Sticking up for the little guys

October 9, 2006

Somewhat akin to Rodney Dangerfield, smaller agents don’t seem to get any respect — or at least not as much respect as their larger counterparts. It is becoming difficult to keep the carriers they currently have, let alone attract new carriers.

Yet at least one wholesaler has found there’s opportunity in providing markets for this underserved area. Using the strength of its corporate resources, American Wholesale Insurance Group (AmWINS), headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has created a new division to help smaller agents quickly find markets.

“In doing a lot of mergers and acquisitions work, it just appeared that smaller agents in today’s market are being pressured by virtue that they need more volume for the insurance carrier to stay with them,” said Greg Davidian, president for AmWINS Access Insurance Services. With the goal to give the “little guys” some big help, the newly developed AmWINS Access helps agents find access to carriers without paying membership or placement fees.

According to Davidian, because AmWINS is the largest wholesale insurance brokerage in the country, with combined premiums exceeding $2.8 billion and more than 30 offices nationwide, the Access division is able to become a one-stop shop for agents to find markets and quotes quickly. If the risk doesn’t fit the standard market, the division simply refers the business to AmWINS’ Brokerage Division so the process is seamless to the agent.

“We try to respond quickly,” Davidian said, who has spent 27 years on the “retail” side and understands the importance of timing. He said the division also has a well-staffed backroom to produce policies and loss runs, and to process endorsements — “all of the things brokers need” quickly.

Additionally, AmWINS Access provides workers’ compensation claims support (in California only at this time), one more tool to help the smaller agent. Through Access, the agent can offer loss run reviews, written status on open indemnity claims that includes reserve analysis and resolution planning, unit stat review, experience modification projections, early return to work plans, employer school, and employer training, to name a few services.

By quickly providing both regional and national property and casualty and workers’ comp markets, AmWINS Access provides smaller agents with the firepower to protect themselves and keep their business when they go up against larger, regional or national firms, Davidian added. The division will be providing markets nationwide, with resources in Texas, Michigan, Connecticut, Tennessee, Gold River, Calif., near Sacramento, Los Angeles and New York.

AmWINS Access’ goal, Davidian noted, is to help build the industry and give support in an area he thought needed it. “We’re trying to help the agent build their franchise,” he said. “What we’re saying is hey, come with us. We’ll work with you, and we’ll help you grow.”

Oftentimes, companies lose carrier appointments because they fail to grow or maintain the necessary production, and then may be forced to sell or merge their business, Davidian explained. AmWINS Access hopes to help agents protect their relationships and perhaps gain appointments back again. “Agents need the markets. It’s the livelihood of their agencies, and I want to protect that,” he said.

Then, if an agent, through Access, builds enough premium to work with that carrier directly and is able to attain the appointment, Davidian said he would be “fine with that.”

“We recognize who owns the business,” he noted. “The owner of the business is the retail agent, not us. We’re not going to argue with that. We respect that, but if we can help them get going, that’s fine.”

The benefit to AmWINS is that it is building loyalty with smaller agents as they grow larger, while forging relationships with carriers as they bring them business.

Friendships like those could pay big dividends — because even little guys can be a big boost when you need them.

AmWINS At-A-Glance

•Started operations in 1998.

•Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.

•Combined premiums exceed $2.8 billion.

•More than 900 employees.

•More than 30 offices located throughout the country.

•Web site:

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Insurance Journal West October 9, 2006
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