From the December 2012 issue of American Agent & Broker • Subscribe!

R&O Wholesalers: Growth Goals

Industry wholesalers from Burns & Wilcox, CRC Insurance and AmWINS look toward the future and weigh in on economic challenges, updated techology and acquisitions for 2013.

Your company will take advantage of what opportunities in 2013?

Chris Zoidis: We will continue to expand and build out our specialty products areas, where we can provide true expertise to our customers. We are seeing strong growth in the areas of healthcare, professional liability and environmental liability and we continue to invest in those areas. Through acquisition in 2012, we established a presence in Canada and have aggressive growth goals for expanding our business by opening new offices and pursuing additional acquisitions in 2013.

Tom Curtin: In 2012, we merged two of the country’s largest wholesaler brokers: CRC and Crump. The new combined CRC Wholesale Group now has eight wholesale-dedicated property-casualty brands designed to service specific insurance needs. Those brands include: CRC, CRC|Crump, Southern Cross Underwriters, TAPCO Underwriters, 5Star Specialty Programs, Negley & Assocs., Hanleigh and Target Insurance Services. We now employ 1,700 people, operate 54 office locations and have placed more than $4 billion in premium in 2011.

We see the merger and the resulting scale of our company as a benefit to our agent and market partners. For retail agents, the combined company offers an even broader range of property, casualty and professional liability products through open market, MGA and MGU facilities and exclusive programs. For our carrier partners, the merger provides the enhanced ability to distribute their products through one of the largest wholesale insurance distribution networks in the country.

Steve DeCarlo: The small business space, defined by insureds paying less than $10,000 in premium, is an attractive market for carriers but a difficult market for wholesale brokers. Historically, large wholesalers have struggled with the manpower needed to serve these clients well on a national scale. As a result, we believe this is an underserved class of business, and in the last year have made significant investments in technology to provide a platform for specialty small business lines. We have confidence that our system, which we hope to release by Jan. 1, 2014, will revolutionize the approach to serving this market.

 

What are your business goals for 2013? Are you and your insurers on the same page?

Curtin: We have set a number of strategic goals for 2013 and beyond. One of our primary goals for next year is to ensure the integration of CRC and Crump continues smoothly. Since we announced the merger of the companies in April 2012, we have accomplished many integration items and, according to the feedback provided by our agent and market partners, we have done so with very little disruption. We want to ensure that continues. Another strategic initiative we are excited about is our broker training program where we recruit, hire, educate and grow the next generations of great CRC brokers and underwriters. Those are just a couple of the many items we will focus on next year.

Zoidis: We have established strong growth goals for 2013 across the many areas of our business, with emphasis on our specialty products and brokerage business. We have been investing heavily in these areas and we plan to continue that in 2013. We also will expand our international capabilities through our offices in Canada and London to better serve our customers in the U.S. We have been aggressively hiring over the last few years and we will continue our focus on recruiting, training and development in 2013.

Our carrier partners continue to support us as we look for ways to grow profitably in this market. We are working together to innovate our product offerings and design new customized programs. We also look to collaborate with them in non-traditional ways, including partnering with them in our formal training and development programs. 

How important has program business become for your company?

DeCarlo: Program business has continued to be an important and growing area within AmWINS. Today, AmWINS’ underwriting division writes more than $550 million in premium across dozens of specialty programs. As the insurance world becomes more complex and coverages more specialized, our program offerings are becoming even more critical in meeting the needs of our retail agents.

 

Have you shifted your business strategy to accommodate economic changes?

Zoidis: We have continued to strengthen our product offerings in segments of the economy where we are seeing growth. Examples include healthcare-related classes, technology firms, start-up consultants and environmental contractors. We also have worked to make add-on coverages more affordable by offering lower sub-limits and creating modular coverage parts to tailor coverage to the insured’s specific needs.

Curtin: Wholesale brokers must be flexible, and our company has demonstrated that quality during the last few years. The economic downturn presented many challenges, but our employees rose to meet them. We worked with our market partners to customize our product offerings to capitalize on the segments of the surplus lines marketplace that we are growing. In addition, our employees all found ways to be more efficient and we continued to make strategic investments in our business to prepare for the years ahead. As we move into a transitional insurance market and an economy that we hope will continue to improve, I am confident our hard work and investment over the past few years will deliver revenue, profit and market share growth.

 

Are you still seeing significant competition from the standard insurance market?

DeCarlo: When the market is soft, which it has been for the last several years, we tend to see the standard market taking risk that would otherwise be reserved for the E&S marketplace. Despite Superstorm Sandy creating significant losses in the Northeast, we do not foresee the resulting changes to the market to be significant, with respect to terms and pricing; so we will continue to see an overlap between risks that belong in the standard verses E&S markets.

Zoidis: We still see standard carriers writing traditional E&S risks. We are seeing an increased outflow of E&S business from the standard carriers into the E&S market for the first time in many years. The standard markets are trimming the edges of their underwriting portfolios by non-renewing individual risks that do not meet their revised underwriting guidelines or classes of business that they no longer wish to write. We are seeing a significant increase in submission volume as a result. 

How important are professional designations to your company’s professionals?

Zoidis: We place a heavy emphasis on education and training, which includes encouraging our employees to pursue industry designations such as CPCU, RPLU and CIC. We have more than 250 employees pursing those designations today. We developed The Kaufman Institute, which is an on-line learning portal that all employees can access to take advantage of a wide array of business, leadership and insurance-specific courses.

 

What technology investments will you make in 2013?

Curtin: We continue to make significant investments in technology in a number of key areas. One priority is our TAPCO Underwriters small business platform.  Over the next few years, we will continue to invest in our ability to efficiently write smaller accounts via TAPCO. Our market and agent partners remain very excited about TAPCO, and we want to ensure the platform retains its technological advantage. On the brokerage side of our business, one area of technology focus is data. We are working to capture better data and information at the transaction level and then use that information to benefit our brokers, retail agents and carriers. We are developing  a number of key tools to accomplish that goal in the year ahead. Perhaps most importantly, we are investing in infrastructure and business applications to ensure a smooth integration of legacy CRC and legacy Crump technology systems.

Zoidis: We continue to upgrade our tech systems to improve our speed and responsiveness to customers including faster quotes, comparative rating and efficient policy issuance. We’re also expanding information and services we provide to brokers online.

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