December 18, 2017
Executive Profile

Cass looks to maintain American Nuclear Insurers' expertise pipeline

HBJ Photo | John Stearns
HBJ Photo | John Stearns
Michael Cass, who has been with American Nuclear Insurers since 1988, became its president and CEO on Dec. 1.

VIEW: Executive Profile: Michael Cass

Michael Cass

President and CEO, American Nuclear Insurers

Highest education: Law degree at what is now Western New England University, 1993.

Executive insights: Develop and steadfastly maintain the confidence of your managers and board/owners, and don't do anything to jeopardize that because it's political capital that's priceless.

If there ever were a catastrophic accident at one of the country's 99 commercial nuclear reactors, a small office in Glastonbury would handle the significant insurance claims likely to follow.

"Train, train, train; get ready, get ready; and hopefully you never ever have to exercise it," said Michael Cass, president and CEO of American Nuclear Insurers (ANI).

ANI, established in 1956, is a joint underwriting association authorized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has 27 employees.

ANI currently has 23 member insurers — Berkshire Hathaway, Chubb, Liberty, Munich Re, State Farm, Swiss Re, among others — that pledge a certain level of coverage if ANI were called upon to pay a large, catastrophic loss.

ANI's minimum membership criteria is an AM Best rating of A- or better, at least $100 million in policyholder surplus and an unqualified audit opinion, Cass said.

"We like to characterize ourselves as the nuclear insurance group for each one of these 23 companies," he said.

ANI provides all the underwriting, finance and accounting, legal claims and engineering for the nuclear risk on behalf of each company.

It offers a $450 million policy as the primary level of protection. If that were expended in an accident, reactor owners would cumulatively contribute up to about an additional $12.5 billion to a fund administered by ANI, or $127 million each.

"The total program in the United States is about $13 billion, right off the bat," Cass said.

If it appears claims will exceed that threshold, Congress would decide how to address the rest, he said.

Cass, 61, has held various jobs since joining ANI in 1988, most recently as its senior vice president-general counsel. He became CEO Dec. 1, replacing George Turner who retired after 20 years at the post.

Turner said Cass is well-qualified for the job. Aside from representing the insurance members and serving clients, Cass needs to ensure future staff transitions maintain ANI's expertise in critical positions, Turner said.

Cass calls that his main goal, preparing the next experts and leaders as older employees transition out to ensure their vast institutional knowledge is properly transferred and understood. There's significant on-the-job training to fully understand the program and some of its unique aspects, he said.

He also wants to ensure ANI maintains or re-establishes relationships with risk managers at nuclear plants where those jobs have turned over.

Cass earned bachelor's and master's degrees in nuclear engineering and spent the first nine years of his career in utilities, starting with then-Northeast Utilities in regulatory interactions with government authorities for the utility's nuclear facilities. He then moved to the New York Power Authority, eventually working at its Indian Point nuclear plant as assistant plant manager.

At a career fork and slated for management in reactor operations, he wondered how he could leverage his nuclear experience in another direction. Familiar with ANI, he got a job in its engineering department, earned his law degree at night and climbed the ranks. He also has an MBA.

Industry evolution

Cass has witnessed the evolution of the nuclear insurance and power industries.

Before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, nuclear plant operators were keenly aware of safety, Cass said, but that was sharpened significantly afterward. Following the incident, the industry established an internal watchdog organization to install operational excellence, he said.

Claimants affected by Three Mile Island were compensated for losses, including lost business income and relocation expenses during the evacuation period, Cass said.

ANI members also participate in some foreign reinsurance pools. They were not subject to financial exposure from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in 2011 following a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami, a "grave natural disaster" excluded from cause of damage under the policy terms, Cass said.

Another foreign disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in Ukraine in 1986, did not affect ANI, Cass said, calling the plant design one with which ANI would never be involved.

While ANI insures 99 U.S. reactors and another nine that have been decommissioned, it has 400-plus policies, including suppliers and transporters associated with nuclear facilities.

ANI handles non-catastrophic claims, too — including lawsuits someone may file against an operator, claiming injury or property damage from the facility's operation.

ANI had $134 million in gross written premiums in fiscal 2017 for its core liability and reinsurance programs. ANI's historical combined ratio, which measures profitability, is typically 69 percent to 70 percent. Anything below 100 percent is good, he said.

Cass, who enjoys golf, reading and yard work on his free time, has been married to Rebecca for 35 years. The couple, who like an occasional Connecticut antique or wine trail outing, have two grown children, a son, 27, and daughter, 24.

Check out a video clip of Michael Cass's interview at hartfordbusiness.com.

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