Jennifer Guidry’s career in the insurance industry started 20 years ago, after she graduated from college and moved to Hartford, Conn. — “The Insurance Capital of the World.” Today she serves as divisional vice president, business development and marketing, for Great American Insurance Group, which recently teamed with Ullico Casualty Group (UCG) to offer a commercial lines insurance program designed specifically for union halls, trust fund offices, joint apprenticeship training committees (JATCs) and other union-related organizations.
In this Q&A with Ullico, Guidry talks about trends in commercial insurance underwriting, what the partnership with UCG means for unions, and the most important lessons she’s learned during her career.
Could you start by describing the “state of the industry” from your point of view? How has the market for commercial lines insurance changed over the last five, 10 years? How have insurance providers adapted and evolved?
The state of the insurance industry is shaped by challenges such as an increase in catastrophic level loss from weather events, such as wildfire and convective storm activity, limitations within the supply chain and social inflation.
These individual factors are not news to those who work in the industry; however, the compilation has created tremendous stress within the marketplace, particularly on capacity providers and policy holders.
A decade ago, the property marketplace was concerned with hurricane events within CAT-prone areas; however, dynamics have changed in that the market is now concerned with catastrophic weather activity occurring in geographic regions that were not previously prone to the same events in size and scope. As a result, insurance providers have adapted to these changing patterns by evolving their appetite for risk in both CAT/non-CAT-prone geographies, and increasing their overall rate need and adjusting coverage terms. In tandem, policyholders with higher-valued property schedules are taking on more risk in the form of increased deductibles or self-insuring a larger portion of their property to help decrease the impact of increased rates and shortage of capacity amongst carriers.
What trends in underwriting or claims are you noticing? What do you think is driving those trends?
In line with the above, both underwriting and claims organizations are relying more on data analytics to help inform their processes and stay ahead of changes in the marketplace. Many organizations are increasingly realizing the value in the data they have access to and are utilizing this information internally to help underwriters make better risk and appetite decisions. Claims organizations who in the past may have partnered with external vendors, are now building their own analytical tools based upon real time data at their fingertips. This is leading to better claims outcomes and more collaboration between claims, underwriting and policyholders.
What messages or advice do you have for brokers who work with unions? Is there anything they should know about the underwriting process that they don’t know?
The advice I would give to brokers who work with unions is continue to understand the evolving risks and exposures associated with the unions you are working with. The success of the underwriting process is largely tied to the quality of the data, exposure and risk information that is presented for each account. When brokers walk through their description of a union operation and can clearly articulate the needs of that specific client, it leads to better and timely communication throughout the underwriting process regardless of the outcome.
What does Ullico’s relationship with Great American mean for the union market? Can you give some examples (real or hypothetical) about how the relationship will benefit unions?
Ullico’s relationship with Great American provides the union market with accessibility to an insurer with a 150-plus year history, 36 specialty P&C divisions and a strong financial backing. This is a huge benefit to unions as they don’t have to worry about whether their carrier will be there to protect their workers and business when they need it most.
In addition, with the relationship, unions may be able to access complementary coverages through one of the other 35 divisions which span everything from Cyber to Pollution coverage and more.
At Great American we are very selective about the industries we write and relationships we start. We view our program relationships as a long-term relationship that we want to grow, evolve and most importantly, provide excellent policyholder service. As a result, our commitment to the program space and exclusivity we offer is one of the top in the marketplace.
How long have you worked at Great American? How did you get into the insurance industry? What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your professional career?
I am proud to be part of the Great American team for nearly two years. Although I am relatively new to Great American, I am not new to the insurance industry, having begun my career 20 years ago. I fell into the insurance industry (believe it or not). Growing up, my Dad owned an insurance agency outside of New Orleans; however, I had no interest in insurance. I moved to the Hartford, Conn., area after undergrad and learned that it was the insurance capital of the United States. My first corporate job was in insurance and I loved it so much – I never looked back!
A few of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my professional career are:
• Lean into the uncomfortable – you never know what is waiting on the other side of risk or growth.
• Listen more than you speak – there is always more that you can learn.
• Develop a strong sense of self-awareness and intuition – I consider these the compass and mirror of a career path – you need to know where you are going and how you look getting there.
• Do well to do more good – I can’t take credit for this line. As long as you are growing, learning and contributing value to an organization – there will always be more opportunity in your future.