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CHICAGO—Ryan Specialty Group L.L.C. Chairman and CEO Patrick G. Ryan has added yet another distinction to an already impressive resume—the first laureate of the Midwestern Insurance Hall of Fame.
Mr. Ryan formally received the award last week in Chicago. According to the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services at Illinois State University in Normal, the mission of the Midwest Insurance Excellence Awards and Hall of Fame “is to educate and inspire students and other stakeholders of the insurance industry by relating examples of how individual people and insurance organizations have benefited society, and industry, with their actions and deeds.”
“The Excellence Awards and Hall of Fame publicly honors individuals and organizations that are doing, or have done, exemplary work in the Midwest related to the insurance industry,” the Katie School says on its website.
“It's very flattering. I'm honored,” said Mr. Ryan, who gained fame for building what is now Aon P.L.C. into a global powerhouse. “I love the industry. The industry is something I believe has contributed to the social well-being of civilization. It's an industry that free markets need.”
“I really believe that the insurance industry offers a unique career to young people,” said Mr. Ryan. “Too often, they get a good education and think they ought to be a lawyer or a banker and don't look carefully at the insurance industry.”
“In the insurance industry, I have not seen hardworking, talented people made redundant,” said Mr. Ryan. “It can happen in a particular company, but that talent is immediately grabbed up by others,” he said. “If you become really good at something in the insurance industry, you should have lifelong employment.”
Others in the industry hailed the choice of Mr. Ryan as this year's laureate.
“Pat Ryan's being named laureate by the Midwestern Insurance Hall of Fame is recognition of his vision for the value that risk management and HR consulting can provide clients,” said Aon President and CEO Gregory Case in an email. “The impact of that vision, and Pat's desire to provide clients with distinctive products and services, transformed our industry and solidified his place as one of the true leaders in our field.”
“Pat Ryan is an insightful leader whose many extraordinary efforts have long energized and benefited this great industry,” said Ken A. Crerar, president of the Washington-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, in an email. “His entrepreneurial spirit and vision for the future are unmatched, and we congratulate him on this accomplishment.”
Mr. Ryan's insurance career stretches to 1964, when he established Pat Ryan Associates, a small managing general agency that distributed specialty credit life insurance products to automobile dealers. Through a series of major acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s—including Combined International Corp., Rollins Burdick Hunter Group Inc., Hudig-Langeveldt Group B.V., Frank B. Hall & Co. and Alexander & Alexander Services Inc.—Mr. Ryan built his agency into Aon Corp., the world's largest brokerage, according to Business Insurance's 2011 broker rankings.
Eighteen months after retiring from Aon in 2008, Mr. Ryan established Ryan Specialty, a holding company of managing general underwriters and managing general agencies that provide specialty insurance services to retail agents and brokers worldwide.
Looking back, Mr. Ryan said, “clearly, the landscape for providers of capital for risk, providers of service, distribution has shifted. A lot of household names are no longer around, been absorbed through merger.” He also noted the emergence of the Bermuda insurance market as a global player and changes with Lloyd's of London “going through hard times and coming back very strongly in the last decade” as significant developments.
He added that globalization of the brokerage industry—of which Aon is a beneficiary—also is significant, but said “what hasn't changed is just as important.”
“Disintermediation hasn't occurred,” he said. “Even though technology has become such an important part of the industry, the buyers need to still look somebody eyeball to eyeball and say, "I want you to represent me, I trust you'll be there for me when I have a claim.'”
He said he doesn't foresee “dramatic consolidation” in the industry, but he sees more emphasis on specialization. “I think that will continue,” he said, adding that the “financial supermarket strategies of the 1990s” basically didn't work. “People are moving toward what they're really good at, what specialties can they bring. I think there will be a lot more specialization, because the need for expertise has been very much in demand.”