|Copyright:||A.M. Best Company, Inc.|
Insurers need to do a better job attracting new talent by emphasizing how resilient the insurance industry has been, said LoriAnn Lowery-Biggers, who was recently hired for the newly created role of president of field operations for Navigators Management Co. Inc.
Investment banks, auditing firms and consulting firms have “been a big draw for some of the best and the brightest talent out in the marketplace because we as an industry haven’t told our best story…if you look over the last 12 to 18 months [you’ll see] how incredibly resilient we’ve been in a time of economic crisis,” Lowery-Biggers told BestWeek.
Also, she suggested insurers look outside of the industry for fresh talent.
As the new head of field operations for Navigators Management, the U.S. operation of Navigators Group, a specialty insurance company, Lowery-Biggers is taking on the challenge of overseeing the growing company’s U.S. infrastructure.
Navigators, once known mainly as a marine underwriter, has expanded in recent years into new markets. Navigators is still the 13th-largest ocean marine writer by direct premiums written, but now just about 30% of Navigators’ gross premium writings are in the marine and energy sector, according to BestLink.
“Its remaining premiums are spread across a diverse product line including general liability coverage for small general and artisan contractors, personal umbrella coverage, professional liability, in addition to specialty coverages, such as customs bonds (surety bonds guaranteeing payment of customs taxes and delivery of goods imported into the United States),” according to BestLink.
Lowery-Biggers said to foster continued growth, the company has “active underwriters,” who are involved in the marketing and distribution of products.
“We cross market among product lines as well as cross market between individual underwriters and the relationships they are responsible for,” she said. “We think that the key factor in this industry is ultimately relationships. If the broker knows the underwriter they are working with, then you’re going to have much more synergy. You’re going to have a much better understanding of what the product line is as well as who to go to in that product line.”
A company’s talented staff can distinguish it from its competitors, she said, by giving clients a value-added component that goes beyond price. However, it may be price that clients are looking for right now, Lowery-Biggers said.
“In January, some prices were continuing to soften. I was astounded to hear that, but I do think we’re going to continue to have a soft market. This is a big transitional year for a lot of markets out there, as well as a lot of brokers. It’s going to be a flight to quality. If the sale is going to be strictly on cost, then it’s going to be a short-term situation, because ultimately, clients want a value-add,” she said.
“It might be about cost right now, but we need to make sure as an industry, and in our organization, we are focusing on service,” Lowery-Biggers said.
Navigators has historically outperformed other commercial writers, turning in a lower combined ratio than the rest of the industry for the past five years. The company’s average combined ratio from 2004 to 2008 was 89.5, far better than the industry average of 99.4, according to BestLink.
Leadership “is about sometimes sitting on the sidelines and saying ‘this is not prudent for us. This is not profitable for us,'” Lowery-Biggers said, noting the company will walk away from underpriced business.
It’s important for Navigators “to keep our eye on the long-term ball and not be swayed by get-rich-quick schemes,” she said.
Navigators Insurance Group currently has a Best’s Financial Strength Rating of A (Excellent).
A video interview with Lowery-Biggers can be seen at www.ambest.com/conversations.
(By Meg Green, senior associate editor, BestWeek: Meg.Green@ambest.com)