Ex-Aon Senior Exec Pursues Social & Entrepreneurial Dream

NU Online News Service, April 9, 12:00 p.m. EDT

After five years of helping to reinvigorate Aon Corp., Ted Devine, a senior executive, left the firm in 2009 to pursue his dream of helping inner city youths become better citizens. Recently, he stepped back into the insurance industry in the role of chief executive officer of Dallas-based Insureon, an online-insurance agency for small business.

NU: How did you start out in the business?

Devine: I spent 12 years at McKinsey & Co. where I was one of the leaders in the insurance practice, reaching senior partner level. During that time I got to know [Aon chief executive] Greg Case. When Greg went over to Aon, he asked me to join him and I was among the first people to help him put the change at Aon together.

In five years I was head of strategy and led some major initiatives there. One was called the implementation of the revenue engine, which was Aon’s approach on how to drive growth. I also led the initiative on how to improve the firm on the balance sheet from a profit-and-loss perspective. That led to $100 million in cost savings and the sale of the underwriting assets, Combined and the warranty group.

My last role with Aon was pulling together all the retail-risk services into one big profit-and-loss and led that for a year as we pulled that all together under one integrated strategy.

NU: At what point did you want to make a change and why?

D: I am a hockey coach and I have coached youth athletics for almost a decade. I’ve also done a ton of volunteering in the inner city ofChicago for almost 20 years. Part of my life’s passion has been giving back and I was doing that informally.

After a lot of thought, I felt that if I was going to have an impact on the community that I wanted to have, I needed to have some time to do that. I asked Greg to help me take some time and start 1World Sport more than two-and-a-half years ago. I spent that time building it prior to my new role.

Today, 1World Sport helps over 5,000 inner city kids inChicago. We’re beginning to do events inNew YorkandDallasthis year. We work with at-risk kids in housing authorities or schools to learn the life lessons of sports and we partner with local professional sport teams to do that.

The gist of the charity is that a lot of kids love to play the game, but don’t take the time to learn the life lessons from the sport, like the link between academics and practice, like studying for a test or a game; nutrition; what it means to be a good sport or a teammate or compete the right way.

1World Sports is all about teaching these life lessons to the hundreds of kids we’ve worked with.

NU: How does this tie into your change from Aon to Insureon?

D: It’s interesting. One of the things I love at 1World is working with individuals and making a difference. That is the focus of Insureon.

We are the largest platform for individual entrepreneurs to get insurance. Every single day, 250 people come to our site and they are all small-business people looking for insurance to help their company or help themselves start a company or to get the insurance that they need to protect their family. All of our clients [have fewer] than 20 employees, [and] most of them have only five employees.

We have about 20,000 clients and we’re growing at about 1,000 a month.

I’m chatting to people who just got laid off, or are starting their own consulting firm, and they’ve been told they need a certificate of insurance and they don’t know what that is, but they know they have to have one to get their job.

NU: What are the products you market?

D: We sell the BOP [businessowners policy], workers’ compensation and liability.

NU: What is your relationship to the customer?

D: We are the agent to the customer. There are 40 million businesses in theUnited States with less than five employees, and it is growing at a rate where it is projected that by 2019, 40 percent of all businesses will be in this micro-segment. There’s a lot of growth there.

These people are not being adequately served by traditional channels because the premium is too small. They are also going online to find insurance. Today, we are the leading online platform.

We had 71,000 hits to our website last month. We deliver our insurance cover either through an online platform or getting them on the phone with our licensed insurance professional. In most cases, we can get them a bindable, real time quote so they can make their insurance decision right away.

We’re not a shopping service; we’re not a price shopper or an aggregator. We work with a few select carriers to make sure our clients get the coverage they need and makes the most sense.

NU: This is a pretty dramatic switch, going from a dynamic global company to a smaller concern. What drove you to make the change?

D: What I loved about Aon was not that it was big, but that we were trying to change the firm and be the best in the industry. We were trying to grow. When I got to Aon the stock was trading at $19, when I left it was trading at $42.

I feel the same way about Insureon. This is a tremendous platform from where to build and grow a business in a company that has 20,000 clients; we think we can have 100,000 clients in three to four years.

For me that’s the charge; the energy. It’s not about big. It’s not about global. It’s about being able to grow a business and have impact.

NU: Do you feel that you will have more of a sense of accomplishment working at a smaller, more personal organization?

D:  I feel that I can make a difference and we can make a difference as a team. The thing I loved about Aon was the culture that Pat Ryan [Aon’s founder] had built around driving sales and making sure we aligned to help the producers sell. That’s the culture I want to build at Insureon along with the culture Greg built, which was a focus on information and insight and strategic alignment that has made Greg so successful.

I hope I can learn the lessons from those two great leaders and pull it all together into a firm that is truly distinctive and unique.

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