We picked this list of executives to watch from among U.S. commercial insurance and reinsurance companies. Brokerage, risk management, third-party administrator, pharmacy benefit management and insurance trade group executives were not considered. And in the end, we decided to leave off the list the three carrier executives (Carsten Scheffel of Allianz, Seraina Maag of XL, and Maurice "Hank" Greenberg of Starr Cos.) that we profiled in depth on our cover in 2011.
These 12 execs were chosen mainly because we know they face crucial challenges and decisions in 2012 and their moves and strategies likely will be closely watched by others in the commercial insurance industry.
Executives to Watch
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty Americas
Hugh Burgess, 43, was named CEO of AGCS Americas in July 2011, and since then he's been pushing to expand AGCS' presence in Canada, Mexico and Brazil, as he builds on the strategy put in place by his predecessor Carsten Scheffel.
In Canada, Allianz is writing seven business lines: marine, aviation, property, engineering/construction, liability/casualty, financial lines and energy/oil and gas. This year, AGCS launched a package and multiline product that combines property/casualty policies for commercial businesses with less than $100 million revenue.
To the south, AGCS is solidifying its market share in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, where Allianz is looking to establish its own reinsurance company, with substantial business fronted by sister company Allianz Seguros.
The reason for the push in North and South America is simple. The region accounted for 26 percent of AGCS' 2011 gross written premiums, and AGCS wants to increase that share by deepening relationships in those markets.
Allianz is based in Germany, and given the exposures to financial issues facing the EU, the company is looking to the Americas and Burgess to contribute to profits. That would raise Burgess' profile, and make him an executive to watch in 2013.
Liberty International Underwriters, US and Latin America
The rank and file and the leadership of Liberty International Underwriters, the global specialty lines business of Liberty Mutual, still think of themselves as a startup, even though the business unit was formed in 1999.
Heading U.S. and Latin American operations is David Cohen, who looks at 2013 as a year in which the division will continue to diversify, seeking new markets in which to grow. Cohen recently brought in Jeff Herman as senior vice president of LIU Accident and Health as part of that effort.
Cohen also said recently he wouldn't be surprised to see LIU come out with a medical malpractice product in 2013.
Parent company Liberty Mutual's focus on specialty lines and reinsurance is paying off. Liberty Mutual's international business, of which LIU comprises a substantial piece, recorded $8.56 billion in revenue in 2011, an 8 percent jump over the previous year ... which is why the market needs to keep a close eye on Cohen in 2013.
The potential for growth in a place like Brazil is intriguing, as is the possibility of further decentralization of the insurance and reinsurance markets there. It will require deft leadership to grow profitably in those markets.
President & CEO
Starr Indemnity & Liability Co.
Everybody at Starr Cos. knows that they have to keep Chairman and CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg happy. That holds just as true for Charles "Chuck" Dangelo, president and CEO of Starr Indemnity & Liability Co.
Starr Cos. have 11 offices around the country. That includes Starr's flagship New York headquarters as well as regional offices in key cities such as Los Angeles and Boston.
But the company is planning to expand to six more cities over the next 18 months, and the responsibility for executing the expansion will fall to Dangelo, who joined Starr in 2009 after working at AIG.
Insurance companies thrive with great underwriters, and you can bet that the Starr Cos. have their share. Still, that won't do you enough good if the people you want to do business with don't get to meet your people face to face.
See if you can catch a glimpse of Dangelo during your travels in the Midwest and in the Southeast in the coming months. We'll wager Dangelo will be spotted in those locales, seeking new locations in helping to expand the company's footprint in the construction, energy, environmental, excess liability, financial, and accident and health lines of coverage.
Marlyss J. Gage
Senior Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer
The Travelers Companies Inc.
Two years ago, low prices offered by The Travelers Cos. Inc. made it one of the most competitive insurers in the commercial property/casualty marketplace.
But Travelers, like nearly every other property/casualty carrier, could no longer rely on investment income to make up for soft pricing.
Travelers broke ranks and raised rates. Profitability jumped, the competition took note and CEO Jay Fishman was given much of the credit for following his instincts.
Behind the scenes was Marlyss J. Gage, senior vice president and chief underwriting officer, and a member of the company's executive leadership team.
No doubt, Gage, co-founder of the company's Enterprise Risk Committee, figured prominently in the company's discussion leading up to the rate increases.
Raising rates was a bold move. Since prices appear to have peaked, buyers are likely to take higher retentions to counteract the higher pricing.
Now that Travelers has raised prices, analysts can only wonder what is in the offing to maintain profitability.
Gage will be one who knows the answer, and that's why she's one to watch in 2013.
Zurich in North America
It may be a reach to call Dalynn Hoch, CFO of Zurich in North America, the company's new international woman of mystery. Still, you might be onto something if you did. Hoch is one of many new faces at Zurich. For more than a year she's been on international assignment as head of "global finance transformation" on several projects.
The projects include changes to how Zurich approaches management, the development of a transformational team, and the delivery of an "executable transformation plan," according to the company.
This begs the question, what kind of transformation is Zurich working on for its North America unit?
Hoch, trained as an accountant, joined the company in 2009 after working at KPMG LLC in Minneapolis. She joined Zurich as a member of the company's performance management team known for digging deep into a company's varied businesses using analytical tools.
With more than 15 subsidiaries underwriting property/casualty in the North American market, "transformation" is no small undertaking at Zurich, particularly for a company with a culture often seen as slow to change, and with North American executives who need to take their cues from risk-averse Switzerland, where corporate headquarters are located.
Manager, Business Risk Consulting Group
The catastrophes that slammed the property/casualty industry in 2011 underscored the vulnerability of the global supply chain, and in the wake of the losses, Eric Jones found himself in demand by FM Global and its clients.
Last year, he said, "provided teachable moments that hit many companies right between the eyes."
Headlines about companies that suffered as a result of the Thailand floods helped raise awareness among organizations that didn't necessarily experience any losses. The cataclysms of 2011 also brought home the fragility of supply chain dependencies, Jones said. And just like that, the profile of Jones and the group of 10 business risk consultants he leads rose by orders of magnitude.
Now Jones and his team are busy incorporating property risk into the lessons learned from the brutal year that was 2011. Those lessons are being passed on to clients and to FM Global itself, which took significant earnings hits in 2011.
"As a result of the incidents in 2011, we've seen many companies taking a much more proactive approach to addressing these risks recently," he said.
Supply chains were pounded by catastrophes, whether caused by climate change or not, and those who have not yet heard of Eric Jones might gain from an introduction.
Chairman and CEO
ILS Capital Management Ltd.
Don Kramer, a self-described "failed retiree," is at it again. Kramer, a Bermuda-based startup specialist, has now taken aim at the insurance-linked securities market.
Kramer launched ILS Capital Management Ltd. to offer investors insurance-linked securities, or financial instruments whose values are driven by insurance loss events. In exchange, investors get the chance to earn higher returns than in traditional, currently low-yielding investment markets.
Kramer, founder of Tempest Re in 1993 and Ariel Re in 2005, is a serial entrepreneur in the world of reinsurance and alternative risk. If Kramer puts his money in insurance-linked securities markets instead of plain-vanilla reinsurance, change is afoot.
"Insurance is an expense for corporations, who are under pressure," Kramer said. "They're not suddenly going to pay 20 percent more in premiums because you're not getting that investment income any more."
There were no traditional reinsurance startups formed in Bermuda in the wake of the devastating losses of 2011. Instead, investors poured money into insurance-linked securities and catastrophe bonds managed by companies like ILS Capital and Swiss Re.
Thomas F. Motamed
Chairman and CEO CNA Financial Corp.
Now that Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Motamed has had three years to pare down and refocus CNA, a strong specialty carrier with a solid presence in the middle market, the former Chubb veteran is looking to set the company on the path to expansion.
Exhibit A: The July 2 announcement of the CNA acquisition of Hardy, the Lloyd's syndicate No. 382, which underwrites marine and aviation, property and specialty business, along with treaty reinsurance, from offices in the U.K., Bermuda, Bahrain, Guernsey and Singapore.
"The acquisition of Hardy aligns with our specialized underwriting focus and will be a key platform for expanding global business through the Lloyd's marketplace," the company said, in a filing earlier this year.
CNA, a venerable name in the property/casualty world, suffered some turbulent years and needed a shake-up in its corporate culture.
Motamed, who spent 31 years at Chubb Corp. before he was hired away in 2009, has shown he's up to the task, replacing several key executives and steering the company back to consistent profitability.
Now Motamed is in a position to prove that he can grow the company by looking abroad, and that makes him one to watch in 2013.
Liam E. McGee
Chairman, President and CEO
The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.
When Liam McGee, chairman, president and CEO of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., assumed leadership of the venerable underwriter in the fall of 2009, the company had a sizable variable annuity business and an investment portfolio with exposures to real estate and financial holdings. In other words, it had big problems.
With the economy in free fall, The Hartford took $3.4 billion from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program and $2.5 billion in aid from Allianz SE.
Within months of McGee joining, the company raised a new round of capital and repurchased the TARP investment, as it worked to stabilize itself.
Under McGee's leadership, the company early this year announced it would spin off much of its life business, which the company had entered in 1959. The blockbuster announcement, in which the company also said it was closing its annuity business, effectively meant doubling down on its property/casualty business.
The market will be watching McGee and his leadership team over the next year as The Hartford works to remake itself for a long-term, sustainable future in the property/casualty fold. Will McGee, the former Bank of America consumer banking head, still be in the leadership role when 2013 comes to a close? Stay tuned.
President, Excess & Surplus Lines
Roxanne Mitchell, president of excess & surplus lines for XL Insurance, has executed a 180-degree turn-around for the company's E&S business. Recruited to XL Insurance more than a year ago, she was given the mission of quickly shoring up the company's competitive position in the excess and surplus marketplace.
Since joining the company in July 2011, Mitchell took the company's single general liability surplus lines platform and built out the excess and surplus capabilities to include property, railroad, wholesale umbrella and auto. As president of the company's surplus lines business, Mitchell oversees five major surplus lines for XL's wholesale partners.
Mitchell came to XL Insurance with a reputation for knowing how to underwrite complex risks, and she had the support of Seraina Maag, chief executive of XL Insurance's North America Property & Casualty unit, and Bob Shine, the unit's chief casualty underwriting officer.
Before joining XL, Mitchell served as an executive for Lexington Insurance Co., the surplus lines carrier for AIG. She led the growth of Lexington's business in the Midwest region from approximately $85 million in 1996 to $750 million in 2011, and served in a number of managerial positions before she was lured away.
AIG Global Property Division
George Stratts, president of AIG's Global Property Division, is responsible for establishing and executing strategy, managing operations, and ensuring the profitability of AIG's commercial and energy property insurance businesses worldwide.
He's playing a leading role in the company's initiative to globalize its products and upgrade its engineering and IT systems in an attempt to fit a global footprint.
With that kind of job portfolio and working for the world's largest property/casualty company, Stratts is a man to watch.
AIG called on Stratts because of his experience in building diverse commercial property teams on a global scale, and because of his depth of technical expertise in property insurance in regulated and nonregulated markets.
Stratts, an AIG veteran having served in the company in many capacities, is a go-to executive for the company. Prior to 1999, he was president and CEO of AIG's Global Marine and Energy Division where he oversaw the global energy casualty, property, oil rig and global marine product lines.
For industry watchers, the question isn't whether Stratts and his division will do well. The question is where he will end up next, as it likely signals where AIG is in need of a tested veteran, or where the company thinks it can make big gains.
Chief Field Executive Fireman's Fund
Kathleen Zortman, chief field executive for Novato, Calif.-based Fireman's Fund, is responsible for leading the company's field underwriting, customer service and sales teams.
Hired last year, Zortman is going to play a key role in rebuilding bridges with the underwriter's distribution force, which was left confused and frustrated as several CEOs turned over in the recent past.
Zortman's sales and service teams represent approximately 40 percent of Fireman's Fund's overall employee population, so her responsibilities at the Allianz-owned property/casualty insurer are critical.
She has espoused a back-to-basics strategy. "We need to know who we are, and focus on underwriting discipline, responsible pricing, and being effective and efficient as an organization," she said.
"I just don't mean back office, but how we organize ourselves around the customer."
How she executes that strategy is why the marketplace should pay attention to Zortman next year, as she delivers on CEO Lori Dickerson Fouché's goal to return the company to its strengths: insuring high net worth clients with specialized underwriting sold through the company's deep agent and broker network.
Allied World Reinsurance
When your corporate parent, Allied World Assurance Co., calls off a $2.94 billion merger with another reinsurance company, as it did with Transatlantic Holdings over the summer, it's time to pull out the monocle to keep an eye on Allied World's U.S. reinsurance operations head John Bender. Bender is president of Allied World Reinsurance, the U.S. reinsurance arm of the Swiss-based insurance holding company.
After joining the company in the fall of 2007, Bender added a casualty presence to his U.S. growth strategy, targeting regional and middle-market clients that do not have easy access to the Bermuda marketplace. General casualty makes up 32 percent of Allied World Reinsurance's global product mix.
In 2009, he added property reinsurance to focus on small- and medium-account regional carriers. He launched specialty marine, aviation and satellite reinsurance, as well as crop and hail coverage.
With well-placed mentors like Allied World Assurance's director James Duffy, Bender is one to watch in 2012, particularly if Allied World reveals itself on the hunt for another target.
William R. Berkley
Chairman and CEO
W.R. Berkley Corp.
William R. Berkley has been in the insurance business ever since he launched his company with $2,500 out of Harvard's business school in 1967. That means he's been playing the property/casualty coverage game for nearly 45 years. He loves the niches, having built a small empire on insuring NFL teams, cooperative apartment buildings, tanning salons and scuba-diving operations risks that mainstream carriers just won't touch.
This year, the company bearing his name formed Berkley Re UK Ltd. and Berkley Techology Underwriters. Last year, the company formed Verus Underwriting Managers. In 2009, Berkley launched underwriting units in professional services, agribusiness, transportation, and the oil and gas sectors. It set up a Lloyd's syndicate.
Just how long Berkley, 67, is going to keep working is exactly what some industry watchers are curious about. His son, William Berkley Jr., is being groomed to take over the business once his father steps aside. Will that be next year? No one knows, but you can bet people will be watching.
President, Field Operations
LoriAnn Lowery-Biggers, field operations president of Navigators Management Co., has made a point to say publicly that, despite the name, Navigators isn't just a marine underwriter.
It's much bigger than that, as they say in Texas where Lowery-Biggers returned a couple of years ago to take the senior executive position Navigators created for her. The firm also offers a variety of property and casualty lines and specialty coverages such as customs bonds.
With the former Lloyd's North American president cast in a leading role, the company recently set sail for expanding markets to the south, and is building a Latin American reinsurance arm. Macquarie Securities analyst Ryan Byrnes said he expects some growth in that sector in 2012.
Still, Navigators remains one of the largest ocean marine underwriters, and Byrnes said the marine energy field in particular should see some rate increases because of recent losses connected to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Peter J. Eastwood
President and CEO
Lexington Insurance Co.
Peter J. Eastwood, president and CEO of Lexington Insurance Co., is a protégé of Kevin Kelley, perhaps the most respected surplus lines underwriting executive working in the world today.
Still relatively young, but already with 20 years of experience at AIG under his belt, Eastwood earlier this year was given the additional title of president and CEO of Chartis U.S. as part of AIG's reorganization of its crown jewel in commercial property/casualty.
If AIG is prepared to bestow additional responsibilities onto Eastwood, it's a measure of the high regard in which AIG's brass holds its young, up-and-coming leader.
With Lexington already the No. 1 U.S. surplus lines underwriter, and the surplus lines marketplace having reached a growth plateau, Eastwood is in a position to deploy his considerable talents helping to rebuild Chartis.
That's why the industry needs to keep tabs on Eastwood.
Lori Dickerson Fouché
Fireman's Fund Insurance
Lori Dickerson Fouché, formerly president of the Fireman's Fund commercial insurance business, in July was promoted to the top job -- the fifth CEO for the Novato, Calif., insurer in six years.
With Fouché still honing her corporate strategy, it's worth watching what unfolds at Fireman's in 2012. Look for this Princeton and Harvard-educated executive to put her imprint on operations.
Brian O'Larte, a senior financial analyst at A.M. Best Co., doesn't think there will be a change in the near-term strategy of focusing on small to middle-market commercial lines and specialized niches, such as entertainment and personal lines for high-net worth individuals.
Expect Fireman's, which is owned by Germany's Allianz SE, to put to good use Fouché's heavy marketing background at the company and previously at Specialty Insurance in New York, N.Y.
"The company wants to strengthen its relationship with independent agents and I think Lori is more than qualified to do that," O'Larte said. "Just talking to the CEO is a big thing for some agents. Lori has got that kind of personality and so communication should improve."
Evan G. Greenberg
Chairman and CEO
Evan G. Greenberg, who once worked in the shadow of his famous father Hank Greenberg at AIG, has made a name for himself in commercial insurance as chairman and CEO of ACE Ltd.
Some would argue that the younger Greenberg, 56, now should be regarded among the industry's titans for growing ACE into a major force in the global insurance marketplace. To that end, the prestigious St. John's University School of Risk Management will recognize him in January in New York City as its 2011 Insurance Leader of the Year.
During the stressful economy, Greenberg positioned a strong ACE to take advantage of opportunities to expand in the United States and Asia. Securities analysts have called him astute for putting together a diverse mix of insurance risks around the world, making ACE less exposed to soft pricing in America.
Recent acquisitions he's orchestrated in Malaysia and South Korea, and the insurer's bigger foray into U.S. crop insurance have lifted company profits and its stock price this year. Greenberg expects to keep expanding ACE's market reach next year. Watch him to see where he leads ACE in 2012.
Peter D. Hancock
Even if AIG isn't as big, as rich or as powerful as it used to be, the company casts such a shadow over the entire property/casualty universe that everyone takes notice of what happens at the insurance giant.
Peter D. Hancock, a former vice chairman of KeyCorp and senior manager at J.P. Morgan, joined AIG in February 2010. He was appointed CEO of Chartis in March, part of a reorganization of Chartis into a more streamlined structure consisting of two major global groups, commercial and consumer insurance.
Despite the near collapse of AIG three years ago, Chartis has retained 92 percent of its clients, and its property/casualty carrier's management bench remains loaded with talent.
In September, Hancock said Chartis was going to emphasize "value over volume." Its goal is not to become the biggest but the most valuable property/casualty company in the world. Hancock will be expected to boost profitability at Chartis and thereby help enhance the equity value of AIG.
It's a bold promise and a formidable challenge, and why he bears watching in 2012, particularly in light of heavy catastrophe losses reported in the third quarter.
Kevin Kelley, CEO of Ironshore, is an underwriter's underwriter. As former CEO of Lexington Insurance Co., the No. 1 U.S. surplus lines underwriter, Kelley knows this marketplace better than anyone else.
Not only has Kelley mentored rising stars like Peter Eastwood, Lexington's current president and CEO, and Roxanne Mitchell, who's running the excess and surplus lines group at XL Insurance, but he has turned in some impressive numbers.
Ironshore wrote $520.6 million in U.S. surplus lines business last year, according to A.M. Best, a 66 percent increase over the 2009 figure. In terms of percentage growth, no company in A.M. Best's ranking of the top 25 U.S. surplus lines writers came even close.
Sure, Kelley has a ways to go to catch his alma mater, Lexington, which wrote $5.34 billion in U.S. surplus lines business in 2010. But watch out. Who do you think got Lexington there in the first place?
Under his guidance, specialty insurer Ironshore has consistently extended its reach in the United States, Canada, Bermuda, United Kingdom and Ireland. That's why Kelley bears watching to see if he can keep Ironshore on its torrid growth pace.
Liberty Mutual CEO David Long, an Englishman, took over this year for Irishman Edmund G. "Ted" Kelly, at a time when Liberty Mutual's top and bottom lines look cheery.
Still, the workers' compensation market will test Long's leadership skills. His insurance industry peers and Wall Streets analysts will be looking closely at his stewardship of one of the industry's most respected brands.
The workers' comp line represents more than 50 percent of the company's commercial markets business and net written premiums have slipped. Liberty, like many companies, seems to be trying to pick up the difference in the plump employee benefits arena. With workers' comp comprising so much of its commercial business, some question whether the company is overexposed to the line, particularly when the market appears headed for a rough couple of years.
Lloyd's of London
John Nelson, a former investment banker for three decades, in October replaced the big shoes of retiring Lloyd's of London Chairman Lord Peter Levene.
Hit hard by a wave of catastrophes in 2011, a protracted soft pricing market and impending Solvency II regulation, Nelson steps in at a crucial juncture for venerable Lloyd's. He's only the second outsider at the top of Lloyd's in its 323 years.
Chris Waterman, managing director and head of EMEA Insurance at Fitch Ratings, said his agency will be closely watching whether Lloyd's premiums will rise in 2012, "the only lever available to improve profitability."
Expect Nelson to sound the alarm over potential excessive regulation. In April, he told The Daily Telegraph he plans on heavily lobbying the U.K. government on the threat that would be imposed on the insurance industry "were regulation to be ramped up much more."
Ryan Specialty Group
Patrick G. Ryan, who turned Aon Corp. into the largest brokerage in the world, is no stranger to having "skin in the game."
He re-entered the fray more than a year ago by investing $300 million of his own money into Ryan Specialty Group, a wholesale brokerage and underwriting company with which he hopes to make a big impact in 2012 and beyond by insuring complex, specialty risks around the world.
The company is acquiring businesses and talent at a fervid pace. A recent acquisition includes Lloyd's specialty insurer Jubilee Group Holdings.
Ryan Specialty is also taking aim at insuring developing or expanding industries, such as renewable energy, life science and construction.
Ryan, an industry titan, is hitting his stride again. Keep an eye on where he goes in 2012.
President, U.S. Insurance
Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd.
Mario Vitale enjoys building, and that's what appealed to him this year when he was offered the job to build the U.S. insurance operation for Bermuda's Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd.
Vitale, 55, hit the ground running as president, laying the foundation for Aspen to grow. The soft insurance market, notwithstanding, he thinks the marketplace has shifted into a self-correcting phase that creates opportunities for smaller, specialty insurers to flourish with a strategy that doesn't rely solely on pricing. Aspen has secured licenses to sell policies in 47 states, and has opened field offices in New York and San Francisco. He expects to open more offices soon in Chicago and Houston. Aspen targets risks Vitale refers to as "niches within niches."
Aspen will have plenty of rivals as it attempts to establish itself next year as a formidable player. With Vitale's resume including the former CEO of Zurich in North America's global corporate business, and a senior executive with broker Willis, it's worth watching him steer Aspen in 2012.