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Risk manager as city promoter


In addition to his traditional role as a risk manager, Warren C. Perkins Jr. took on the task of informing brokers, underwriters and politicians about the reality of risks in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city.

Those efforts saw him head to Washington to testify before a Senate committee, to London to talk to brokers and underwriters in a critical market for many risk managers, and to various cities within the United States as he sought to persuade insurers that New Orleans was still a city where they could do business.

His trip to Washington was made in November 2005 when he was asked by the Associated General Contractors of America trade group to testify in support of a bill seeking to limit the liability of contractors when they respond in the aftermath of a disaster.

Mr. Perkins is vp, risk manager at Boh Co. L.L.C., a sister company of Boh Bros. Construction Co. L.L.C., which was the main contractor to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina. The company responded to the disaster by embarking on numerous projects with agreements that were based on little more than a handshake. The intent of the bill, the Gulf Coast Recovery Act, was to promote quick responses to disasters.

Though that effort ultimately was unsuccessful, Mr. Perkins had more success in winning over insurance markets to New Orleans' risks.

Those efforts began with a trip to London to speak with brokers and underwriters to explain, among other things, that New Orleans was not completely immersed after Katrina and that many areas of the city, in particular the central business district, were only marginally affected by the floods that followed the storm.

Mr. Perkins made similar presentations in the United States to underwriters and executives at Lexington Insurance Co. in Boston and to the Inland Marine Underwriters Assn. in New York.

Through those efforts, he believes, he helped persuade underwriters to offer additional capacity to businesses in New Orleans in general and to Boh Bros. in particular.

Reconstruction coverage

Builders risk insurance was a specific concern for Boh Bros. as it took on numerous repair and reconstruction jobs after Katrina.

"We had engineers coming back to us saying that they wanted to quote" a given construction project, recalled Margaret Lamere, risk manager administrative assistant, but the market for the coverage was tough after the storm. The coverage was provided on a per-job basis and, though coverage was available in most cases in spite of the tough market, Mr. Perkins had to make special trips to secure coverage for certain projects.

For example, Broadmoor L.L.C., a Boh Bros. unit, was bidding on the $120 million repair of the New Orleans Superdome and few insurance markets were interested in offering builders risk coverage for the project.

To help secure coverage, Mr. Perkins took up an invitation from a friend whom he had met through business to attend a client conference that was put on by ACE Ltd. in Naples, Fla., on the understanding that he could get some time with John Berger, a senior property insurance executive at the insurer.

"We had never met before, but I met him at the bar in the hotel and sat there for an hour and a half promoting the project and saying, 'You've got to help me with this.' We hit it off and it helped get the deal done," Mr. Perkins said.

With Lexington as the lead and ACE and Munich Reinsurance Co. also on the risk, Boh Bros. was able to win the bid and repair the stadium in time for the lavish festivities surrounding the 2006 return of the New Orleans Saints to their home turf.

"If there is anything that I'm proud of, it's the relationships I've developed," Mr. Perkins said.