Ward Howell Appoints Global Leader of Insurance / Alternative Investments Practice Groups

September 8, 2016 – Executive search firm Ward Howell International has appointed Theodore ‘Ted’ Petrara as partner and global leader of its insurance and alternative investments practice groups. He is based in the firm’s New York office. Mr. Petrara’s team will deliver executive search and leadership advisory services to insurers, reinsurers, hedge funds, and other originators and investors in the alternative risk transfer space.

Prior to joining Ward Howell, Mr. Petrara served as chief executive officer of Ethical Integrity Corporate Standards SA, a Geneva-based corporate governance consultancy. Prior to this, he was a group executive and global head of talent and corporate development at Flagstone Reinsurance.

Before Flagstone, Mr. Petrara spent almost 20 years at several leading executive recruitment firms, building and / or managing their capital markets, insurance, and hedge fund search practices. He gained experience with search firms Glocap, Inc. and Horizon Search Partners. Earlier in his career, he was a fixed income and convertible bond trader.

According to Mr. Petrara, as a result of globalization, deregulation and worldwide terrorist attacks, the insurance industry has gone through a tremendous transformation over the past decade, with life and health carriers continuing to dominate the market.

Insurance Sector Challenges to Continue Post-Election

“Current soft market conditions (low prices and high competition) continue to pressure the property and casualty insurance business,” said Mr. Petrara, “and this is fostering further consolidation from both smaller, specialty insurers and large, multi-line carriers.” One case in point in the P&C space, he noted, is the merger of Ace and Chubb. “Low large loss levels and a predominantly quiet catastrophe cycle added pressure in sustaining lower prices and price point competition among both primary carriers and reinsurers,” he said, which led these two giants to join forces.

Challenges within the insurance sector are likely to continue as the U.S. switches administrations in November. But no matter who succeeds President Obama, said Mr. Petrara, the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) will continue to be a critical focal point. “This means the legacy and evolution of Obamacare will play a significant role in the future of health insurance in the U.S. whether we have a republican or a democrat in the White House,” he said.

As a result, he said, both presidential candidates have made Obamacare a cornerstone of their platforms. “Donald Trump is committed to doing away with the plan altogether, while Clinton’s stated policy is to expand it and in the process looking to reduce consumer health insurance costs and adding an additional 16 million American uninsured to the program,” said Mr. Petrara.

Change Management Begins at the Top

“While it may be too soon to quantify the effect of either of these policies on the insurance industry in real terms, it is safe to say that the health industry will be subject to a widespread structural re-alignment, possibly creating further consolidation among the largest carriers, or allowing other players to enter the market,” he added. In either case, he said, lower prices and broader competition will prevail.

What does all of this mean for the talent management sector? According to Mr. Petrara, all of these factors represent a potentially great opportunity for senior executives within the insurance sector to find new roles.

For Ward Howell itself, the senior level global talent provider seems well placed to help them make the transition. “Diversity is a key strength for us,” said Mr. Petrara. “We not only provide demographically diverse candidates who are essential to building businesses across the insurance sector, but what differentiates us and sets us apart is our ability to provide senior level candidates with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and diverse ways of problem solving. That’s our value proposition to clients.”

For seasoned search professionals and leadership advisors with deep roots in, and knowledge of, the insurance industry, Mr. Petrara said there will be ample opportunity to employ his firm’s services, especially in the C-suite and senior functional line management levels. “Proper change management begins at the top. Companies that understand this and that properly align their management teams accordingly will benefit greatly,” he noted.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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