Barry Zyskind of AmTrust Explains What Sets His Company Apart

AmTrust Financial Services, founded in the late 1990s during the dot-com explosion, is a leading provider of workers’ compensation for small business.  AmTrust’s warranty program business, one of their initial products, is also a growing segment.
AmTrust was launched in 1998. Between 2005 and 2015, its market share in the commercial lines business in the U.S. grew from 0.08 percent to 1.92 percent, according to A.M. Best data. The company is now ranked as the 11thlargest commercial policy in the U.S., up from the 128th in 2005.
AmTrust grew both organically and through the acquisition of 40 other companies. The company prioritized data mining and customer service, as it continued to focus on serving the niche segment of small businesses.
Technology has played a large role in the company’s growth, as Barry Zyskind, President and Chief Executive Officer, explained in an interview with Best’s Review, an A.M. Best publication.
“Early on, we recognized that we could differentiate ourselves through technology. Every application we use, from underwriting to claims management, is built internally to maximize our productivity and data mining capabilities. When we acquire a business, we quickly integrate it on our technology platforms. Our digital strategy has absolutely set us apart in a highly competitive industry.”
“We use our proprietary technology and extensive database of loss history to help appropriately price and structure policies, maintain lower levels of loss, enhance our ability to accurately predict losses and maintain lower claims costs than the industry as a whole.”
Barry Zyskind added that AmTrust’s warranty program has also been growing well.
“Today, our automotive and powersports vehicle service contract division is a world leader, while our retail and consumer products extended service plan division ranks among the world’s top three.”

“With more than 25 million warranty policies in force in 2015, we’re set for continued growth, not just in North America and Europe, but throughout Latin America and into Southeast Asia as well, where we are working with leading mobile device retailers.”

GlaxoSmithKline Selects New Chief Executive

GlaxoSmithKline has chosen Emma Walmsley, head of consumer healthcare, as its new chief executive. Both internal and external candidates were considered for the position. Walmsley first joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2010 from L’Oreal and will replace Andrew Witty. As Chairman Philip Hampton said,

“Under Andrew’s leadership, GSK has successfully developed into a company with market-leading positions in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare.  These provide excellent platforms for sustainable, long-term growth, and we are confident Emma will successfully build on these strengths.”

Boost for Back-to-School Sales

The back-to-school supply sales this year have been the fastest growing in four years. This is the second most important season for retailers, after the Thanksgiving season, and the back to school period spans from July to September. It includes clothes, shoes, electronics, backpacks and more.

The good weather has also helped to bring shoppers into the stores, rather than just to online superstores like Amazon.  The total back-to-school sales rose 2% in July, as compared to the 1% growth in 2015 and 2014 according to payment technology company First Data.

The prediction is that back-to-school and college spending will get to $75.8 billion this year according to retail association National Retail Federation’s survey each year.

Interestingly, schools have been asking students to save their work on USB drives, and this has boosted the sale for small devices. Best Buy has been tempting students with special coupons for laptops, headphones, small refrigerators and more. J.C. Penny has also done many promotions just as their “Penney Day” which offers many back-to-school staples at discounts on Saturday during the season.

It’s interesting to note that customers are flocking to the less expensive stores, rather than looking for the fancier name brands. As RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Tunick explained, stores like Old Navy, TJ Maxx and Kohl’s are the top picks for 2016.

AIG Selling Their Mortgage-Guaranty Unit

The American International Group Inc. (AIG) has said that they will sell their mortgage-guaranty unit to Arch Capital Group Ltd. for approximately $3.4 billion. They believe they will get $2.2 billion in cash, $250 million in Arch Capital’s perpetual preferred stock and $975 million in non-voting common-equivalent preferred stock from selling United Guaranty Corp.

AIG promised shareholders a massive overhaul and they are now following through. They are spinning off the mortgage insurance unit, cutting jobs and selling their broker-dealer network. 

Learn the full details to find out more.

Shake Ups in the Online Gaming World

Apparently online gaming is the place to be, if this recent acquisition gives a hint about popularity of such activities. A Chinese consortium that includes Shanghai Giant Network Technology Co. Ltd. and Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma have agreed to acquire Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc.’s online games unit. They are paying $4.4 billion in cash for this acquisition.

China has the world’s largest online gaming market at the moment. They are now looking to expand out of this bubble. Recently, for example, Tencent Holdings Ltd., China’s largest gaming group, agreed to purchase a majority stake in Supercell from SoftBank Group Corp. This deal was worth $8.6 billion. 

Learn more about these deals and the plans that Chinese companies have for expansion.

Taking Care of the Environment with Republic Services, Mas Energy & Others

There are a number of exciting green initiatives taking place in Georgia right now. Georgia Power, for instance, is ready to move into solar power and other renewable energy in a deal that state regulators are expected to approve soon. The utility will then be able to add as much as 1600 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity which could power about 264,000 homes. As former PSC commissioner Bobby Baker said, “It’s going to be a sizable increase in renewable energy.”

Similarly, Republic Services and Mas Energy have just unveiled a renewable energy project that will serve Metro Atlanta. Three landfill gas-to-energy facilities in Buford, Griffin and Winder will be able to generate 24.1 megawatts of electricity which is enough renewable energy to power 15,665 houses.

As Jamey Amick, the area president for Republic Services explains, “We believe in leading by example in everything we do. The modern landfill presents new opportunity to harness energy from yesterday’s waste and convert it to meet tomorrow’s energy needs. We are proud to partner once again with Mas Energy to generate a renewable energy source that makes a meaningful and lasting environmental difference in the state of Georgia.”

Other partners who are participating in this project with Republic Services and Mas Energy include Georgia Power, I Squared Capital, Crowder Construction Company and Nixon Energy.

US Job Growth Turns Up

US job growth was on a major upturn in June as there was a boost in hiring. The first quarter showed a lull and now the economy looks like it’s heading back up. The Federal Reserve will probably not raise interest rates soon.
Payrolls in the nonfarm sector increased by 287,000 jobs last month. This is the largest gain we’ve seen since last October according to the Labor Department. These signs of strength came, however, before the Brexit vote on June 23, raising fears that these great advances may not continue.
As Millan Mulraine, the deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York said, “For the Fed, this report is likely to offer some encouragement on the underlying labor market backdrop, though it is unlikely to change the current ‘wait and see’ policy stance as they assess the fallout from the Brexit vote.”

A Major Purchase: Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn

Hang on to your hat, because Microsoft Corp. is heading towards buying LinkedIn Corp for $26.2 billion. The combination allows for software like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to connect with LinkedIn’s 433 million professionals. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on a conference call with analysts, “LinkedIn and Microsoft really share a mission…There is no better way to realize that mission than to connect the world’s professionals.”

As Forrester analyst Ted Schader said, “It’s a massive growth play for Microsoft.”

LinkedIn makes most of its $3 billion in annual revenue from job hunters and from recruiters who pay a monthly fee in order to post resumes and connect with people.

Advice for New Lawyers

As a new lawyer, there are so many things that you need to process and understand. Certainly, all of this will take time and you should give yourself the time that you need to learn from others and to learn the profession. One of the best ways to learn is by emulating those you admire, so find someone that you look up to already in the firm and try to get a spot under their wing. Here, highly respected lawyers in the field offer other advice as well.

James Donovan, a University of Virginia School of Law Adjunct Professor and a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, recently offered advice to lawyers in an interview that he has with UVA Lawyers magazine. As he said,

“The most common mistake that people make when they cover clients is they don’t become strategic advisers to their clients. In other words, they don’t take the opportunity to advise the client on matters outside of the matter they’ve been hired to work on. Use the relationship you’ve developed to build a broader relationship.”

He also mentioned that lawyers should ask open ended questions that don’t lend themselves to “yes” or “no” answers. Jim Donovan also explained what it means to put the client first. As he said, “First, be prepared to give the client advice that is not in your interest. There is no better way to establish credibility. If you go to the client and say you shouldn’t do this deal, they know that, as a lawyer, you’ll get paid more the longer it goes on. So you need to advocate hard for positions regardless of what is in your interest.”

As another lawyer, John G. Balestriere explains, clients often want to see their lawyer face to face. As he discussed on the website Above the Law, “When we are all so efficient, providing quick edits on our iPhone on the 4 train from downtown to Grand Central, or responding quickly to emails from the bathroom when we’re on a date, it’s easy to forget the value of not quality time, but quantity time with clients. I’m not saying we do a slumber party over our client’s home on the weekend and watch “When Harry Met Sally.” However, serious, unscheduled, and, perhaps most importantly, unguarded time with clients helps them really open up and, if you respond well, trust you. The more that they trust you, the more that they will share with you, the more they will help you figure out their goals and serve them better.”

Hopefully, these interesting perspectives from James Donovan and John G. Balestriere will help you on your way towards a successful career. 

Gains in Single-Family Home Sales Across the US

In great news, new US single-family home sales have had their biggest gain in 24 years with the April numbers. As the report from the Commerce Department shows, there is also a surge in new home prices.

As Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York said, “Consumers are taking the leap and buying the biggest of big ticket items of their lives and this speaks to confidence. The Federal Reserve can raise rates at their June meeting without fear the economy is going to slow.”

The new home sales went up by 16.6% to an annual rate of 619,000 units. This is the highest level that it’s been since January of 2008 and the percent increase was the most since January of 1992.

The only exception was in the Midwest where new home sales did not increase broadly.

Learn more about these developments and get the full story here.