Guilty pleas by Marsh Inc. executives in a bid-rigging scheme tarnished the insurance brokerage industry's reputation and, for a while, even raised fears of an Arthur Andersen-type implosion. As the dust settled, Marsh & McLennan Cos. brought in a squeaky clean former prosecutor as CEO and all three of the largest brokers–Marsh, Aon Inc. and Willis Group Holdings Ltd.–renounced the practice of accepting contingent commissions from insurers. (To prove remorse, the group coughed up a $1 billion settlement to New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.) Now, brokers must restore the client trust they squandered.

It will not be an easy task. First, Spitzer has not finished with the insurance industry yet–currently alternative risk transfer products like finite insurance, captives and self-insured workers compensation are under the microscope. Second, a debate has begun as to the need for federal regulation of the entire industry, which could expose other potentially damaging revelations about industry practices.

Finally, risk management itself is experiencing a strategic transformation. While only a few cutting-edge corporations have managed to pull it off to date, it is fair to say that senior finance executives are awakening across the country to the reality that they will have to develop more forward-looking and more quantifiable profiles of their companies' risk exposures–in areas from potential terrorist threats and system security, to environmental liabilities, to intellectual property theft, to corporate governance foibles, to retiree benefits underfunding, to executive compensation overfunding, to supply chain reliability. What role brokers will assume in that new risk evaluation will fall into the laps of the three industry leaders Treasury & Risk Management interviewed recently on the changing face of insurance brokerage: Joseph Plumeri, who has headed Willis since 2000; Michael Cherkasky, the new CEO of Marsh, who formerly led risk consulting company Kroll Inc. as well as the investigations division of the New York County District Attorney's Office; and Gregory Case, the former head of the financial services practice at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., who was chosen as Aon's chief executive this past April.

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