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Know Your Enemy: Turning Experience and Big Data into Savings

Suzanne Brandt

President of R-T Specialty, LLC, Suzanne Brandt was a film and economics double major at Northwestern University, certain she would go into the business of producing documentaries.

“Great American – American Financial’s insurance division – was interviewing on campus,” recalls Brandt, “and a good friend of mine convinced me to join him at the happy hour – they had free beer.”

While the drinks slaked her thirst, Brandt told the recruiter she was more interested in film than insurance. 

“He told me that I could go work for one of their subsidiaries in production,” she says. “They owned several television stations, so I figured I would work hard, prove my myself and then transition into producing.”

As it turned out, Brandt’s passion for documentary filmmaking – which entails digging deep into a subject matter – was the same kind of demand needed for a good underwriter – the ability to understand many types of businesses, from the nature of how they operate to the financial aspects. It also didn’t hurt she had majored in economics. 

Brandt started R-T Specialty in 2010 under the auspices of RSG Underwriting Managers (RSG UM), which also includes an underwriting MGA division. To date, R-T brokers have some of the most successful track records in the industry, and with approximately 840 employees based in the United States, have generated approximately 70 percent of RSG's consolidated revenues in 2014. 

“We started our business in 2010 from scratch and are looking to place over USD4.1 billion in premiums this year,” says Brandt, a member of
Young Presidents’ Organization in Chicago since 2012. “RSG, including R-T and RSG's underwriting MGA division, together will place in excess of USD5.5 billion in premiums.” 

R-T is dedicated exclusively to devising sophisticated insurance and risk management solutions for situations that demand innovation and industry experience. One of the creative ways it does this is by partnering with management teams with significant expertise and extensive relationships in a given industry. R-T’s primary goal, no matter the division, is to stay nimble in order to solve the client’s issues. 

“Our market segment is agile and can easily react to consumer needs,” says Brandt. “We work with our non-standard insurance carrier partners to provide insurance coverage in non-standard, non-traditional ways to solve niche insurance problems and are able to react much more quickly than a traditional, standard insurance carrier.”

In reaction to the growing demand for protection in the wake of terrorism, R-T has created unique products to cover businesses should an attack damage their people or property and to help restore capital to companies affected by things like natural disasters. With the increase in cyber issues, the company has partnered with several insurance groups to provide innovative coverage to businesses impacted by a cyber attack.  

“With all of the regulatory requirements businesses must go through after a breach, there is now insurance to pay for the substantial expense a business will go through to notify its clients in a timely manner as set by regulation,” says Brandt. “New cyber insurance products also offer coverage to restore data and/or the lost revenue stream a business experiences after a breach.”

The more business leaders understand their exposures, the more it can impact their insurance premium and coverages.  

“If your property is in a catastrophe prone area such as Florida and you have impact glass on your buildings, letting your retail agent know this can save you substantial premiums,” explains Brandt. “Insurance companies give credits for better construction. Additionally, if you have proper loss control/prevention measures in place for your workers and take the time to explain that to your agent, you can also receive credit on your premium.”

For the insurance industry, big data and the ability to farm that data including the use of technology have been welcome industry disruptors. 

“The technology has made it much easier to gather data which makes underwriting more precise and allows us to better understand the true exposure,” says Brandt. “An underwriter can find out just about anything for a particular insured these days with the advancement of technology including social media. This enables carriers to better understand their overall portfolio exposure.”

YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit