Saying there is a void in the insurance brokerage system, an industry veteran has opened a brokerage firm he says is aimed at filling what customers crave--service.
Mark Freitas, a longtime brokerage executive, said that after being approached "by several people and corporations," he decided the time was ripe to launch a new brokerage firm "that addresses the needs and concerns of the client base."
That new brokerage firm, which opened its doors in September, is Mark Edward Partners LLC. Its business model is focused around a high level of service to the client-- something that Mr. Freitas believes has gone missing at many brokerage firms. The economic constraints that exist today have led to cutbacks and cuts in the service that those firms can offer their clients, he said.
"Our model is such that we are starting with service first," he explained. "We are hiring seasoned professionals to provide service at a level that is needed in the marketplace today," said Mr. Freitas, who serves as president and chief executive officer of the new brokerage.
"I don't believe the insurance brokerage business is that complex," observed Mr. Freitas, who is the former president and chief operating officer of Frank Crystal & Company, where he worked for 25 years. He said the business has become too commoditized and overanalyzed. It has lost its capacity for creativity. Doing it the right way means performing the proper due diligence and research, understanding the functions of the market, and providing critiques and proposals--all of which takes time and money.
"In an environment that cuts costs, a whole lot of that is lost," he said. "We see an opportunity [for an organization] that understands the business and forms great relationships in the marketplace. We have a model that will be extremely successful in this down market."
That model goes back to "the traditional way" of brokering business, in which the firm has a strong relationship with not only the client but also the marketplace, Mr. Freitas explained.
"I believe the market has been soft for so long that the art of the insurance broker has been lost," he said. "The traditional way of understanding the client's exposure takes time. You can't just go to an insurer and say I need a D&O [directors and officers] policy. Give us a quote."
His firm begins at the level of being willing to provide for the client and then working to develop a seamless relationship between "you, the broker, and the client."
The 14 professional, handpicked staff that constitute Mark Edward Partners--soon to be 15, he said, with others "in the on-deck circle"--has expertise in different industries. With the expertise and technical know-how, Mark Edward Partners comes to the exposure from the risk management perspective, assessing the risk and developing a plan.
Then they procure the proper insurance the client needs, and if it is not available, the next step is to develop a product--a manuscript policy for the specific need and finding an underwriter or syndicate to write the product they have developed.
Mr. Freitas emphasized that the firm is not seeking to be a niche player and is open to any industry.
"Nothing is not on the table," he remarked.
He said the background and focus of the firm extends to financial institutions, investment banking, hedge funds, anything of that nature, and to private client service. "A well-rounded insurance boutique," he called it.
The firm is licensed in all 50 states and is headquartered in New York with an additional office in Palm Beach, Fla.
"We do not want to be limited by product or geographic location," he said. "We are promoting ourselves as a national insurance firm that can provide service across the country."