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.