Program business may be the most complex and challenging sector of the insurance industry. Zurich, which has provided coverage for programs for more than 50 years, continues to be a dependable, stable partner for many of the best program administrators. When a program with an outstanding program administrator truly fills the needs of an underserved market, it presents an irresistible proposition for a long-term partnership.

But making a program work takes more than a great idea. It also takes sophisticated relationship management, underwriting rigor, product and marketing expertise, outstanding claims handling and the resolute financial strength of an insurer whose experience goes beyond managing Main Street risks. It takes an insurer that approaches program business with a long-term view, rather than an opportunistic play to move in and out of the market.

Finding the right insurer is more essential now than ever before. As expectations of softening markets spread across product lines and industry sectors, the importance of being an underwriting thought-leader intensifies. Aligning a program with an insurer that has the underwriting sophistication and dedicated resources to effectively manage through market cycles is the linchpin for a program's long-term viability.

"Identifying the right insurer can be difficult when markets are in transition," says Maureen Kaye at Berkeley, which recently signed on with Zurich with its market-leading program for Travel Professionals. "But Zurich's commitment stood out. From its actuarial review to pricing analysis to systems expertise, we could see we were working with people who understand program business and are committed to setting up a program that works for all parties over the long term."

A large part of Zurich's market savvy derives from its extensive experience in a range of industry sectors that are as diverse as trucking operations and fitness clubs, hotels and law practices. Zurich insures programs such as independent auto dealerships and rental businesses, golf clubs, gaming, tanning salons, religious organizations, municipalities, schools and nonprofit organizations. And the protection that Zurich provides spans the complete complement of property and casualty coverage, as well as specialty lines such as nonmedical professional liability, allied health professional liability and excess casualty.

As diverse as these types of programs are, they have one common characteristic: Each in its own way differentiates itself from the general insurance market and fills a distinct market need for a group of underserved insurance buyers. This focus on the core value of program business lends flexibility to Zurich's selection process. Recognizing that differentiation is the true test of a program's viability, Zurich program professionals assess a program based on its individual merits rather than a pre-determined list of industry sectors.

Zurich's focus on underwriting discipline and product innovation is a pillar of its commitment to providing market stability--a condition with which brokers and program administrators have had to grapple in recent years when fair weather players exited the market, leaving some programs adrift. These disruptions are all too frequent. "One of the last things we want to do is to repeatedly remarket our program," says Pat Kilkenny, chairman of the Arrowhead General Insurance Agency. "Zurich's financial strength and staying power were strong incentives for placing our program with it."

Through its association with Target Markets, Zurich has been able to meet with key administrators, exchange ideas and identify opportunities, resulting in open dialogue and optimism about the future of program business. By continuing to focus on the core value that programs present to the marketplace, Zurich believes there are many profitable opportunities yet to be explored.*