Putting up a strong global front
Personal Perspectives on Commercial Property Insurance
After graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a degree in chemical engineering, Andy Starnes might not have imagined a career in insurance. But like many of the most skilled property underwriters in the commercial property underwriting business, he put his analytical mind and engineering skills to work helping others manage risk -- first as a property underwriter, then as a broker and now back as an underwriting manager helping address property risks throughout the Western US.
Andy’s success in underwriting large property risks has a lot to do with his knowledge of chemistry – particularly his ability to develop good chemistry with his clients. Insuring large property risks is not a transactional business, it is a relationship business, says Andy. The relationship, Andy contends, is particularly important for a business looking to extend beyond US borders. According to Andy, an insurer’s ability to service US-based clients’ global operations is more important than ever, but has significant advantages in California and other parts of the West. Here’s why.
What makes finding property insurance solutions for West Coast businesses, especially in California, so interesting?
Starnes: California’s economy is by far the most interesting mix of domestic and international business. For one, it’s the 6th largest economy in the world. If it were a country, California’s $2.6 trillion economy would take the spot right behind the UK. Plus, the state represents 14% of the U.S. economy. From agriculture to tech startups that have become global technology powerhouses, this region is full of large and diverse industries that are growing here and globally and that makes it very interesting for an underwriter like me.
Regardless of where they are headquartered, businesses are operating in a globalized marketplace. California, especially the San Francisco region where I’m based, is a very active hub of international business. While they might have to contend with earthquake capacity in California, they might also need to address similar risks for their operation in Mexico, or any other location in the world.
How are you equipped to address clients’ global property insurance needs from your office in San Francisco?
These days, more risk managers are finding themselves trying to “think global” as well as “act local” to keep pace with the risk management needs of expanding international operations. They are looking for local contact points, like me, that can help them access to a global network that includes strong underwriting and claims management capabilities as well as expertise in the various insurance jurisdictions its clients operate in. As part of a global insurance organization like XL Catlin, that’s what we can offer. Right now, XL Catlin leads more than 2,700 global insurance programs, encompassing over 19,000 policies worldwide.
In a global economy, why is building a global insurance program such a challenge?
Insurance is a highly regulated industry. Any risk manager will admit that the maze of regulations and requirements that they must deal with can be grueling. Dealing with multiple policies placed in multiple countries usually in local languages could be a burdensome task.
Without adequate knowledge and on-the-ground expertise, venturing into property coverage issues overseas can be extremely time-consuming and risky. A good solution to this is to adopt a more centralized approach to handling global property exposures. There are only a few insurers with the global capacity and capability to construct and appropriately service a strong global insurance program. And I am happy to work for one of them.
XL Catlin established its Global Program Center of Excellence to provide even more coverage capabilities and better service to its multinational clients."
How are you and your XL Catlin colleagues able to address these global program requirements?
Via our global network. Building global programs requires insurers, like XL Catlin, to operate in all major industrialized countries as well as the emerging market territories where multinationals have operations. Right now, we have the ability to issue local policies directly or via fronting partners in some 215 countries.
One big issue with global programs is that you just can’t issue a policy and think that’s it. Global program require considerable servicing. Building global programs is challenging, requiring a considerable commitment of resources to successfully deliver and service programs. That’s why XL Catlin established its Global Program Center of Excellence to provide even more coverage capabilities and better service to its multinational clients. By enlisting the help of our Global Program Center of Excellence and our global property team, we can help construct a global program and address the required services for policy issuance, premium collection, currency management, among other details required to service a global program.
In the US, your property risk engineers help clients build strong loss protection programs, what loss prevention services are offered to insured properties outside the US?
The good news is that our property risk engineering, not to mention our claims capabilities, are global too. Strong risk engineering and loss prevention capabilities as well as effective claims management are important in a global property program. With more than 200 property risk engineers around the world, we can provide clients with property risk engineering expertise in any given location. This includes conducting site surveys and sharing expertise on local building codes, fire prevention codes and standards. The claims management process for global programs also relies on the skill of claims adjusters in local market to service our property claims on a global basis.
It doesn’t matter if a business is well established or a startup, there is, literally, a whole world of business opportunities out there. And I’m proud to be part of a global property insurance team that helps protect global operations that help our clients take advantage of those opportunities.
A 30-year commercial property insurance industry veteran, Andy thrives on the good chemistry that he’s developed with his West coast-based clients. For brokers and risk management interested in enlisting Andy’s help addressing complex commercial property risks, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 415-837-2446.
To learn more about XL Catlin’s personalized approach to commercial property insurance, GO HERE.