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The 2014 All-America Research Team: Insurance/Nonlife, No. 1: Joshua Stirling

< The 2014 All-America Research TeamJoshua StirlingSanford C.
Bernstein & Co.First-Place Appearances: 1

Total Appearances: 2

Analyst Debut: 2013

In just his second appearance on this roster, Joshua Stirling earns top honors, rising from No. 2. The Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. researcher, who works out of Boston, “does deep-dive analysis, which really allows him to add a ton of value,” one fan remarks. Even though the industry’s pricing cycle has turned and margins are cresting, Stirling says, he considers U.S. nonlife insurers healthy. As of mid-September, the group was up 7.4 percent in 2014, not far off the broad market’s performance. “With well-run primary insurers delivering their target returns,” he explains, “they are keeping margins stable by holding the line on pricing, using data and analytics to improve their claims and underwriting.” Moreover, such major providers as Allstate Corp., Chubb Corp. and Travelers Co., “are demonstrating their commitment to shareholders by returning most of their earnings by buying back stock.” In this environment, Stirling, 36, favors American International Group, dubbing it a “self-help” story. Underearning and trading at half the multiple of its well-run peers, the New York–based insurer is five years into a dramatic operating transformation, he advises, and has the leverage to drive substantial earnings growth with improvements in underwriting and claims as well as a streamlining of its global footprint. The researcher is “very comprehensive in his approach,” lauds another backer. Stirling joined Sanford C. Bernstein in 2010, after working in the insurance industry at Progressive Corp., White Mountains Insurance Group and Hanover Insurance Group. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University in New York and an MBA from California’s Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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