In this blog series, PLUS consults industry experts to discuss current trends in the market. This edition features Brenda Shelly, a prominent figure in the Directors and Officers space. In this interview, Brenda highlights risks and trends in the D&O market such as the rise of Artificial Intelligence and increasing scrutiny over privacy issues.
To start, please tell us a little about your role and experience in the professional liability insurance (PLI) industry.
I joined the PLI industry as a D&O underwriter with Stewart Smith East in New York during the mid-1980s toward the end of the Savings & Loan Crisis. By 1994, I was a management liability broker based in Silicon Valley with Johnson & Higgins (J&H), focused on the then rising technology industry and its associated initial public offerings. Most of my career was spent broking management liability out west with Marsh (after buying J&H), based in San Francisco. During that time, I served in various roles including, FINPRO’s Pacific Bay Area Practice Leader, Pacific North Growth Leader, Technology Industry Leader and National IPO Leader. I spent seven years at a competing broker as Western Region Practice Leader for management liability and then took on a corporate role as Director, Client Advocacy for North America.
After returning to Marsh and New York City full-time in 2013, I was honored to be appointed FINPRO’s D&O Product Leader, Chairman of its Global Advisory Board and FINPRO’s Content Leader. Next, I had the opportunity to serve in several corporate roles for Marsh, including Global Head of Client Engagement and Global IMPACT Leader. At the end of 2022, I returned from an engagement as National FINPRO Practice Leader for Canada and am now a national management liability resource for FINPRO as well as senior client advisor in Marsh’s Northeast Zone, based in New York City.
Since 2015, I’ve been fortunate to have had wonderful and gratifying opportunities to work with PLUS and its excellent team as co-chair of the PLUS D&O Symposium, NYC, for three years; as a member of the symposium’s advisory committee, as a member of the International PLUS Conference Committee; and as Chair of PLUS’s Publications Task Force.
Are there any current trends in the industry that you are keeping an eye on?
Industry trends worth watching include insurance rates and capacity stability and/or volatility depending upon the product line and by industry – whether in US, Bermuda or London. In addition, increasing scrutiny over privacy issues and rising biometric exposures are of serious concern to insurers and insureds both with respect to cost and ability to get and keep coverage. Also, activism, whether it be related to corporate governance or societal issues continues to drive financial exposures and other potential liabilities to clients and it shows no signs of slowing. Social inflation and significantly rising claims management and resolution costs are certainly worth watching as they continue to put real pressure on policy holders working through the claims process.
What makes these trends worth keeping an eye on?
We are an industry focused on serving clients. Understanding and tracking emerging trends is imperative for insurers, brokers and lawyers providing clients with valuable insights, analytics, advice, and new, innovative solutions – whether they be market-oriented or bespoke offerings. With regard to specific trends mentioned above, whether new on the scene or revitalized and evolving within our complex, geo-social-political world, personal, corporate, financial and legal responsibilities are all at stake. Providing leading-edge advice and solutions that protect companies (and other entities) along with their executives maintains our collective ability to keep top leaders in key positions and on boards so our respective client organizations can operate and thrive in all environments.
What are the top emerging risks for the PLI industry?
There is no shortage of emerging and ongoing risks to watch in our industry and across management liability exposures specifically. At the top of the list, broad concerns like artificial intelligence, Cyber, climate change and global economic risks feature as concerns for D&O, Fiduciary, Cyber, E&O and crime clients and insurers. Specifically, on-going volatility in evolving regulatory risk in volatile political environment along with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and social change continue to build momentum as serious growing exposures for D&O and Employment Practices Liability insurers and their policy holders.
If someone is interested in learning more about these topics are there other resources you would recommend for more information?
PLUS members are fortunate to have this organization to turn to from information and networking perspectives. I recommend attending PLUS programs and events as one way to stay current. There are many distinguished and reliable resources outside of PLUS as well. A few items from my short list include the Harvard Law School Forum, AGENDA, The D&O Diary and NERA. While I know it seems obvious, reading a few newspapers every day habitually and paying attention to several social media platforms of one’s choice are of tremendous help with staying current and inspiring creativity toward potential innovative solutions. Consistent consumption of diverse news and information sources along with disciplined fact-checking is the key.