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Q&A: Bob Rheel, Aspen U.S. Insurance


P/C Insurers More + Less -

Currently head of U.S. property/casualty insurance at Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd., Bob Rheel was recently appointed president of Aspen U.S. Insurance. Before joining Aspen in 2011, Mr. Rheel was the head of distribution and regional management at Zurich Financial Services, and he has held several senior roles in his 30-year career. He recently spoke with Business Insurance Associate Editor Bill Kenealy to discuss his new role and the challenges specialty insurers face. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: You have had a long career in the insurance industry. How will your experience help in your new role?

A: There are three areas in my background that should be helpful as I transition into my new role. One is that I've led operations for insurance companies on both sides of the Atlantic. This gives me a global perspective of the market, which is important because we are increasingly seeing customers become more global. U.S. brokers are increasingly looking to place their clients' risks not only in the U.S., but also in the London and Bermuda markets.

Second, I've led underwriting for insurance companies in the middle market and workers compensation markets. This allows me to understand the underwriting needs across markets and to gain the expertise needed to be a specialty underwriter.

The last area is really around marketing and distribution and how to bundle all aspects of an insurance company to bring real value to customers and brokers.

Q: What are your ambitions for Aspen's U.S. operations?

A: For the past four or five years, we have been growing our U.S. insurance business, and our ambition is to become one of the top performing specialty insurance companies in the U.S. So, our first priority is to continue to build out Aspen U.S. Insurance.

Second, we aspire to deliver a highly valued proposition that customers and brokers appreciate and are willing to pay for.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing insurers in the U.S. property/casualty market?

A: It is well recognized that there is overcapacity in the marketplace. We are at a tipping point where we will be bound by market dynamics and falling prices or we can free ourselves from those market chains and truly seek a fair return for the value we bring to our clients, brokers and the wider economy.

Q: Are there specific pockets of the markets where you see opportunities for growth?

A: The biggest opportunities reside in the ever-growing categories of new risks, whether that is around cyber, the climate or new technologies such as 3-D printing or wearable devices.

The whole definition of risk is changing as more and more companies are redefining it to include things that would historically fall under enterprise risk management. It's no longer solely the risks as defined by the P&C insurance industry for the last 20 or 30 years.

What we are seeing is an increasing trend toward specialist expertise, and that's what companies such as Aspen can emphasize and deliver.

There are other companies focused purely on data and predictive modeling, and it seems they look at certain segments of the business in order to commoditize it and deliver a low-cost solution. That might make sense for some segments, but other parts of the business are much more dynamic and complex, where specialty carriers will be needed to deliver the required expertise to brokers and customers.