IBA: How would you describe Corporate Synergies?
Jennifer Sanborn: I would call us “industry agnostic” in that we are generalists focusing on a lot of different industries. Corporate Synergies was originally an employee benefits brokerage, and one of the big reasons we built a P&C practice was to cross-sell to clients. We want to be able to mesh well with current benefits clients and prospective clients, so we like to have a broader focus.
IBA: Many would argue that being a specialist is the path to take in this current marketplace. How has being “industry agnostic” been a driver for your success?
JS: I’ve been both a specialist and generalist in my career. My first brokerage job was at Marsh, and while I was there, I did nothing but tech and life sciences business. I do see that there are certainly benefits to focusing on one specific sector, but I also feel that as a generalist, you are able to broaden your knowledge base and expertise. It makes it easier for you to be a little more fluid in the kind of business you do. From a sales point of view, I think you get a little hamstrung when focusing on just one space.
There are some agencies that have verticals and will stick with those, but for the culture of our company, it’s better suited for us to work as generalists. It’s not about being all things to all people; it’s about knowing what you know and applying it to different industries.
IBA: What are some of the emerging risks and trends that are affecting insurance today?
JS: A lot of the emerging risks that affect companies have been around, but we are seeing them on a more frequent basis now than in the past. Cyber risks are really now coming to the forefront and affecting not just large companies but also small businesses. Terrorism and catastrophic weather events seem to be occurring more frequently as well.
When you see how these trends affect the insurance industry, it is cyclical. When all of a sudden there’s a lot of activity and claims coming through in a certain area, the insurance industry will start to lock itself down to reevaluate how that coverage is being done. Carriers will ask, “Are we charging enough for this coverage? Are we giving too much coverage and overexposing ourselves to losses? Are we breaking into and eroding the capacity of our company?”
With cyber, public companies are experiencing more class-action lawsuits because they’re not doing enough from a risk management perspective to limit their exposure to a data breach, and these lawsuits are affecting not only cyber liability but directors & officers liability as well. If an insurance company has $10 million in liability capacity, they have to figure out which industries and coverages they want to allot that to so there’s not an overload of losses that burn through their capacity.
IBA: Do you have any specific client stories you can share around one of these trends?
JS: We have some case studies that we use with prospective clients or when talking to current clients about things they are not currently covering. Two of those studies are around cyber liability and losses: one for a nonprofit and one for a law firm, both of which are my clients. So when clients tell me they don’t need cyber coverage, these studies allow me to tell them about my other clients that said the same thing, and what happened to them.
For the study around the nonprofit client, they used outside vendors to collect membership fees from their members. One of the outside vendors had a ransomware attack for $250,000, and unfortunately, they did not have $250,000 or cyber coverage. Fortunately, we placed cyber coverage for the nonprofit client, and that protected them.
Many people don’t believe they need cyber coverage because they outsource services, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still your data; it’s just sitting on someone else’s server, so it’s important to confirm that they have cyber cover or to make sure your insurance is protecting you against cyber threats.