‘Business As Usual’ Following Departures of AIG Execs

By and | April 29, 2013

American International Group (AIG) has no intention of changing its excess and surplus lines business following the departure of four of its key commercial lines executives for Berkshire Hathaway.

“It’s business as usual,” said spokesperson Matthew Gallagher, speaking about AIG’s E&S business and its industry-leading E&S unit, Lexington Insurance which just lost its president.

News broke last Friday that four key executives have left AIG for the insurance operations at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which reportedly is looking to boost its commercial lines and its E&S business. Berkshire’s insurance subsidiaries include General Reinsurance, Geico, National Indemnity, U.S. Liability Insurance Co., BoatUS and Guard Insurance Group.

The four departing executives are Peter Eastwood, CEO of AIG Property Casualty in the Americas; David Bresnahan, president of AIG’s excess and surplus unit, Lexington Insurance; Sanjay Godhwani, president for Latin America and the Caribbean for AIG Property Casualty; and David Fields, head of global casualty for AIG.

Gallagher said the departures are the result of individuals responding to opportunities and not due to any change in AIG strategy.

Eastwood told the Wall Street Journal that he and his former AIG colleagues are going to Berkshire Hathaway to build a “large, diverse, profitable commercial property/casualty insurance business with a long-term focus,” starting with a focus on E&S business in the U.S.

Berkshire Hathaway could not be reached for comment.

Meyer Shields, an analyst at investment and research firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods who covers Berkshire Hathaway, told Insurance Journal this could be “a first step of a long process” in which Berkshire organically penetrates the E&S marketplace.

“Unlike most insurers, Berkshire’s enormous capital levels allow it to assume higher returns than risk-free fixed income securities allow, so I would expect sustained aggressive efforts to develop its presence in E&S,” Shields said.

Shields said he expects Berkshire to use its new recruits to design products, and then use those individuals’ agency relationships to build market share. Berkshire’s two main advantages are its financial strength, and it’s ability to invest at higher return than most insurers, allowing for lower prices that are still adequate, he said.

As for AIG, “I suspect that AIG still has a lot of business that is somewhat unique, which allows for a less competitive, more profitable business,” Shields said.

Paul Newsome, a senior insurance analyst at Sandler O’Neill + Partners, said he doesn’t think the hirings would have any material financial impact anytime soon for either Berkshire or AIG, though it could mean more competition for AIG down the road.

“Berkshire is a very big company and it has plenty of capital and the ability to invest in fairly substantial operations,” Newsome said. “If you go back to the history of Berkshire’s insurance operations, they have long been involved with unusual risks, mainly in their reinsurance business. So it’s not a stretch that they would like to expand in the E&S line of business.”

AIG issued a statement on Friday in which it said it has a “seasoned and very deep bench of talented property and casualty executives” ready to assume the responsibilities of those leaving.

On Monday, AIG went to that bench to name two people who will be handling some of the responsibilities.

AIG said Robert Schimek will become president and CEO of AIG Property Casualty’s Americas region, which Eastwood oversaw. Schimek will relocate to New York from London, where he has been serving as president and CEO of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. Prior to becoming head of EMEA, Schimek was chief financial officer of AIG Property Casualty. He will continue to report to Peter Hancock, president and CEO of AIG Property Casualty.

Alexander Baugh will assume the responsibility for AIG’s global casualty business, previously handled by Fields. Baugh will report to John Doyle, CEO of Global Commercial Insurance within AIG Property Casualty. Baugh is a 29 -year veteran of AIG, having held several senior roles at the company, including most recently as chief risk officer and head of strategy for AIG Property Casualty and before that, CEO of Europe.

To fill Schimek’s position, AIG said Nicholas Walsh, who ran AIG’s international property /casualty businesses for many years, will become president and CEO of EMEA on an interim basis as the company seeks a permanent successor to Schimek. Walsh, an AIG veteran of nearly 40 years, chairman of AIG Europe Ltd., and a resident of the United Kingdom, has been serving as a senior adviser on broker, client and government relations matters since 2011. He will report to Peter Hancock, president and CEO of AIG Property Casualty.

Late Monday, AIG named Jeremy Johnson as president and chief executive officer of Lexington Insurance, replacing Bresnahan. Johnson will report to Schimek and will be based in Boston

Johnson most recently served as Specialty Product Line Executive, U.S. & Canada, for AIG Property Casualty, overseeing business lines including aerospace, marine, environmental, SME, trade credit, political risk and surety.

AIG said it is currently considering candidates for the Latin America opening.

In a statement, AIG Property Casualty CEO Hancock indicated the departures would not disrupt the giant insurer.

“Over the last several years, we have made great strides in refocusing our business, improving our risk selection, and delivering outstanding service to our brokers and customers. I have every confidence that our people, through leadership, teamwork, and our knack for finding the answer, no matter how difficult the problem, will continue to win on the merits in every market where we choose to compete,” Hancock said.

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