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Q&A: Robert Klonk, Oswald Cos.


A 30-year industry veteran, Robert Klonk in 2013 became CEO of Oswald Cos., a Cleveland-based broker with 300 associates and five offices. He serves on the boards of Assurex Global and the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, and is past chair of The Council of Employee Benefits Executives. He frequently lobbies Washington legislators on behalf of the insurance industry and the employers it represents. Business Insurance Senior Editor Joanne Wojcik recently spoke with Mr. Klonk about how his firm is adapting to the evolution of the commercial insurance brokerage industry. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: How does being employee-owned drive Oswald Cos.' commitment to client service?

A: As an employee-owned firm, we look at client service a little differently than other firms. We have an emotional attachment to our clients. We have a vested interest in their success as well as in the health and wellness of their employees. From a cultural standpoint, being employee-owned fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, as everyone you deal with at our organization is an owner.

Q: Who is your target market and what expertise does Oswald Cos. bring to those prospects?

A: We target both middle-market and global companies, developing property/casualty and risk management programs as well as employee benefits and retirement services. Ideally, we look for companies that have complex challenges and are looking for a broker that is more consultative and strategic than just transaction-focused. On the property/casualty side, for instance, we have expertise in certain niche industries including, but not limited to, construction, lawyers professional liability, architects and engineers, and directors and officers liability coverage. We also specialize in owner-controlled and contractor-controlled insurance placements.

Q: Can you briefly describe one of the creative solutions Oswald Cos. developed for one of these niche property/casualty clients?

A: We just recently did an integrated project delivery for an expansion project that a major hospital in northeastern Ohio was undertaking. ... Oswald Cos. put in place an owner-controlled insurance program, which is one master policy for all contractors affiliated with the project that covers general liability, umbrella coverage and workers compensation. We also placed one master policy for professional liability for all engineers, architects and other professionals affiliated with the project, and we did all of this with one carrier. Safety on the job site is a critical component to a successful project, as well as quality and on-time completion. An IPD works because all parties have a stake in the ultimate success and outcome of the project and work together to improve quality and reduce injuries on the job.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges employers face in complying with health care reform?

A: You are basically trying to win a game where the rules change in the middle of the game. Depending on the interpretations of the latest set of delays, community rating will be negatively impacting many small group and middle-market employers over the next few years. Although the employer mandate was also delayed, this will also increase costs for many large employers that have part-time or variable-hour employees when the mandate is enforced. This law is, and will continue to be, very costly for employers, but that has never been a concern for this administration in relation to how much cost they shift to employers or employees.

Q: How is Oswald Cos. meeting these clients' needs?

A: We made a conscious decision five years ago to become experts in this field because we knew it was going to be a game-changer for our clients. We have tried to stay in front of it by being very active in Washington, D.C., on behalf of our customers.