Corporate insurance buyers identify the most desirable qualities in an insurer as honesty, a genuine wish to help clients prevent losses, excellent service, financial strength, flexibility, good pricing, transparency and good communication in the 2011 Risk Manager Choice Awards survey of 364 insurance buyers conducted by the Flaspöhler Research Group, in partnership with NU.
They also say insurers can help them by pointing out gaps in coverage, understanding their company’s risk profile, and keeping up with regulatory and industry changes and international business challenges—all traits that characterize the top two “best overall” insurers, Zurich and the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., their clients say.
ZURICH CLIMBS TO TOP OF THE CHARTS
So what are some of the special qualities of its product and services that led to Zurich being chosen as the best overall insurance company in the Risk Manager Choice Awards survey?
Cindy Slubowski, senior manager, risk and insurance, with Kraft Foods Inc., in Northfield, Ill., tells NU that Zurich is a key partner with Kraft on a number of programs, including crime, directors and officers, employee-practices liability, umbrella, marine cargo, and property.
She notes Kraft has its own criteria when choosing an insurer. “The way we place our [business] is based on coverage, relationship and price,” she explains. “In other words, we’re not a price shopper—we want the coverage we want. And Zurich is a great partner in that they work with us to get us the coverage that’s appropriate for Kraft.”
She adds that with Kraft being such a large company, “a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work for us. Zurich is very willing and able to work with us when it comes to designing coverage that fits our needs.”
Zurich, she notes, is especially important in their property program, fronting Kraft’s property internationally. Zurich also has been instrumental in developing custom reports “that help us manage that whole international portfolio.”
Her company values the partnership, she says, because “number one, their balance sheet is very strong; two, the relationship-management function at Zurich is the best in the industry.”
She explains that Zurich understands that “for someone like me, to have one person I can go to to help me navigate a large organization like Zurich, and that person having the ability to get things done, is key.”
Philip J. Procacci, CEO and co-founder of Procacci Development Corp. in Boca Raton, Fla., a real estate developer, says working with Zurich has helped his business in positive ways.
With Zurich, he says, “I have my property coverage, wind coverage, liability, auto—they handle everything. I’ve been with Zurich now for about eight years, and we have a great relationship.”
Within the past five years, his company began constructing buildings to be hurricane resistant in up to 185-mile-per-hour winds. Initially, he collaborated with Zurich to improve the buildings in order to meet Zurich’s “Highly Protected Risk” code—which allows him to benefit with preferred pricing for the protected buildings.
He has continued to work with Zurich’s engineers on wind-tunnel tests and other protections.
“We’re collaborating on better ideas each year on how to improve the protection of a building at the lowest possible cost,” he says, adding that one of the goals is to come up with new ideas than can benefit the entire industry.
One of the benefits of the safe buildings, he says, has been “tremendous success on the leasing side.” He has a 450,000-square-foot commercial building in Miami that will withstand winds up to 185 miles per hour. That building is now 98 percent rented—far above the average for the area.
“The relationship I have with Zurich has been a great opportunity for me,” Procacci says. “They are ready and willing to give us new ideas and ready to do new studies and tests on certain products. This helps us come up with new ideas, and down where we are in South Florida, that’s everything in the real estate business. We love it here, but you have to take certain precautions, and we think our buildings provide that protection.”
William J. Montanez, director, risk management for Ace Hardware Corp. in Oak Brook, Ill., and a founding member of NU’s Risk Managers Advisory Board, says he has great appreciation for Zurich’s property program.
“They’ve had our property program for going on seven years,” he says, explaining that in March, “we did a complete remarketing of our entire property program to test the market, and Zurich came in extremely competitive.”
This helped him realize that “we have a very good thing with Zurich. Not only on pricing, but service levels, continuity within their account-management team and the consistency of the program.”
He explains that when his company gets property-improvement recommendations from Zurich, “the approach that’s used is collaborative, rather than us versus them.”
Zurich always has been “extremely responsive to all of our needs. We always want to build long-term relationships, and we really think Zurich is a long-term business partner of ours,” he says.
The insurer also proved valuable at one of the company’s locations in Washington State—where there was a possibility a nearby dam could burst.
Zurich gave them a full report and helped them determine what they needed to do to protect themselves in the eventuality of a catastrophic flood, he says.
Preventive measures were taken, such as raising inventory off the floor. “Best practices,” he notes. “Nothing happened, fortunately, but in the event it had happened, we were in good shape.”
He concludes, “I can see why they’re considered one of the best, based on my own personal experience. Based on the amount of interest they have, the amount of commitment they are making to their customers, there is no reason they should not be considered the best.”
Tom Hunter is vice president, risk management with Commercial Metals Co. in Irving, Texas, a company that deals with scrap recycling, steel manufacturing and marketing distribution of steel products.
The company’s no. 1 product is rebar, used in construction of concrete roads and precast-concrete products.
“We have property and casualty lines with Zurich,” he says, explaining that he met with Zurich in 2008 when he was new to Commercial Metals and was looking to build relationships with strong global insurers.
Since that time, he notes, “we’ve placed a number of pieces with Zurich, based on their ability to deliver to us on a global basis. We have operations in Australia, China, Eastern and Western Europe, and the United States, so it’s important to have a global partner that can issue the policy, pay the claims and be there to help us.”
This has made a “huge difference. When I came to Commercial Metals,” he says, “we had a very decentralized function. Since that time, we now have two global policies: one for property and one for casualty coverages. So we have the same terms, conditions—everything is controlled from a central risk perspective.”
One area his company has worked on with Zurich is building a partnership. “It’s a different economic climate now after the recession, so we’ve been working with Zurich to come up with insurance solutions to help us,” he explains. “One thing we’re looking at doing is providing a warranty on certain products, so they will help us through that.”
While this isn’t “your typical insurance product,” he adds, “they are helping us develop that feature for our marketing.”
CLIENTS CHEER FOR CHUBB
Michael Liebowitz, director of insurance and risk management at New York University, a former president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, and a founding member of NU’s Risk Managers Advisory Board, relies on Chubb for a liability policy that provides coverage for his student-film production program. “I have them for other coverages, but this is where I really like them,” he says.
The policy is written out of Los Angeles, “which I would consider to be a center of excellence for that coverage,” Liebowitz says. “We’re speaking with underwriters who actually know the business.”
Even though the carrier has had its share of losses on the policy, Chubb has been “more than fair. They have stuck with us. It only goes to prove that a relationship with a carrier can go both ways. It’s created a major stability in our program. We’ve had a fairly lengthy relationship with them” he says.
The NYU students make mini-feature films, one of which, “God of Love,” won an Academy Award for short films this year.
Daniel H. Kugler—assistant treasurer, risk management for Snap-On Inc. in Kenosha Wis., director of student involvement for the Risk and Insurance Management Society, and a founding member of NU’s Risk Managers Advisory Board—also has enjoyed a successful, long-term relationship with Chubb.
Kugler says Snap-on has its directors and officers, fiduciary liability and crime programs with Chubb.
“We’ve been working with them for over 10 years,” he says. “They’ve been very receptive to Snap-On. They are well-run, and we feel very comfortable with them providing our insurance coverage.”