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Industry Profile:
Gen Re's Sue Stein - A Passion for Property Insurance

by ~ Catherine Colinvaux (Email) (Web Site)

If you have the pleasure of spending some time with Sue Stein, you will quickly understand that Sue has a passion for property insurance paired with a breadth of knowledge and experience that turns even a brief insurance conversation into a high level seminar.

Early Introduction to Insurance Claims

Sue's formal "bio" gives her credit for 30+ years of property claim experience - almost 25 of them with her current employer, Stamford-based reinsurer, Gen Re. Those three decades count only Sue's formal employment. Her property insurance training actually began as a child, when her father was an executive general adjuster with the General Adjustment Bureau (now, GAB Robins). Even in high school, Sue would accompany him on inspections and coat Polaroid photos for his files.

That initial property claims experience lead to Sue's first formal job in the industry, as a property claims adjuster for a small regional insurer. In the course of a few years, Sue handled property and liability claim. Auto was the hardest. As Sue explains, the one thing Americans cannot live without is a car, making for an emotional claim adjustment. Every loss was unique and interesting, and Sue's experience grew.

Gen Re: One of the World's Largest Reinsurers

After eight years with several companies, Sue left the ceding company world and moved on to Gen Re, one of the world's largest reinsurers. At Gen Re, Sue is a Vice President and Property Claim Specialist. She is one of thirty-one claim executives responsible for all of Gen Re's property and casualty reinsurance claims nationwide. Sue is the senior property claim specialist for the Corporation.

It is obvious that Sue Stein and Gen Re are a good fit. As a "direct" reinsurer, Gen Re puts a high priority on its relationships with client ceding companies. Education is a core part of this relationship, and Sue is an active participant. Gen Re publishes dozens of newsletters for its clients, delivering topical information on a wide variety of subjects. Sue contributes to many of these client research materials and works with outside law firms to draw from their expertise. She particularly enjoys sharing her knowledge on claim trends and evolving policy wording.

Similarly, Sue is a "thought partner" with Gen Re's clients, providing resources in the handling of individual claims and advice and assistance on forms. Working for a reinsurer, Sue is exposed to the claim philosophies and experiences of a variety of companies spanning the country and classes of business. These claim lessons and perspectives continually add to Sue's knowledge base, and give her more insights to share with clients. She also benefits from the extra objectivity that comes with being one-step removed from the policyholder, and she brings these insights back to the clients.

Trends: Green Insurance

Sue cites the recent trend towards "green insurance" products as an area where reinsurers can provide advice to ceding companies as they develop wordings. As community and regulatory interest in fostering "green construction" increases, insurance products are emerging to meet policyholder demand for green-related coverages. However, green construction standards and techniques are still maturing, and unlike traditional building codes which have evolved over decades, green standards are not always easy to identify or implement.

Complicating the matter from an insurance perspective, green construction guidelines differ from mandatory building codes because they are often discretionary, especially for residential construction. After a loss, the decision to go green may be entirely voluntary. Even when a decision has been made to seek green "certification," a great deal of choice remains with the policyholder as to the level of certification and options to meet that level. This menu-like approach to building standards creates the potential for highly disparate costs and timelines, even within a particular certification level.

These discretionary aspects of green construction can create underwriting and claims challenges. What coverages should be offered? How will they be priced? What limits should apply? Does the policy promise repair and/or replacement at a certain certification level?

As Sue explains, "[i]f going green were cheap and easy, the world would be much further along in the process." S. Stein, "What Will Property Insurers Pay to Go Green?," in Regarding Risk at 5 (Jun. 2008). Of course, several insurers are offering green coverage right now, but it is too early to measure success. A larger number of insurers are waiting in the wings to see how the coverage evolves, and if customers want it.

Despite the relative novelty of these coverages, Sue and Gen Re believe that green coverage is a priority for society and the insurance industry. If it's important for us as a society, it's important for insurers to provide the product solutions. She looks forward to working with clients to shape their wordings and offer input on claims.

Sue continues to stay on top of the green issue, and works with Gen Re Underwriting and Emerging Issues Units to help clients stay on top, too.

For more reflections on going green, see Sue's article, "What Will Property Insurers Pay to Go Green," in Gen Re's Regarding Risk publication (June 2008), which is the source for some of the quotes in this profile.

Trends: Catastrophe Planning

As another example of Gen Re's client service, Sue cites the importance of catastrophe planning. In a recent publication, Sue distilled lessons from the 2005 hurricane season and prior catastrophes to provide concrete advice for ceding companies. S. Stein, "The Year of the Cat: After a Catastrophe, Details Matter," in IN Magazine (Winter 2006). Emphasizing the importance of good catastrophe planning in retaining policyholders, Sue detailed the importance of three steps:

(1) "Anticipation" - understanding not only where large numbers of risks are concentrated, but also where only a handful of significant risks in a catastrophe zone can produce unanticipated results; (2) "Communication" - making sure that all personnel know the catastrophe plan, not just a handful of top executives; and (3) "Flexibility" - having different ways to guide a plan through unforeseen circumstances. These lessons and insights formed the basis for Gen Re's current Catastrophe Planning Guide.

Sue works closely with client companies to help them develop their own catastrophe plans. She is frequently asked to review an insurer's plan and provide suggestions or comments. The goal is to keep the insurer open for business, so its claim operations can function when needed most. With good planning, the loss is minimized-for the policyholder, insurer and the reinsurer. Moreover, the policyholder is much more likely to emerge from its claim with a positive customer experience.

Industry Future

Asked about the biggest challenge facing the industry, Sue Stein points to the difficulty in recruiting talented young people who want to make their career in the industry. Sue praises exciting training initiatives, such as Travelers' Claims University, but she also notes increasing difficulty bringing new professionals into insurance and reinsurance. She thinks to her early exposure to insurance and how it influenced her choices, and then to her son who has watched her move up in the business. He shows no particular interest in property insurance or claims . . . . at least not yet.Choose right replica handbags,replica omega,replica watches and swiss replica watches also can make you shiny.

To discuss these issues or obtain Sue's articles in Gen Re Research property publications, contact Sue Stein at 203.328.5495 or

 2009 Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP. All Rights Reserved.

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