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A single broker, many insurers a recipe for peak performance

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Partnership is key to Shari Natovitz's approach to risk management.

“It starts with mutual respect and a willingness to invest time, create access and be transparent,” said Ms. Natovitz, senior vice present and director of risk management at New York-based Silverstein Properties Inc.

“We want you as our partner, not our vendor,” she said. “We don't need to put you in a spreadsheet...We want you to know what we need on an ongoing basis.”

When Ms. Natovitz joined the company in 2005, there was no risk management department. Instead, the company was an insurance purchaser. Yet the company was also risk-averse, she said.

“We are not a large corporation, and each of our assets has a different group of investors which necessitates a risk appetite that is focused on cost efficient (risk) transfer,” Ms. Natovitz said.

As part of its effort to achieve the most efficient risk transfer possible, Ms. Natovitz uses a single broker, Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. in New York. But she also taps dozens of underwriters and uses single-parent captive insurers.

“We use one broker as the most efficient (for us) way to manage risk without duplication or additional internal administrative burden,” she said. “The risk management department consists of myself and my assistant, and we need to maximize efficiency in distributing information”

Ray Blackton, executive vice president at Willis Towers Watson in New York and Ms. Natovitz's client advocate, got on the Silverstein account in 2006, shortly after Ms. Natovitz joined the company as its first risk manager.

“The account's really grown,” said Mr. Blackton. “Before, they were an insurance buying organization rather than a risk management organization. She brought risk management to that.

“We did a blanket property program, we did a blanket casualty program, all in the early stages of her coming aboard,” he said.

Ms. Natovitz said the use of one broker allows her to use a single point of contact to implement her program.

“The ability to have a single point of contact that I know will disseminate that information is important, and at the same time having at my discretion direct access to everyone on the account really works for us,” she said. “I know the individual discipline lines meet with each other and share information, and my client advocate manages the overall team to ensure this efficiency.”

But she adds that some circumstances could change the single-broker approach.

She said she continually evaluates her broker and the results and quality of the deliverables, as well as the consultative advice.

“If I found a deficiency, I would break it out of my program and incorporate a separate broker on the program,” she said.

But if Silverstein approaches its brokering relationship with a single company, it spreads its underwriting business over a multitude.

The program involves about 60 underwriters, everybody “from Axis to Zurich,” she said. Chief among them are American International Group Inc. and its Lexington Insurance Co. unit; Ace Ltd., which became Chubb Ltd. after its acquisition of Chubb Corp. earlier this year; and Munich Reinsurance Co., Swiss Re Ltd., Ironshore Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“Every one of them makes an important contribution to the program,” Ms. Natovitz said. “Many of these underwriters have been with the program for a decade and have participated in the more difficult risks and at a lower level, closer to primary level.”

The risk management department consists of only Ms. Natovitz and her assistant, Flora Dodin. Ms. Natovitz said she hopes to add more personnel later this year.

“On the property side, we have about $5 billion in existing property values for the properties we own and manage and $4 billion under construction with the expectation that pipeline is going to grow next year,” Ms. Natovitz said.

Silverstein Properties has two captives — Greenwich Street Insurance Co. and Silverstein Properties Insurance Co., both domiciled in New York. Ms. Natovitz said the company had previously had two other captives, each of which was involved in insuring a single property, but they were rolled into Silverstein Properties Insurance Co.

The current two captives provide Silverstein Properties with terrorism insurance coverage. Greenwich insures the operational and construction exposures for World Trade Center 2, 3 and 4, while Silverstein insures all the other properties and 7 WTC.

“We're looking at property, we're exploring taking a portion of deductibles under our construction programs and moving them through the captives,” she said.