C. V. Starr

Richard Shaak, Starr

Richard Shaak

Starr Tech, Starr Specialty, and Starr Underwriting Agencies, LLC

Will you give an overview of Starr Tech’s business, and how the business is positioned?

We have positioned Starr Tech to be just what the name says: a technical-oriented underwriting operation. We provide insurance and loss control services to highly specialized technical industries such as oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, power generation industries, as well as metals and forest products.

We have a very strong base in North America. Leading up to this economic downturn, we have been expanding our footprint outside of North America – in London and Hong Kong, and we’re entering Paris, Australia, and Malaysia all by the end of the third quarter.

The economic downturn had an impact on our clients as it did with everyone, and while there are some signs that things are starting to flatten out, it will take longer before we start seeing any uptick.

Looking forward, will the types of coverage you offer within Starr Tech remain relatively consistent, or will they evolve?

In general, the coverage will remain relatively consistent. When we get to the green initiatives – solar panels, wind farms, and the stimulus money the government is investing to retrofit facilities and to produce energy with a reduced carbon footprint, we will probably see some coverage evolve from working with the manufacturers and their warranties to find ways to bridge the gap between the clients’ and manufacturers’ needs. Outside of the technical property risks, we formed Starr Specialty to provide additional offerings to the market.

Would you discuss Starr Specialty, and how it has held up during this time?

Through Starr Specialty, we have the ability to cover any property risk outside of the risks currently considered as technical risks and this includes coverage for construction projects. In addition, we will be building the facility further by adding other coverages such as political risk.

The economic downturn affected the construction area and general property including hospitality and real estate. We are starting to see some trends toward improvement on the tech side of the business, which tends to move sooner than the general property area, and construction lags behind further.

We have seen success outside of North America with the stimulus packages in Canada and in Asia, but we have not seen the same success yet in the U.S. We are in a holding pattern as to when that money will get utilized for infrastructure in the United States.

The public perception of insurance companies has not always been favorable. Why do you feel that is the case?

In some people’s eyes, insurance is seen as an expense when in reality, it is there to perform when a catastrophic event happens. Those people have lost the concept of insurance as they believe they have to make a return on their premiums.

Do future leaders understand the opportunities that the industry offers?

In the insurance industry, we are not finding companies providing the same level of training that would have taken place 15 or 20 years ago, so that can be a concern. What attracts smart young people to C. V. Starr is the culture within the organization of retaining experienced people. With the amount of knowledge they have amassed over their careers, they can share their experiences and train up-and-coming management and underwriters. You can’t replace that.