Greenberg on Cuba
On a visit to Moscow in 1964, Hank Greenberg noticed a picture of a Havana office building on the desk of an official with the Soviet insurance company Ingosstrakh.
“That looks like the building where my company housed its insurance operations,” Greenberg — who was in Moscow seeking a travel risk reinsurance deal — told the official.
The C.V. Starr Companies had an office in Havana – pictured above – between 1943 and 1958.
“That may be,” the Soviet official replied. “Now it is the building where Ingosstrakh houses the Soviet Union’s Cuban operations,” he added.
“Please take care of that building,” Greenberg told the official. “We will get it back … soon.”
More than 50 years after Greenberg made that bold statement, as recounted in his 2013 book “The AIG Story,” the day that Starr Companies takes possession of its former property in Havana is not yet here.
“Change must come about, but how fast? I can’t answer that.” – Hank Greenberg, CEO and Chairman of the Starr Companies.
With the recent easing of travel restrictions to Cuba by the U.S. government, however, Starr Companies’ executives are checking on the condition and ownership of the building just the same.
Untangling the history of that Havana building is just one of the opportunities that are on the minds of business people in the United States since travel restrictions to Cuba were eased in January.
Greenberg expresses the hope that his company can one day re-open an insurance operation in Havana. At the same time, Greenberg said that there is much work yet to be done, on the part of both the public and the private sector, before anything like that can happen.
“Both governments have got to agree on the speed by which normalization would come into being,” Greenberg said.
Since the restrictions were eased, Greenberg reports that the Starr Companies’ travel services subsidiary Assist-Card International Holdings, which it acquired in 2011, is already seeing an uptick in inquiries from businesspeople interested in its travel protection services in Cuba.
“From what we can discern, there is a great deal of interest and a pent-up need to travel,” Greenberg said.
The hotel and restaurant business, agriculture and travel-related industries like cruise shipping and aviation are just a few of the industries that will see opportunities in nearby Cuba as relationships between that country and the United States open up.
There will also be an intense interest, Greenberg said, for people of Cuban descent who are United States citizens eager to visit their origin country.
However, more evolution in government relations must occur before many of those dreams can become a reality.
“Change must come about, but how fast? I can’t answer that,” Greenberg said.
One thing Greenberg is certain of. Free trade is the quickest route to building lasting bonds between the United States and Cuba.
“I think that where trade increases between countries generally you see change in attitudes and building better trust between countries. You learn from each other, it’s a faster way to normalize relations than anything I can think of,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg stressed that Assist-Card International isn’t the only U.S.-based insurance company or subsidiary in the travel risk business.
The Starr chairman indicated though that he expects his company to be a strong competitor.
“The challenges of doing business in Cuba are substantial,” Greenberg said.
“But Starr is well-positioned and prepared to leverage our relationships and global network to support our clients’ entry into this market.”
Handling Client Challenges
A major metropolitan transit authority with an extensive subway system, buses and paratransit vehicles faced significant limits and the potential for substantial increases in its excess liability policy, especially because of a claim related to a transit accident.
Handling the claim was a challenge, but Daniel Bancroft, leader of the Willis transportation practice, was able to provide important assistance even though he wasn’t the broker at the time of the accident.
After the accident, he reviewed the authority’s existing policy and created a new program that reduced the premium costs.
In addition, for the existing three-year agreement on the commercial excess liability, despite the accident, he was able to successfully exercise an option for a fourth year. With the new fourth year, he was able to keep the premium at the same level as the previous three.
“Dan has been able to have our exposures covered under our excess liability policies at a very substantial savings,” the risk manager said.
In another situation, a potential client had won a large contract to provide transit services, but the company didn’t have its insurance coverage in place — and it was less than 30 days before the new services were scheduled to begin.
With the deadline approaching, the client terminated its relationship with its insurance broker and hired Willis and Bancroft. He was able to secure the needed railroad liability and rolling stock coverage in time for the beginning of service.
Smoothing Out Client Complications
For governmental transit authorities and other large transportation operating entities, contractor management and vendor management issues present significant risks.
These issues can range from risk management on large construction projects to day-to-day management of hundreds of independent contractors. The challenge here is effectively transferring the risk for the authority or agency through these contracts.
A transit authority risk manager said, “Barbara has an incredible understanding of the transportation industry and has been especially helpful in assisting us in lowering our risk using the procurement process. She was especially helpful in developing, on an ongoing basis, the proper insurance language for complex contracts.”
Another client worked with more than 350 third-party consultants contracted for diverse, expensive and significant projects. Insurance certificate tracking was an ongoing issue, and Goodwin advised the client on ways to modify its system, including the data fields for legacy data and standardizing codes.
She developed a process for identifying needed insurance requirements, and her advice has streamlined the system and improved efficiency.
One of Goodwin’s clients also sought help on a contract that had substantial risk associated with the work that was to be completed. Goodwin, using mapping applications, was able to quickly respond with a viable solution to the risk manager.
Resolving Complex Issues
Depending upon the nature of the cargo in commercial trucking, potential losses can be dramatically high.
One large national trucking and transportation company suffered a substantial claim involving an independent operator and a contingent liability endorsement. Two truckloads of copper were stolen.
The theft was difficult to prevent because all the documents for the shipments, including the insurance certificates, were forged. Initially, under the policy, because the cargo was entrusted to imposters and not an independent trucker, the insurer denied coverage under the company’s contingent liability endorsement to the cargo policy.
However, because the bill of lading was issued to Alan Jones’ client, the trucking company, and not to the independent trucker/contractor, the loss was covered under the client’s cargo policy directly. Jones was instrumental in getting the issue resolved.
He also successfully convinced the carrier to treat the loss as a single claim, reducing what could have been two very expensive deductibles, one for each truckload.
“Alan is more responsive than any broker I have worked with,” the risk manager said, adding that Jones brings persistence, knowledge and experience to the relationship.
Another client with more than 1,100 owner-operators was involved in a merger that required the consolidation of coverage. Jones rolled umbrella, auto and general liability coverage into the policy for no additional cost for the first year. The client was able to save $400,000 in coverage expenses, while receiving a higher level of coverage.
Hard Work Brings Results
Megan McClellan’s clients commonly remark that she works harder than any other broker. She’s aggressive and generally improves coverage and lowers costs for her transportation clients.
Part of Marsh’s FINPRO practice, McClellan advises her transportation clients on financial and professional liability issues.
This past year, McClellan was new to the account of a large, publicly owned railroad client, a longtime client of Marsh.
“We were concerned when Marsh made some significant changes to our account team,” said the director of risk management. “We are strong on building a relationship. Megan came on board to replace the person on the account who was our key player,” he said.
The change worked out far better than expected.
“Megan is gracious and alleviated our concerns. She was able to quickly earn our confidence,” he said.
During her review of the client’s fiduciary liability coverage, she discovered that one of the policies was out of sync, in terms of the renewal period, with the other policies. She reduced costs by combining the coverage and balancing the terms.
Another large rail client endorsed her “extraordinary record” of service, responsiveness and enthusiasm. With this client, McClellan also achieved excellent results for renewals of fiduciary liability policies and the directors and officers liability coverage.
She has strong relationships with the markets, the client said, and because she is also a lawyer, she brings an important perspective to the process in this strongly regulated industry.
From Soup to Nuts
It’s not unusual for major transportation companies to own other, non-transportation operations. Railroad clients historically have had large real estate holdings and owned real estate developments.
However, one long-haul trucking company also owned a casino. Its risk manager said that Jack Welbourn, with his broad background, has “been able to help us with issues from soup to nuts.”
There’s the usual range of risks for truckers: cargo, commercial auto along with large excess liability, extensive property risks for transportation facilities, and of course, ongoing workers’ compensation issues.
But the casino has been a challenge.
The cost of insurance against potential hurricane force winds along the Gulf of Mexico coastline came in exceptionally high. Welbourn traveled to London to meet with the underwriters where he explained the extensive steps the client had taken to protect against wind damage and used a video produced by the client to illustrate the extensive precautions built into the facility.
The effort was successful, and the facility received a rare premium reduction.
He had similar success with the client’s workers’ compensation/occupational accident program. He restructured the program and tightened its terms, resulting in a $750,000 premium reduction along with fewer losses. Claims handling improved when the company replaced its TPA.
Helping Clients Grow
A short-line railroad client embarked on a major expansion by opening a new locomotive repair shop, an important step that brought on new growth opportunities but exposed them to new risks.
Jeremiah White, charged with developing a new overall insurance program, feared that the new facility could mean large premium increases.
Early on, he brought the property and casualty underwriters into the process. He arranged for a site visit by the underwriters to the new facility where the client could show the company’s commitment and record of effective safety programs.
The result: The renewal program was a success, with a minimal price increase along with significant changes in the property program reflecting the risks of the new repair shop.
Another client, a small Midwestern railroad that lacked passenger services, was presented with new risks arising out of a contract to allow a “polar express” excursion conducted by an outside contractor on their rail system. Management was unfamiliar with the complex risks involved with passenger rather than freight on the system, along with issues of contingent liability.
“Having people ride on the system is a very different animal for us,” a risk manager said.
As part of the process, White devised an “Insurance 101” program that helped senior management understand the risk issues, particularly as related to railroads, and the language and process of property casualty insurance.
A Modern Claims Philosophy: Proactive and Integrated
According to some experts, “The best claim is the one that never happens.”
But is that even remotely realistic?
Experienced risk professionals know that in the real world, claims and losses are inevitable. After all, it’s called Risk Management, not Risk Avoidance.
And while no one likes losses, there are rich lessons to be gleaned from the claims management process. Through careful tracking and analysis of losses, risk professionals spot gaps in their risk control programs and identify new or emerging risks.
Aspen Insurance embraces this philosophy by viewing the data and expertise of their claims operation as a valuable asset. Unlike more traditional carriers, Aspen Insurance integrates their claims professionals into all of their client work – from the initial risk assessment and underwriting process through ongoing risk management consulting and loss control.
This proactive and integrated approach results in meaningful reductions to the frequency and severity of client losses. But when the inevitable does happen, Aspen Insurance claims professionals utilize their established understanding of client risks and operations to produce some truly amazing solutions.
“I worked at several of the most well known and respected insurance companies in my many years as a claims executive. But few of them utilize an approach that is as innovative as Aspen Insurance,” said Stephen Perrella, senior vice president, casualty claims, at Aspen Insurance.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients. Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
— Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty Claims, Aspen Insurance
Utilizing claims expertise to improve underwriting
Acting as adviser and advocate, Aspen integrates the entire process under a coverage coordinator who ensures that the underwriters, claims and insureds agree on consistent, clear definitions and protocols. With claims professionals involved in the initial account review and the development of form language, Aspen’s underwriters have a full sense of risks so they can provide more specific and meaningful coverage, and identify risks and exclusions that the underwriter might not consider during a routine underwriting process.
“Most insurers don’t ever want to talk about claims and underwriting in the same sentence,” said Perrella. “That archaic view can potentially hurt the insurance company as well as their business partners.”
Aspen Insurance considered a company working on a large bridge refurbishment project on the West Coast as a potential insured, posing the array of generally anticipated construction-related risks. During underwriting, its claims managers discovered there was a large oil storage facility underneath the bridge. If a worker didn’t properly tether his or her tools, or a piece of steel fell onto a tank and fractured it, the consequences would be severe. Shutting down a widely used waterway channel for an oil cleanup would be devastating. The business interruption claims alone would be astronomical.
“We narrowed the opportunity for possible claims that the underwriter was unaware existed at the outset,” said Perrella.
Risk management improved
Claims professionals help Aspen Insurance’s clients with their risk management programs. When data analysis reveals high numbers of claims in a particular area, Aspen readily shares that information with the client. The Aspen team then works with the client to determine if there are better ways to handle certain processes.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients,” said Perrella. “Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
For a large restaurant-and-entertainment group with locations in New York and Las Vegas, Aspen’s consultative approach has been critical. After meeting with risk managers and using analytics to study trends in the client’s portfolio, Aspen learned that the sheer size and volume of customers at each location led to disparate profiles of patron injuries.
Specifically, the organization had a high number of glass-related incidents across its multiple venues. So Aspen’s claims and underwriting professionals helped the organization implement new reporting protocols and risk-prevention strategies that led to a significant drop in glass-related claims over the following two years. Where one location would experience a disproportionate level of security assault or slip & fall claims, the possible genesis for those claims was discussed with the insured and corrective steps explored in response. Aspen’s proactive management of the account and working relationship with its principals led the organization to make changes that not only lowered the company’s exposures, but also kept patrons safer.
World-class claims management
Despite expert planning and careful prevention, losses and claims are inevitable. With Aspen’s claims department involved from the earliest stages of risk assessment, the department has developed world-class claims-processing capability.
“When a claim does arrive, everyone knows exactly how to operate,” said Perrella. “By understanding the perspectives of both the underwriters and the actuaries, our claims folks have grown to be better business people.
“We have dramatically reduced the potential for any problematic communication breakdown between our claims team, broker and the client,” said Perrella.
A fire ripped through an office building rendering it unusable by its seven tenants. An investigation revealed that an employee of the client intentionally set the fire. The client had not purchased business interruption insurance, and instead only had coverage for the physical damage to the building.
The Aspen claims team researched a way to assist the client in filing a third-party claim through secondary insurance that covered the business interruption portion of the loss. The attention, knowledge and creativity of the claims team saved the client from possible insurmountable losses.
Modernize your carrier relationship
Aspen Insurance’s claims philosophy is a great example of how this carrier’s innovative perspective is redefining the underwriter-client relationship. Learn more about how Aspen Insurance can benefit your risk management program at http://www.aspen.co/insurance/.
Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty, can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is provided for news and information purposes only and does not necessarily represent Aspen’s views and does constitute legal advice. This article reflects the opinion of the author at the time it was written taking into account market, regulatory and other conditions at the time of writing which may change over time. Aspen does not undertake a duty to update the article.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Aspen Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.