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Industry Profile: The Beazley Group’s Elisabeth Ditomassi  A Global Perspective On Insurance

by ~ Kristin Suga Heres (Email) (Web Site)

Elisabeth Ditomassi is not the type to shy away from a challenge. In her former role as General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Elisabeth tackled head-on some of the most pressing regulatory issues to face the industry in the Commonwealth for decades, including the introduction of competition into the Massachusetts personal auto insurance market. These days, however, Elisabeth is taking on new challenges, this time at the helm of U.S. Compliance and Regulatory Affairs for Beazley Group, an emerging presence in the U.S. property and casualty market.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Elisabeth to discuss her unique perspectives on the insurance industry and her transition from the halls of state government to her new, in-house role. Given Elisabeth’s energy and tireless enthusiasm for her work, as well as her disarming and affable nature, it is not at all surprising that she has risen so far so quickly.

An Introduction to Insurance

Like so many who find themselves working in insurance, Elisabeth ended up in the industry by pure chance. After graduating from Boston University School of Law, Elisabeth worked as an attorney in both private practice and state government. Her roles included working as a litigation associate at a small Wall Street law firm, and later, the law firm formerly known as Kirkpatrick & Lockhart; serving as a prosecutor of public corruption for the Massachusetts Attorney General; and working as Chief of Litigation at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. In 2003, when Elisabeth was seeking a general counsel position, an opportunity opened up  by chance  at the Massachusetts DOI, where she went on to serve as General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner for seven years. Elisabeth’s position at the DOI was her first, but certainly not her last, position in the insurance industry.

At the DOI, Elisabeth wore many hats. A few of her many roles included monitoring and participating in all litigation involving the Division, presiding over administrative hearings, reviewing and analyzing all insurance-related legislation that had any likelihood of becoming law, advising the commissioner on numerous matters, working with the Governor’s counsel to carry out certain objectives affecting the insurance market, and drafting regulations. However, Elisabeth’s favorite role was that of policymaker. “It was a blast creating policy, Elisabeth observed; politics, however, sometimes dampened some of the fun involved in that endeavor.

Reflecting on her time at the DOI, Elisabeth noted that one of her most formidable tasks was working to move the personal auto insurance market from a price-setting regime to managed competition. In doing so, Elisabeth and the DOI faced substantial resistance from domestic companies working to retain the existing system. Creative thinking was critical, as the DOI had to work substantial change within the existing (archaic) legal framework. On a few occasions, Elisabeth and the DOI were faced with the task of convincing the Supreme Judicial Court that the Commissioner had the legal authority to take these monumental steps. The DOI prevailed. “The early years on this project taught me how to think strategically and creatively, Elisabeth reflected. “You often cannot get to where you need to be with the current laws, so you have to figure out how to build what you want with only the tools you already have in your tool box.

When asked to opine on the biggest misconception about the Massachusetts DOI, Elisabeth noted that the “the industry often underestimates and undervalues the Division: “I worked with some of the hardest-working and committed individuals in my career [there]. They really care about sustaining a healthy market and protecting consumers from bad practices. They work very hard to achieve these goals and often under less-than-desirable circumstances, including a shortage of resources. Significantly, Elisabeth observed that although Massachusetts has the tenth-largest insurance market in the country, its department of insurance has the smallest budget (in relation to premiums) of any in the nation.

Beazley: Thinking Globally

Armed with the skills she honed during her time at the DOI, Elisabeth now finds herself addressing exciting challenges in her new position as head of U.S. Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at Beazley. Having had the opportunity to view the insurance industry through the lens of a state regulator, Elisabeth brings a unique perspective to her in-house role: “As a regulator, one learns to think holistically. I view every issue through several different lenses. How does the situation comport with the current laws and would the legislature react against the situation by passing a new or amended law? How will the courts interpret the situation if we are challenged? Finally, how will the Governor find this policy or situation, particularly in view of whatever agenda he may be pursuing? Having this circumspection serves me well in almost anything I do now.

Beazley is primarily a property and casualty writer in both the admitted and the non-admitted markets. The company started in the United Kingdom twenty-five years ago and made its debut in the U.S. market around 2005. Beazley has eight offices in the United States; a thriving business in the U.K. and other parts of the E.U.; and operations in Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, among other locations. Elisabeth describes Beazley as an “innovative company that likes to specialize in unique risks. One of Elizabeth’s primary tasks is helping Beazley navigate the regulatory waters during this time of expansion and growth.

Beazley’s international presence poses complex challenges for someone in Elisabeth’s shoes. As she describes, “U.S. and Global Compliance move in lockstep. While foreign regulators do not have a direct impact on U.S. operations, their mandates still instruct the manner in which Beazley formulates its company policies in the U.S. For instance, Elisabeth was recently involved in formulating U.S. company policy in the wake of sweeping anti-bribery legislation that was passed in England. As Elisabeth explained, although U.S. operations are not formally subject to the new English legislation, it is necessary to make sure that U.S. operations are conducted in a manner consistent with the new legislation so as not to adversely impact U.K. operations or U.K. regulatory compliance. With its global operations growing continually, Elisabeth must be mindful of the multi-national aspect of Beazley at all times, even though her focus is on U.S. regulatory compliance.

Interestingly, Elisabeth sees an industry trend emerging of “more federal centralization as to insurance issues that affect the international stage. As Elisabeth notes, “the industry as a whole is changing overseas, and the U.S. industry has to adapt to those changes, too. It is very challenging for state-based regulation to move nimbly among such hurdles.

A Tireless Advocate (Among Other Things)

In addition to keeping busy with her new position, Elisabeth also devotes her time to developing young attorneys and giving back to the legal community. Elisabeth teaches LLM courses to students enrolled in Boston University’s Banking and Financial Law program. She is also a distinguished member of the Commonwealth’s Board of Bar Overseers and an active member of MReBA.

Elisabeth also finds time in her busy schedule to devote to her husband, Tom, and several hobbies. She describes herself as an “antiques fanatic, and she has a particular affinity for Georgian jewelry and early American silver. Our aim is to supply cheap burberry bags,replica iwc watches,replica cartier watches and replica breitling at very affordable prices.

If you would like to discuss the issues raised in this article, you can contact Elisabeth at Elisabeth.Ditomassi@beazley.com.

Kristin Suga Heres may be reached at kheres@zelle.com.
 2011 Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP. All rights reserved.

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