St. James Insurance Group, based in Orlando, Fla., has re-entered the commercial lines business after a five year absence.
The program manager has appointed Dave Stricker, former senior vice president of All Risks Ltd., to lead the new Commercial Lines Division. He will be responsible for building out St. James commercial insurance program and managing general agency (MGA) operations.
According to Stricker, St. James commercial lines will cover a broad spectrum of products but will originally focus on four key areas: habitational, vacant properties, artisan contractors and mercantile. The company will concentrate on smaller accounts with about $20,000 or below in premium.
St. James exited the commercial insurance business with the sale of those operations to Brown and Brown in 2005 and focused on personal lines MGA and program operations. The company now has writings in excess of $315 million in personal lines premium. The non-compete agreement established with the Brown & Brown sale expired this year and St. James is anxious to return to commercial lines, according to Stricker.
“It’s a benefit to us to be able to get back into the business we are good at,” said Stricker.
Stricker believes that his company’s location in Florida and the wind exposures faced there provide opportunities, especially since the company has experience with these issues on the personal lines side.
“There is a big need for underwriting property with wind issues,” Stricker said. “Since we have written over $300 million in personal lines with a majority of that exposed to hurricane, we believe we can utilize those capabilities on the commercial side.”
Stricker plans to expand St. James geographic footprint beyond its current states of Florida and South Carolina, and eventually beyond the Southeast. He expects St. James will be writing in Georgia sometime this year, followed by North Carolina and Virginia in 2011 and 2012, as well as other Mid-Atlantic States in the next 18 months to two years.
St. James will search out and identify both independent and captive agents to work with on commercial business.
“My first goal is to identify the commercial needs of the agents,” Stricker said. “Second, is to provide the necessary products to fill those needs and gaps and the third is to drive the sales and leadership management process so we are very effective in identifying key agents. Ultimately we want to build-out our own programs where there are real gaps and needs in the marketplace and where we can be exclusive for retail agents. ”
Stricker said exclusivity is a major focus of his because it helps agents simplify their business processes.
“One thing I see a lot of is agents having several different MGAs, standard companies, etc. that they are working with and they are looking to reduce that,” Stricker said. “Rather than work with five to seven different companies, agents want to reduce that to three or four so they can maximize commission and speed up the process.”
Stricker plans to utilize the technology options that St. James has on the personal lines side, such as a call center, online quoting and self service, for its commercial lines business so agents can quickly turn around service.
Ultimately, Stricker expects St. James’ commercial lines will exceed its personal lines business because of the footprint its personal lines has already established.
“St. James has done a great job on the personal lines side and that’s where the advantage is,” Stricker said. “We have a great basis of agents who already know us. I feel as though $300 million should be easily obtainable in the next three to five years.”
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