Ohio-based property/casualty carrier Westfield Insurance is carefully weighing its expansion with plans to appoint more agents to its middle market distribution force.
Champaign, Ill.-based Agency Relationship Manager Ken Hunter and Westfield, Ohio-based Division Manager Tim Grant spoke with IJ at the Professional Independent Insurance Agents annual convention in Springfield.
They discussed the company’s desire to grow its market share by targeting selected agencies writing commercial insurance policies of $50,000 in premium or more.
Westfield writes personal lines, commercial surety lines and agribusiness coverage in 26 states, and constantly evaluates how entering a new market may enhance its core business needs, strategic planning and future. Most recently it moved its commercial lines products into Virginia and feels there are a number of other opportunities present to aggressively grow business. Westfield’s management believes it has a strong, experienced underwriting staff throughout the organization capable of handling such an expansion.
According to Grant and Hunter, Westfield is currently surveying areas of the country for future expansion.
“We do a thorough competitor analysis in evaluating each state,” Hunter said. “We also look at things like market environment, judicial environment, state regulations, and long-term weather patterns. We look at the long term weather patterns in conjunction with long term plans for satisfying our business needs and fundamentally what we are trying to achieve. We also want to see if there is an opportunity to diversify and spread our risk by expanding beyond our current weather exposure … going into a new state could spread that risk.”
In the grand scheme of insurance carriers, Westfield fits somewhere in the middle. On one end of the scale there is the monoline segment; carriers that are one or two state providers. On the other end, there are huge international companies such as St. Paul, Hartford or Travelers. Westfield fits neither mold and believes it can offer agents value in a different way.
“We are large enough to provide a level of expertise and professionalism including the tools agents need to grow their business and develop it successfully,” Grant said. “We’re small enough to handle business that might not be worth the larger carrier’s time in terms of size or type of account. And we have exceptional claims handling. So we feel we have the entire package to offer our agents.”
Recently Westfield identified several personal lines captives announcing rate cuts in a few places where it writes coverage, but is not overly concerned about the increased competition.
“It’s not anything we can consume ourselves with. We are very much an underwriting organization,” Grant said. “The rate certainly has an impact but it’s not a sole factor. We look more to making sure our product is a quality product and that we deliver value. We price the product adequately to produce an underwriting profit and then just focus in on executing.”
Currently, nine of the 26 states Westfield does business in are operating in surety only. That could support or be very independent in terms of interaction with their property/casualty operation’s ability on the personal lines or commercial lines side.
According to Grant, Westfield tries to marry the benefits of being a mid-sized company with a relationship belief system stemming from a 150-year old foundation. “That really goes to who we are and what we stand for. It is a business relationship with our agents, it is a personal relationship with our agents and we look to add value to those relationships for our agency partners.”
For the complete video interview, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/448jm.