Marsh & Aon Recover & Remember

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Looking back one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on NewYork Citys World Trade Center, there is no dampening of the painover the loss of nearly 500 colleagues killed in the offices of theworlds largest insurance brokers, Marsh and Aon.

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New York-based Marsh saw 295 of its workers perish in theattack. Aon, headquartered in Chicago, lost 175 people.

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Both companies Web sites still host memorials to the victims andmessage boards for employees to share their thoughts and pain withone another. Aons site carries an online memorial for eachindividual lost in the attack.

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As a business, the attack meant locating backup material anddistributing accounts to others while dealing with the horror ofthe loss of so many co-workers and friends. In conductinginterviews for this piece, while representatives with both firmssaid the brokerages managed to put the pieces of their businessback together quickly, there was a sense of difficulty in dealingwith the loss of colleagues whose positions were filled withreplacements but who will forever leave an irreplaceable void.

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Barbara Perlmutter, senior vice president of public affairs forparent company Marsh & McLennan Companies, said that in termsof business, Marsh recovered quickly from the attack. Using itsinternational structure, the firm pulled together the data lost inthe World Trade Center attack and backed-up elsewhere. The task,she said, was completed a few days after the attack.

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In terms of the work, accounts were shifted to others, andeventually replacements were hired for the vacant positions “tomeet clients' needs,” Ms. Perlmutter said.

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At Aon, the process was much the same. Stephen P. Ban, seniorvice president, director of marketing and communication, pointedout that shortly after the attack on the WTC, Patrick G. Ryan,chairman and chief executive officer, issued a statement on therecovery of data.

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Aon was able to gather critical information in a short period oftime, and obtained hard copies of documents not yet scanned fromclients and underwriters for the files. Not recoverable were recentintra-office e-mail and documents not electronically imaged in theWTC.

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“Our IT team and a variety of other teams around the company andaround the world worked tirelessly to make sure that our systemsand business were up and running very, very quickly after thisterrible tragedy,” Mr. Ban said, paraphrasing Mr. Ryansstatement.

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Aon took “the appropriate steps” to replace positions, eitherthrough hiring or promotion, to ensure that client service remainedintact, he added.

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If there is anything to be learned from Sept. 11 from a riskmanagement standpoint, said Mr. Ban, the lesson is to have adisaster recovery plan in place. “You cant foresee every kind ofevent that will happen, but it is critical to know where to go, andwho is on the crisis team,” he said. “The key decision is how tocommunicate with your employees and clients, and how to go forwardto get this working as efficiently as possible.”

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In terms of replacing offices, both companies have foundtemporary space for displaced employees, and continue to work tofind permanent space. Marsh is building a facility across theHudson River from New York in Hoboken, N.J. Ms. Perlmutter said thebuilding is expected to be opened by June of next year.

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Aon set up temporary offices on Third Avenue in Manhattan, andit has been widely reported that the firm is working to finalize anarrangement at Park Avenue Plaza and 199 Water St. Mr. Ban said hecould not comment on or confirm those reports. However, he did saythat Aon is committed to having a downtown presence.

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From the beginning, Marsh and Aon reached out to the families ofthose in the attack by providing financial and emotional support.Counseling centers were set up, and funds to help families withfuture expenses were established.

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Aon set up the Aon Memorial Education Fund and provided $10million for the educational needs of the children of those lost onSept. 11. The fund has received in excess of $2 million indonations from employees, partners, friends and carriers. “We aregratified by the number of people who tried to help out,” Mr. Bansaid.

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MMC established the MMC Victims Relief Fund, with an initialcontribution from the firm of $10 million. The fund has received $4million in donations. An additional $10 million was contributed tothe cost of extending health benefits after a controversy wherefamily members criticized MMC for not providing for thebenefits.

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On Sept. 11, one year after the attack, “we will mark theanniversary and be open for business, but it will not be businessas usual,” explained Ms. Perlmutter.

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Marsh plans to be flexible in meeting the individual desires ofits employees who may wish to attend services or spend the dayreflecting upon the loss. There are plans to unveil a permanentmemorial to the victims of the attack that will be placed near thefirms headquarters at the Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. “Itwill be just a day to spend a lot of time in reflection anddiscussion with our employees,” Ms. Perlmutter added.

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Aon said that on Sept. 11, the New York City office would beclosed. No additional commemoration plans were announced for therest of the firm, but a representative said that it would likely bea very solemn day.

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“The thing that all of us at Aon were struck by was the responsefrom people from all over the world who stepped up and helped out,”Mr. Ban reflected. “There was an overwhelming response, and I thinkPat Ryan would say how proud and grateful we are to all those whostepped up to the business crisis and the human crisis at the sametime.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Property &Casualty/Risk & Benefits Management Edition, September 9, 2002.Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.


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