Filed Under:Claims, Catastrophe & Restoration

Meet the Experts: Environmental Leaders

Click through to check out biographies of the brokers, carrier executives and risk managers dealing in Environmental insurance who offer their perspective throughout PC360-NU’s January digital issue. The subjects also offer additional thoughts on this line, including their views on why more clients should strongly consider this relatively inexpensive but highly valuable coverage.


Veronica Benzinger, Managing Director and Chief Broking Officer in the Environmental Services Group at Aon Risk Solutions in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Benzinger, a licensed broker since 1980, has been with Aon for nearly her entire career. She began specializing in Environmental risk in 1999, when she recognized a growing need for Environmental expertise among clients and in the insurance industry. At that time, she stepped into the Environmental field as head of the broker’s new Environmental Center of Excellence in the Northeast. The most rewarding aspect of the field for Benzinger, she says, is its inherent “creativity.” Since Environmental coverage is written in the surplus-lines market, which is free of rate and form restrictions, Benzinger can “craft insurance policies that address business issues and provide the solutions that our clients need, as well as balance-sheet protection.”

Marc D. Hindman, Atlanta-based Chief Risk Control Officer and Regional Practice Leader of the Strategic Outcomes Practice at Willis North America

Hindman began focusing professionally on environmental issues in the mid-1990s, when he was an environmental consultant for Bureau Veritas, the global testing, inspection and certification company. He then was director of environmental affairs for 11 years at biotech-company Human Genome Sciences Inc., which pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-SmithKline purchased last year. Hindman, who has been with Willis five years, became interested as a college undergraduate in how companies could satisfy shareholder expectations, yet do so in a more environmentally sensitive way.

Bruce W. Kranz, Senior Vice President of Environmental Risk at Cleveland-based Hylant Group

Kranz has spent all of his nearly 13-year insurance career in the Environmental field and started the Environmental practice at Hylant. For 20 years before becoming an insurance broker, he was involved in environmental engineering and compliance for a coal-mining organization. His degree, in biology with an environmental focus, was earned as the environment was emerging as an area of study. Kranz says the most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of his career now is being part of the team of stakeholders in a business transaction that is dependent upon everyone being satisfied that all potential environmental issues have been addressed.

Hugh McLellan, Vice President of Risk Management for Edmonton, Alberta-based PCL Constructors Inc.

McLellan says environmental contamination is “a significant risk in our thoughts. The ramifications are significant from an economic point of view.” The risk has grown over the past eight to 10 years as PCL has expanded its industrial work, especially on oil and gas and mining projects. Because of PCL’s Environmental and Pollution exposure, “we’ve learned a great deal” about loss prevention.

William Montanez, Director of Risk Management at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp.

Montanez has managed corporate risk for more than 30 years. At Ace, Environmental risk is a smaller exposure than other risks—although the company has two paint-production facilities and a network of distribution centers across the country—because Ace has adopted best practices in loss prevention, he says. Throughout his career, which now includes a board seat with the Risk and Insurance Management Society and membership in PC360-NU’s Risk Advisory Board, Montanez has seen Corporate America develop a better understanding of its Environmental exposure and how to mitigate losses.

Catherine O’Leary, New York-based Vice President of the Environmental Division at Frenkel & Co. Inc.

O’Leary has worked in the Environmental field nearly her entire 12-year insurance career. She has been a broker most of that time, although she was an underwriter for two years. O’Leary says she enjoys working with clients and discussing Environmental risks “they didn’t think they could manage.” Each company has its unique risks, and “you manuscript a policy to fit the client,” she says.

Rich Sheldon, Philadelphia-based Environmental Practice Leader at Willis North America

Sheldon has been in the insurance industry for 24 years, and all of his professional experience and education have been in environmental sciences. Before moving into the insurance field, he worked for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency subcontractor, where he was approached with an opportunity to perform risk engineering for an Environmental insurer. The most rewarding aspect of his career is the opportunity to explore and implement unique ways to address Environmental risk in concert with various brokerage colleagues, underwriters, attorneys, consultants, clients and prospects, Sheldon says.

Chris Smy, Atlanta-based Managing Director and Global Environmental Practice Leader at Marsh Inc.

Smy has spent his entire 15-year insurance career in the Environmental field. Always having a strong interest in science and the environment, Smy earned a master’s degree in environmental management and pollution control after leaving the military. That led him initially into environmental consulting and then insurance underwriting, risk consulting and now broking. Smy says his field of work is rewarding because it presents him “an opportunity to help clients minimize and manage their impact on the environment and to help facilitate a sustainable business model.”

Gene Wingert, Loss Control Environmental Manager at the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Wingert has worked in the environmental area for about a quarter-century. He worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and was an environmental consultant before moving to the insurance industry and joining Chubb in 2004. Wingert had in mind a career in the environmental field while studying civil engineering in college, which was before environmental engineering was a recognized field. What he appreciates most about the field is his potential to make a difference: “One very important aspect of the environmental field is the impact those of us who work in it can have. Most of the time it’s a very positive impact.”

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