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Head of Western U.S. Zone, AXA XL

As his team prepares for a second year of virtual RIMS, Mike Soper, Head of Western U.S. Zone at AXA XL, shares his views on the state of the market and the exciting challenges and opportunities in a post-pandemic world.

What are the key traits of the Western U.S. Zone?

Our zone covers a very large geography comprised of the 13 States West of Colorado. Each of these States includes distinctive sub-regions and a unique set of market dynamics.

For example, in Northern California including Silicon Valley as we all know has evolved and changed rapidly from an innovation standpoint with technology, IPO’s and newly SPAC marketplace.

Other areas of the Zone including Southern California, the upper Pacific Northwest and the Mountain State area present a diverse set of industries that keep us motivated and working hard to match up our expertise and be able to provide innovative solutions.

Our Western Zone clients are sophisticated. In our daily dialogues with them, we know that they have extremely high expectations of AXA XL and we must keep up with innovation, analytics, claims trends and emerging risks

 

How would you describe the impact of COVID-19 in your zone?

In many ways, because of how much influence the tech sector has over the economy of our region, the Western Zone appears to have been able to navigate the transition to a full-time virtual world of business and operations quite smoothly. That is not to say the pandemic hasn’t been challenging and we will be dealing with its lasting effects for a long time.

Just as the rest of the country and world experienced in the early months of the Pandemic, we too were faced with a lot of uncertainty. However, our region adapted quickly to the physical limitations and challenges it posed. In fact, many of our clients were global leaders in providing solutions and models for best practices for what has now become the standard way of conducting business and getting deals done in a full virtual environment.

Even though 2020 was a very challenging year, our region has continued to see economic growth including multiple record-breaking IPO companies. For 2021, it has been estimated that despite lasting effects of the pandemic, California will lead the country out of the pandemic in overall growth and employment. This is a clear indicator of why we consider the Western Zone to be one of the most dynamic parts of the US. The credit goes to our employees and Western Zone Leadership team for driving through a tough time.

 

What are clients and brokers looking for from us?

Our clients and brokers are looking for trusted partners to jointly develop sophisticated, innovative short- and long-term solutions for their evolving risks. They value direct and transparent communication and responsiveness which is deeply ingrained in our organizational culture.

Our team works hand in hand with our brokers and clients to develop bespoke, custom insurance solutions to protect their investments today. As well as to pre-empt and plan future risks across a wide variety of sectors from hospitality and transportation, to construction and commercial real estate.

 

How are we uniquely positioned to help these industries/clients?

Two key factors differentiate us in the North American market: we are a very “flat organization” with empowered local underwriting experts who specialize in their regions; and we have a broad appetite that covers multi-risk solutions for a broad variety of large complex risks.

In the Western Zone our team collaborates in a very cohesive and data-driven way. When we partner with a client or broker, we bring together a highly skilled and collaborative group of risk analysts, claims specialists and subject expert underwriters with a long tenure of working together. These relationships are an asset to the service we provide to our partners.

 

What are some of the themes you expect to emerge from your discussions with brokers and clients at virtual RIMS?

Even though 2020 was challenging for everyone, our team had great success navigating virtual RIMS with a focus on quality of meetings and follow-up discussions with current and prospective clients. Our expectations for this year are to continue to expand from what we were able to build last year.

We expect to listen and learn more about how our clients are facing challenges with their business in the post-pandemic environment and how they see our partnership supporting their vision for the upcoming years. The world has changed, and we are all adapting and finding new ways to navigate the challenges and opportunities that this shift presents. We want clients to know that we are ready to join them in exploring new ideas and developing new solutions to manage present and future risks.

 

Mike Soper is the Head of the West US Zone for AXA XL. He can be reached at michael.soper@axaxl.com. To learn more about our US Insurance operations, check out our latest insights from US Country Manager Matt O’Malley and Head of the Central US Zone Todd Sutherland. Visit https://axaxl.com/rims2021 for additional information. 

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US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.