending out emails seeking support for the venture,” he said.

As part of Willis’ aid for Liautaud’s adventure, the global insurer handled all insurance aspects.

“Risk management was a key focus for us.” — Nathan Hambrook-Skinner, Willis global director of communications

“Risk management was a key focus for us,” said Hambrook-Skinner. “You can’t really go to Antarctica without full evacuation insurance, which you’ll need to cover you if there’s any accident. Obviously we had that fully covered.”

Willis, a leading global risk adviser and insurance and reinsurance broker operating on every continent, also handled the insurance for the Ice Broker. And of course Liautaud and four other expedition members, including Hambrook-Skinner, were covered by insurance.


“We had a crisis risk management consulting team in London that was constantly monitoring our progress,” said Hambrook-Skinner. “If anything had gone wrong, they would have covered the expedition.”

Along with the snow-skiing record, major accomplishments of the venture included:

• Liautaud took snow samples along the journey that formed a valuable contribution to current studies on climate change.

“Overall, we were able to do much more in terms of data gathering and scientific exploration in previously unexplored and untouched part of Antarctica,” said Hambrook-Skinner.

• The expedition partnered with EMC to create data visualizations to engage the public in a better understanding of the science behind climate change and the importance to society.

• A lightweight weather station was tested for the first time in Antarctica.

“The objective of the venture for us as a global risk adviser and insurance broker at the forefront of supporting businesses and individuals all around the world was to help build resilience to extreme events and natural disasters, this being one of those events,” said Hammond-Skinner.

“So it was very natural for us to help support an expedition like this which was seeking to enhance understanding of how the world is changing and how climate matters might be changing over time and help shed some light on that,” Hammond-Skinner said.

Policy Parameters

For “The Amelia Project,” Earhart and her aircraft are structured and secured by Lockton through Global Aerospace. The policy provides a combined single limit for property damage and bodily injury, as well as physical damage to the aircraft.

“One of the key parameters essential to the primary policy was the inclusion of ‘worldwide territory.’ ” — Ty Carter, aviation producer, Lockton

“One of the key parameters essential to the primary policy was the inclusion of ‘worldwide territory’ ” said Lockton’s Carter. “Due to the nature of this trip, which will occur over approximately 19 days and include 28,000 miles, having a policy that allowed for flexibility in routing was critical to the program’s success.”

Lockton was chosen to handle all aspects of the expedition’s insurance because of Carter’s long-standing and close relationship with Pilatus aviation.

“I’ve owned two Pilatus planes and I’ve also been the former president of the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association,” said Carter. “I’ve had thousands of hours flying Pilatus aircraft.”

In financing the project, Earhart was greatly aided by Pilatus, which donated a Pilatus PC-12 NG single-engine aircraft for the flight.

In addition, with some help from Lockton, Earhart was able to sell 20 sponsorships to help pay for the flight.

“We were able to put their logos on the outside of the aircraft and also on my flight jacket as well as that of my co-pilot Shane Jordan,” said Earhart.

“I took it upon myself to bring in the sponsorships. I had never done any selling prior to that. I really knew nothing about the process getting started but I learned along the way.”

Lockton is dedicating a team of aviation experts to assist Earhart 24/7 during her flight, with regard to any insurance issue, “or for that matter any question to support her while she is making this journey,” Carter said.

“Our group internally is a mix of pilots, people who have been involved in the maintenance side and former underwriters,” he said. “We have a couple of people on our team who are fully dedicated to the project, literally from the time Amelia leaves until she returns.”

Prior to launching her flying career, Earhart was a helicopter traffic co-anchor for NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, where she also is president of the Fly With Amelia Foundation, which grants flight scholarships to girls between the ages of 16 and 18 and supports the advancement of general aviation opportunities.

Round Two for Solar Impulse

In another aviation promotional undertaking, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions will join Solar Impulse in a joint venture to launch the Solar Impulse 2 airplane in 2015, in an effort to fly around the world using only solar power.

It took 12 years of calculations, simulations, construction and testing to arrive at the launch of Solar Impulse 2, one of the most technologically advanced aircraft of our time, company officials said.

In 2012, Swiss Re became the sole insurer of Solar Impulse 2. The plane was considered uninsurable by others and yet made the first coast-to-coast crossing of the United States by a solar plane. See R&I’s story on that journey here.


“Insurance plays an important role in supporting pioneering projects in the renewable energy sector,” said Agostino Galvagni, CEO of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

“We believe that advancing renewable energy and clean technologies, and establishing them as integral components of the global energy mix, is crucial to ensuring a sustainable future.

“The intent of the Solar Impulse-Swiss Re Corporate Solutions partnership is to endorse and promote this message,” he said.

Steve Yahn is a freelance writer and based in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. He has more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. He can be reached at
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International Studies

Universities Cancel Classes in Israel

Citing security concerns, many U.S. schools have cancelled study programs in Israel. Other travelers appear more cautious than scared.
By: | August 27, 2014 • 4 min read

Amid the turmoil in the Middle East, a number of major American colleges and universities have cancelled fall semester undergraduate study programs in Israel.

Although a cease fire was recently announced, UMass Amherst had already cancelled all study for undergraduates in Israel for the fall semester, due to the fighting in the Gaza Strip, university officials announced.


The university said its International Risk Management Committee made the decision based on advice from the U.S. State Department, insurance companies, risk management consultants and other sources.

Insurance companies cover students for health, accidents, security and even evacuation, for some colleges.

New York University suspended its Tel Aviv program for the fall semester after being approached by some students and their families who expressed concern about the situation in the region.

“The safety of these 10 students was our foremost concern in our deliberations about whether or not to disrupt the academic program,” the university said. “We look forward to resuming classes at the Tel Aviv site in January.”

Other schools that have suspended programs in Israel or the West Bank include Trinity College in Hartford, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Claremont McKenna College in California, and Penn State, according to the Associated Press.

Colleges told the AP that security was the top concern.

“The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank,” according to the department’s latest travel advisory for the region.

“Israel is certainly on our list for civil unrest” at Middleburg, Va.-based Wallach & Co. Inc., providers of international travel insurance, said Belinda Smallwood, office manager.

“Basically, there are certain countries that go on the civil unrest list and underwriters can choose whether they want to add more war risk coverage,” she said.

John W. Cook, president of East Hartford, Conn.-based, said coverage for travel to Israel is still available, but the following exclusions are common to all travel insurance policies: declared or undeclared war, or any act of war; and any government regulations or prohibitions.

“So cancellations or interruptions caused either directly or indirectly by the military action will probably not be covered,” said Cook, whose firm’s website allows consumers to compare, review and buy travel insurance.

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president, Petersen International Underwriters

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president, Petersen International Underwriters

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president of Valencia, Calif.-based Petersen International Underwriters, said his firm has noticed that Israel has made an “incredibly strong push to say how safe it is to be in Israel.”

“When you get rockets lobbed near to the airport, it’s getting awfully close, but that doesn’t seem to penetrate a lot of people’s thinking,” said Petersen, whose firm is a Lloyd’s of London cover-holder that handles all forms of special risk insurance administration.

Petersen said his firm has not seen a decrease in sales of travel medical policies for Israel. “What we have seen is an increase in inquiries in war and terrorism coverage,” he said.

“I would say compared to normal it’s probably, on average, a 500 percent greater amount [of inquiries] compared to last year,” Petersen said. “Is that 50 more inquiries? Probably. I know it’s a significantly higher number of people asking about war and terrorism coverage than they ever have in the past.”

Indications are the same number of people in general still plan to travel and they don’t fear it, Petersen said. “They may be more cautious as opposed to scared,” he added.

Petersen noted that many of the requests his firm receives for travel medical policies are from fairly young people.


“A lot of them in theory have to be students, because a lot of them stay for six months or nine months or a year at a time,” he said. “I mean they’re not going just to see the Wailing Wall and then getting back here. They’ll be spending time there.”

Wallach & Co.’s Smallwood said the firm’s global health care plan for undergraduate students studying abroad lasts up to six months.

“You purchase it by the week and it’s $250,000 in coverage with a $100 deductible per illness or injury,” Smallwood said. “It covers accident and sickness coverage, which includes medical evacuation and repatriation.”

The standard rate would be $9 per week. In Israel, Wallach would have to know where a student was going to be located to determine a quote, Smallwood said.

Israeli educational programs are not the only victims of civil unrest. UMass Amherst also suspended programs in Syria, and St. Lawrence University in New York called off its program in Kenya, citing a State Department travel advisory.

Steve Yahn is a freelance writer and based in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. He has more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. He can be reached at
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Global Expansion

India vs. China

India is poised to win the battle to increase market share for insurance companies.
By: | August 25, 2014 • 5 min read

The governments of India and China are vying with one another to attract more foreign capital for their respective insurance industries.

Many observers say that India is best positioned to win that battle.

In a major development, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently proposed that foreign companies be allowed to own up to 49 percent of insurance companies in the country. The investment cap currently is 26 percent.

This change could attract billions of dollars for the insurance sector in India, industry officials said.

The insurance sector in India is worth $41 billion and lately has achieved a yearly growth rate of between 32 percent and 34 percent.

The legislation still has to pass, but the change in ownership law is seen by many industry experts as likely to be enacted.


“The industry has been waiting for this for a very long time,” Roopam Asthana, chief executive officer of Liberty Videocon General Insurance, told the Asian Business News.

India opened its insurance sector to private and foreign ownership in 2000, and most of the top international insurers have since entered the market.

The country also has implemented new accounting standards to bring India in line with the standards of the International Financial Reporting Standards.

“This would result in improved quality of financial reporting, which is critical for attracting foreign capital into the country,” Ashish Gupta, partner, Walker Chandick Co. LLP, said in an emailed statement.

Raising Premium Income

In China, meanwhile, the government has announced measures to develop its insurance industry, vowing to raise premium income to 5 percent of GDP by 2020.

The Chinese government has announced measures that will let insurers become “an important pillar of the social security system” instead of their previous role of playing “a supplementary function.”

The measures will let the insurance industry become “an important pillar of the social security system,” according to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China’s “Several Opinions on Accelerating the Development of the Modern Insurance Service Industry,” issued in July.

The state council said that commercial insurance providers will become the primary undertakers of individual and household programs and an important supplier of corporate pensions and health insurance.

Susan Munro and Amy (Yiting) Wang of New York-based Steptoe & Johnson LLP, said that “this is a significant change from the requirement that commercial insurance ‘play a supplementary function’ to the development of the social security system … and signals increased government expectations of insurers’ participation in tackling critical social issues.”

Additionally, insurance companies are being encouraged to support the development of urbanization, major infrastructure construction, and the long-term stable development of the stock and bond markets in China, the pair noted.

“The 2014 ‘Opinions’ also call for improved underwriting of risks for technology companies and research institutes, the vigorous development of credit insurance for small and micro enterprises, loan guarantee insurance for individual consumers and the development of export credit insurance and overseas investment insurance,” they said.

Consistent Growth

In India, the Confederation of Indian Industry stated that the insurance sector of the country has been witnessing a consistent growth rate and its present worth is $41 billion.


The industry of late has achieved a yearly growth rate of between 32 percent and 34 percent, and this makes it the fifth best among emerging economies around the world, according to the CII.

A survey by CII found that 60 percent of non-life insurance companies in India would record an average growth rate of more than 10 percent.

The various entities of the industry are also bringing out newer products on a regular basis to attract customers, the CII added.

One of the major reasons the insurance market in India is attractive is the growing level of awareness about insurance. People nowadays value their lives, their health and their families even more than before, said the CII.

Another reason for the growing popularity of insurance policies in India is the benefit of tax exemption that is provided to family-oriented and individual plans, observed the CII.

Growth in the Indian insurance market is being fueled by the growing population base, rising purchasing power, increasing insurance awareness, increasing domestic savings and rising financial literacy.

The Deloitte consulting firm said that, on the demand side, growth in the Indian insurance market is being fueled by the growing population base, rising purchasing power, increasing insurance awareness, increasing domestic savings and rising financial literacy.

Added Lloyd’s market intelligence team: “Remarkable economic growth is driving the development of new classes of business in the non-life insurance market in India and increasing demand for specialty insurance and reinsurance products.”

“From the period 2009 to 2012, Lloyd’s gross written premium in India grew from $164 million to $245 million,” the insurer said. “The opportunities which exist in India’s insurance market cannot be ignored.”

Chinese Market Participation

With the Chinese government encouraging increased foreign participation in its insurance market, several major international players are exploring the market.

Most recently, the Starr Cos., led by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former chief executive of American International Group Inc., has taken a 93 percent stake in Shanghai-based Dazhong Insurance Co. Ltd. of China.

The deal was described by Dazhong as the first foreign takeover of a state-backed Chinese general insurer. The Chinese insurer will be known as Starr Property & Casualty Insurance (China) Co. Ltd. or Starr China.

In a statement, New York-based Starr Cos. said it will expand the Chinese insurer’s product portfolio beyond its existing auto insurance programs “with an array of commercial property and casualty products. Chinese corporations and businesses will be able to access secure coverage for various exposures such as accident and health insurance, political risk, financial and management liability.”

Warren Buffett is also exploring the Asian market.

Buffett’s Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway has hired Marc Breuil, who previously headed AIG’s operations in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and Marcus Portbury, who was the head of casualty for the Asia-Pacific region, according to Dow Jones, citing persons with knowledge of the hires.

The hires “are part of the investment firm’s effort to build a commercial coverage business in Asia,” Dow Jones added.

Right now, though, the insurance battle between India and China is being won by India, most observers noted.

India’s diverse free-market private sector and relatively free legal and political system give the nation enormous advantages over China, said economist A. Gary Shilling, president of Springfield, N.J.-based A. Gary Shilling & Co., Inc., economic consultants and publishers of the monthly newsletter “Insight.”


“India has the basis for a strong economic future,” Shilling said. “They’ve got a democratic government, they’ve got the rule of law and they’ve got corporations that are private businesses; they’re not huge state companies like in China.”

Shilling added that China is a top-down economy and that private companies, by and large, are very small and unable to compete internationally, whereas in India they are.

Shilling also noted that India is the world’s largest democracy in terms of numbers. “And they speak English, which in today’s world that’s where the action is,” he said.

“In the long run,” he said, “and it may be many years, but I’d bet on India over China.”

Steve Yahn is a freelance writer and based in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. He has more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. He can be reached at
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