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.”
Expertise and Knowledge
Key Air Inc. was getting ready to consider other brokers until Joseph Braunstein was assigned to their account, said Greg Kinsella, president and CEO of Key Air, which manages and operates aircraft owned by others. “We agreed that if we were going to Marsh that he would make the difference, and he definitely has,” said Kinsella. “It was really on the customer service side. He didn’t go through the motions and just offer minimum basic support. He really looked at our policies.”
Another major benefit Braunstein, Marsh’s General Aviation practice leader, offered Key Air is a user-friendly handbook the company can use to educate its clients on the various coverages available to them and how the policies would work when needed.
“Joe took the initiative to create that. It really gives me and my team a tool to sit down with our clients and educate them on aviation insurance,” Kinsella said. “It has helped us be more effective.”
He was able to transition the perception of insurance from a liability to an asset.
The director of operations for a large aircraft charter company praised Braunstein as “a fantastic resource.”
“When Joe and Marsh got our business, we immediately saw an increase in coverage and a decrease in premium,” he said.
In addition, Braunstein’s “expertise and knowledge in aviation insurance is quite evident. Joe is looking out for our interests and that’s something we did not have before.”
Sharing His Knowledge
John Geisen, senior vice president at Aon, has been an account leader in the aviation space for nearly two decades, and his clients have benefited from his in-depth knowledge.
“In the aviation industry, there are a lot of challenges that come up,” said Bill Hoyt, insurance risk manager at the Metropolitan Airports Commission, a public corporation that provides aviation services throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area, including operating the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
“The issues change almost every day,” Hoyt said. “In this industry, you have got to have someone who has a significant understanding of the risks. That’s what John has and that’s what John brings to the table for us.”
In addition to the typical coverage, Hoyt relies on Geisen for unusual coverage challenges, counting on him to determine whether current policy wording covers such a risk or if an endorsement is required. One example, he said, involved determining liability issues associated with glare and other risks related to solar panels.
For Karen Erazo, manager, Legal Affairs, Sun Country Airlines, Geisen’s attentiveness, knowledge and ideas are as welcome as his focus on keeping costs down.
One issue Geisen has been focusing on this past year is the workers’ compensation impact of senior flight attendants, she said. “He’s come up with suggestions on addressing lifting and other ways to help our flight attendants reduce the risk of injury,” Erazo said.
“He’s very knowledgeable and very anxious to share that knowledge,” she said.
Customization and Confidence
From helping out a mom-and-pop airline to covering aviation risks in war-torn countries, Jason Hendrix does it all. A pilot himself, Hendrix furthered his knowledge at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a college designed for aviation professionals, and as an aviation underwriter prior to becoming a broker.
“You can ask him anything about an airplane and he will tell you,” said Chrissy McCreary, supervisor, Risk Management, KBR, which operates air bases internationally, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Our corporate program is pretty specialized. We have bits and pieces all over the world and every project is different,” she said.
For Jake Duplechin, president and owner of Executive Aviation Management, Hendrix, an assistant vice president at Aon, helped him make his dream of owning his own aircraft management business a reality by fostering relationships with the insurance marketplace and putting together a fleet policy that covers the seven airplanes owned by about 15 companies.
“It’s almost like calling a buddy of mine on the phone but he’s such a professional when it gets down to it,” Duplechin said.
A challenge this year for CGG was the acquisition of a fleet of 28 aircraft in four countries.
“We never had to insure planes before,” said Erin Obrien Link, CGG’s enterprise risk management and insurance vice president. The situation was complicated by the planes being registered in different countries and having numerous local policies that were in effect. “He was able to put together a global policy, which was extremely complicated,” she said.
A True Partnership
As Intrepid Aviation was looking to grow, they called upon Drew Johnston, a vice president at Aon. “We were able to pivot very effectively from two aircraft to now 10 aircraft with customers in nine countries, said Intrepid’s chief investment officer, Brian Rynott. “We were looking for help to manage the portfolio and help plot out the growth trajectory, and someone to support us in that growth from an insurance perspective.”
Johnston was also crucial in coming up with a risk solution for Frank Perryman, president and CEO of Perryman Co., who is passionate about being in the left-hand seat and flying the company’s fleet of jet aircraft.
“Our qualifications are no different than professional pilots who would fly for any of the airlines, but being the owner and operator takes it to a unique difference,” Perryman said. “He takes the time to have an intimate knowledge of what we do and how we do it.”
Johnston also helped Perryman communicate the company’s message to their underwriter, which created “a better bond,” Perryman said. It also resulted in the liability limit the company required at a very competitive price. “There’s nothing that is cookie cutter anymore,” he said. “You have got to design solutions for each and every client and that’s what he did.”
Johnston also helps Beechcraft navigate its way through its international risks and the demands of its business partners, said Cheryl Herbst, manager, Insurance and Risk Management, Beechcraft. “They will ask for the moon,” she said. “He helps us find a solution, sometimes at the last minute.”
Chris Taylor “worked his magic” as he guided Hawker Beechcraft through a management liability renewal process prior to entering bankruptcy and in the formation of Beechcraft, the new company.
“There are special issues that arise, and it can be a real challenge to secure insurance prior to entering Chapter 11,” said Cheryl Herbst, manager, Insurance and Risk Management, Beechcraft. “However, thanks to Chris, we went through Chapter 11 with full coverage and a run-off policy.”
Taylor “just went above and beyond my expectations,” and worked late into the night as negotiations regarding formation of the new company took place. “The day we emerged as a new company, we had a total insurance program in place,” she said.
Taylor, a vice president at Aon, also was able to bring innovative solutions to a defense contractor, related to its wage and hour coverage and D&O needs, especially international D&O coverage.
Among the challenges he was able to address were dealing with the contractor’s multiple internal stakeholders, changing compliance requirements in various countries and communication issues with non-insurance professionals.
At another organization, a plastics manufacturer, Taylor had to handle a complex transaction with multiple U.S. and international D&O policies during an acquisition, which required extensive communication and time management as he worked with the new company’s risk management team and broker to align coverage to protect both companies.
AerSale has multifaceted and complicated aviation risk exposures, but William Willer was able to find ways to create solutions that work for both the company and underwriter.
“He provides excellent information and frankly seems to be able to get the underwriters to come along and cooperate with us. That impressed me,” said Gary Eakins, vice president and corporate counsel of AerSale Inc., an aircraft leasing company that ferries aircraft.
Insurance is very expensive for ferrying flights, and it goes up astronomically depending on the number of flights, said Eakins.
“That never made a lot of sense. It’s the landing and take offs that get you, not the number of miles you cruise at altitude,” he said. “Bill was able to moderate those costs in a reasonable and effective way.”
In addition, Willer’s technical knowledge has been extremely helpful in drafting contracts, and he has been very responsive. “The aviation space is quite small in terms of people. They all know each other. I find Bill to be very effective in dealing with underwriters when unusual issues come up or when we need to explore an area where we hadn’t been before,” Eakins said.
Willer, an area president at Arthur J. Gallagher, also helped an airline through a Chapter 11 process, while correcting some serious and costly actions caused by a previous broker, and helped the risk manager of an aircraft leasing company overhaul the entire risk management process.
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.