P-C Carriers Set Marketing Agendas For 2005

What do property-casualty insurers have in store for their agents, brokers and policyholders in 2005? The following is a sample of what some of the top carriers have planned.

At ACE, James Mcdonald, executive vice president and chief underwriting officer, said the carrier will “concentrate on the many new things weve started in the last two years,” including the marketing of stand-alone terrorism property coverage, umbrella, mid-market directors and officers liability, small and mid-market workers compensation, weather insurance, energy medical risk, kidnap and ransom coverage, and its new public entity unit.

Kathleen Muedder, senior vice president of corporate underwriting, added that ACE is assisting its business units in the development of several new and expanded products, among them insurance for defense contractorstailoring products to the smaller contractors needing Defense Base Act workers comp coverage, which is required for companies working for the federal government.

Looking further ahead, Ms. Muedder said ACE is examining other potential growth areas, such as coverage for nanotechnology. “The insurance industry really hasnt gotten their arms around this yet,” she said.

She said ACE also is looking at issues such as globalization and the resulting outsourcing of technology jobs, and the potential effects of the rise in obesity in areas beyond simple liability, such as workers comp. ACE, she noted, is examining the costs involved in both exposures, as well as the potential to develop a working partnership with knowledgeable people.

AIG is putting the focus on its small-business operations in 2005 by launching a communication system and bringing a new product offered by other AIG units to its small-business component. That system, known as AIG Select, “will provide straight-through processing on a vast majority of our in-force portfolio,” said Vincent Tizzio, CEO of AIG Small Business.

Through this systemwhich is also known as automated renewal underwritingagents and brokers will be able to obtain their clients renewal terms and conditions with no less than 30 days notice. Additionally, the system will include an “easy-close” feature that will provide new line quotes within 24 hours.

To help promote the AIG Select system, the company is also among those sending personnel into the field. AIG plans to send its representatives to a number of cities, according to Mr. Tizzio, including Denver, Seattle, Syracuse, St. Louis and Richmond.

In terms of new products, AIG is planning to expand its accident and health offerings into the small-business unit. As an additional initiative, AIG will develop industry-based packages of its various coverages to meet the specific needs of different clients in different fields.

At Firemans Fund, Scott Garfield, vice president of sales and marketing for personal insurance, said the company is in the midst of a campaign to roll out a redeveloped auto coverage to reposition the carrier in terms of pricing.

“Were going from a basic three-tier system to 30 different pricing options, nationwide,” he said. Primary products aimed at more affluent customers also are being offered, and the carrier is relaunching its auto product through its brokers. These products will be supported by a national ad campaign, Mr. Garfield said, with ads appearing in magazines like Architectural Digest.

In addition, noted Mr. Garfield, “we are increasing account credits so that the more products the customer has with us, the more credits they get, and the less expensive each product is.” This credit system, he said, involves areas including homeowners coverage, valuables, auto and excess liability, as well as umbrella. A similar program, he said, will reward customer loyalty so that a policyholder who has been with Firemans Fund for a number of years could see a reduction in his or her premiums of as much as 5 percent.

Firemans Fund is planning to seek more market share by promoting its redeveloped package as providing a “total account” for the customer, Mr. Garfield said, allowing one-stop shopping for all a clients insurance needs.

Firemans Fund also is focusing on efforts to prevent the loss of firefighters by providing more equipment, training and communications for first responders. The company already has begun working with fire departments in San Diego, Atlanta and San Francisco, noted Mr. Garfield, and plans to expand into other cities in 2005.

At GE Insurance Solutions, Darren Huxol, products and service innovation and growth leader, said his carrier is looking at several emerging areas, such as miscellaneous errors and omissions.

Additionally, he said GE would be looking at changes in natural catastrophe coverage, particularly as the modeling system for hurricane exposure is reevaluated in the wake of the monster 2004 hurricane season. “People used to think about severity rather than frequency” in modeling, he said. “They worried more about the big hurricane rather than four hurricanes.”

Other areas that GE is monitoring, according to Mr. Huxol, include globalization (particularly with the rise in importance of China) and wireless technology issues.

In terms of marketing, Mr. Huxol said much of GEs focus is on promoting the GE brand after the consolidation of several different GE properties under the parent companys name. To get its message out, Mr. Huxol said GE is in a “continual process of getting our product experts in front of our customers,” and working with them to solve their problems.

Indeed, GE has conducted a number of “customer forums” in such locales as Naples, Switzerland and Asia, he noted.

At The Hartford, Mark Lange, vice president of operations for select customers, said his company is targeting the small-business marketfirms under $15 million in sales with account premiums of around $100,000. “There is a way to do it in a way that makes sense and makes money,” he said.

Selling to that niche, which Mr. Lange called “the fastest growing market in the insurance industry and the economy as well,” will involve two new initiatives from Hartfordone a product and the other a means of communication.

The product line, known as “XPand,” was developed in response to feedback from agents. XPandunveiled in 2004 and available in all stateshas over 500 available classes and a number of endorsements to tailor the coverage to specific industries, according to Mr. Lange.

The Hartfords other initiative is known as “ICON 2.0″a proprietary submission system rolled out in 2004 and connected to some 30,000 agents. ICON streamlines the process for an agent doing business with The Hartford, integrating its online sales guide, insurance score and class-specific underwriting questions.

“What that enables us to do is reduce the number of questions that an agent has to ask when he submits a piece of business to us,” Mr. Lange explained. Using the system, he added, an agent can submit information from home or the office, and can get a quote or policy issued online. The company is expanding its local sales presence by roughly one-third, meaning more salespeople will be available to help agents understand the new technology, he noted.

At the merged St. Paul Travelers, Marc Schmittlein, president and CEO of Select Commercial Accounts, said that by combining two companies and cultures, St. Paul Travelers has been able to take a fresh look at its offerings.

The Select Accounts unit is one that tailors to small and mid-sized business, Mr. Schmittlein said, noting the classification is not made in the same way as other carriers. St. Paul Travelers, he said, “felt a little awkward about” the standard definition of customer account size based on premium, and instead defines size by exposure.

Tom Neseralla, second vice president of marketing for Select Commercial Accounts at St. Paul Travelers, said most of the companys marketing initiatives would be tactical in nature rather than a grandiose ad campaign, geared more toward the agent channel. The carrier will engage in what he said would be essentially “mini-product fairs” with agents through regional personnel, along with an e-mail campaign to inform agents and brokers of the improvements in the companys offerings.

For Bermuda-based XL Capital, the focus for the company is on professional liability as well as property lines. XLs property insurance capacity increased to $500 million in July 2004, according to its chief executive of insurance operations, Clive Tobin.

“This is an important strategic initiative that enables us to compete selectively for 100 percent of an account in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, high technology and commercial real estate,” he said. “We have been very pleased with the response, which clearly shows a demand for large blocks of capacity from companies such as XL with high credit ratings.”

The summer of 2004 also saw XL introducing primary D&O coverage in Europe as well as the United States. “We have been an excess provider in these markets for many years,” Mr. Tobin said. “While not as numerous as the U.S., Europe has certainly seen a number of corporate governance headlines, bringing with it an increased awareness of exposure and need for greater protection. As a leading provider of primary liability and property coverage in Europe, we see this as a natural extension of delivering more products through our global network.”

XL, he added, believes “there will be demand for more capacity in professional lines as liability risks continue to emerge and the impact of failure to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley is better understood. Directors will demand companies buy insurance at almost any cost and will require high credit quality.”

In the United States, he said, the focus will be on expanding XLs business with regional brokers through a network of offices the company has built, as well as continuing to develop the carriers presence in the national and international brokerage market.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, December 30, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.