Q. Why would I use a wholesaler for admitted personal insurance products? Bill Gatewood, personal insurance director, Burns & Wilcox, responds:
Brokers and agents go to a wholesaler for three primary reasons: market access, expertise, and efficiency. Most brokers and agents understand how this applies to non-admitted products. They generally cannot get direct appointments with non-admitted carriers and would rather not deal with the licensing and tax filing issues that are required with these products. However, these same wholesaler advantages apply to admitted markets as well. Every agency has their stable of go-to standard market carriers. Most brokers and agents limit the number of carriers to ensure they can meet volume requirements, maximize bonus compensation, and maintain productive relationships. When a risk falls outside of the appetite of your go-to companies, a wholesaler can give you and your clients a variety of admitted product options. With a strong wholesale partner, you expand the market reach of your agency. There may be niche products where you want to tap into the expertise of your wholesaler to ensure your clients are properly protected. High-value homes and recreational watercraft are just two examples of products that require some specific knowledge or expertise that a wholesaler can bring to your agency. Finally, there are the products that don’t come up very often and it’s easier and more efficient for your agency to partner with a wholesaler. Monoline umbrellas, vacant and vacation homes, and catastrophe-prone properties are examples of products that come up from time to time, but you don’t want to go to the time and trouble of writing it direct through your agency. The next time you come across a personal insurance need that your standard markets can’t handle, don’t turn the business away, call your local Burns & Wilcox office and see what a wholesale partner can do for you. It may pleasantly surprise you.
Q. Are all wholesalers pretty much the same? If not, how do you distinguish one from the next? Josephine Culver, senior personal insurance underwriter, Burns & Wilcox, responds:
All wholesalers are not created equal. And service is usually what separates the superior from the mediocre. Burns & Wilcox offers customers a wide variety of personal insurance products with fast, dependable service, day and night. We take pride in forging strong partnerships with our brokers and agents by giving them outstanding service and treating them with respect. Your clients’ needs are important to us and you will know that every time you interact with one of our offices. We strive to give you and your clients options, even if we have to decline a risk. Sometimes an agent needs a quote on a risk quickly after an evening meeting with a client. Retail agents partnered with Burns & Wilcox know they can email the submission to us after normal business hours and they will have a response the next day. And, because we do not have a retail operation, our agents know we only partner with them, we never compete against them! Then there’s the issue of common business courtesy. After 37 years in the insurance industry, I have learned that saying “please” and “thank you” still goes a long way.
Q. What is an example of a hard-to-place risk that Burns & Wilcox can help me place? Kay Dingess, personal insurance manager/underwriter at Burns & Wilcox, responds:
Wholesalers can be a vital resource in helping brokers and agents meet the needs of their clients. Traditionally, we have a vast array of markets we can approach, along with a proven ability to engineer an account through more flexible terms. For example: An agent called me late on a Friday afternoon, in a panic. His insured’s Vacant Home Coverage was expiring on Sunday at midnight. The agent asked me if I could place the property for him with one of our markets. This wasn’t an average vacant dwelling. He informed me the home was worth more than $1 million, was in Protection Class 9, had been vacant for five years, and was also at the tail end of construction. The insured needed another 18 months to complete the construction. After making several phone calls to our markets, I found a carrier to place this risk. By the time the original policy was due to expire that Sunday, we had a new policy quoted and bound. With the market partners we have, this was a relatively fast placement, which left my agent’s client thrilled. Like we always say, “We make the hard to place, easy.”