Burns & Wilcox, one of the nation’s largest wholesale brokerage firms, announced it will no longer market the company’s personal lines business as Service General, but instead will conduct all personal lines business as “Burns & Wilcox Personal Lines.” The change became effective Nov. 1.
The consolidation does not mean that B&W will eliminate the Service General name entirely, said Alan Kaufman, chairman and CEO of B&W. “The name will continue, but we will not be marketing under that name; it won’t say Service General in advertising,” he said. Kaufman added that many people have come to know the name of Service General over the years so B&W will continue to respond to it, but will no longer answer the phone as “Service General.”
“B&W is moving forward with this roll-up and re-branding to capitalize on, first, growing demand; and, second, name recognition and brand awareness of the Burns & Wilcox identity,” said Bill McCord, director of personal lines.
Service General has long been Burns & Wilcox’s personal lines unit, following an acquisition of the Ohio-based company in 1983. Today, all 28 B&W offices do personal lines, and McCord said the company will add a 29th office in early 2006.
Personal lines represent about 12 percent of the company’s total volume of written premium, but accounts for more than 20 percent of the company’s profit, Kaufman said. In 2005, B&W’s personal lines business represents about $90 million out of a corporate total of over $700 million. Approximately $41 million of that is homeowners business, or 46 percent, $21 million is dwelling fire business, or 23 percent, and about $20 million is personal umbrella business, or 22 percent. B&W does not write personal auto.
McCord said the name Service General often caused confusion. “We’ve had this separate identity and now we want to ride the Burns & Wilcox brand,” he said.
The re-branding effort of B&W’s personal lines unit will also coincide with enhanced agent delivery technology, including Internet processing and online quotes for additional personal lines and commercial lines products.
“We will roll out in full flower in 2006, a lot of Internet-based agent quoting tools where retail agents will be able to do their own pricing using our Web site,” McCord said. He added that online quoting capabilities for personal umbrella will begin during first quarter of 2006, and homeowners will be available in the second quarter of 2006. Dwelling fire and vacant property are already available.
McCord also noted that in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, more and more personal property insurance will no doubt be shifted to the surplus lines market.
“There’s going to be an enormous demand for property markets in general in the coastal zones,” he said. “The demand we are getting from our offices in those regions today it’s almost overwhelming.” He said there’s going to be a lot of demand for property business in the coastal areas struck by the recent onslaught of hurricanes. “Our challenge is to provide good, quality, secure markets that can provide that coverage both from a commercial standpoint as well as a personal lines standpoint.”
Kaufman said the company will continue promoting personal lines, but “at the end of the day there’s only so much that we have an interest in writing.” And for retailers who use B&W primarily for personal lines, the new branding effort just might open up doors for commercial business, he said.
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