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Willis Group Holdings P.L.C.

Willis Group Holdings P.L.C.

At a time when many middle-market businesses are struggling for survival, they have a tendency to regard insurance as a commodity and shop for price over service.

But clients of Willis Group Holdings P.L.C. are finding they can have the best of both worlds, as is evidenced by the broker's selection as a service leader among middle-market insurance buyers in the 2011 Business Insurance Buyers Choice Awards.

“Right now, in an era where most of the mid-market is worried about the future, uncertain about 2012, not necessarily adding to staff and struggling financially, a great service model may not necessarily win at the end of the day,” said Vic Krauze, chairman and CEO of Willis North America. “Sometimes, it comes down to pure price, and you've got to be prepared for that. But if you can offer a great solution, be very competitive on price and have a service model that goes beyond being just competitive on price, you can win.”

“It's a tough world right now and we have to be empathetic,” he said. “People don't have a lot of money to throw around.”

The recent spate of natural catastrophes, ranging from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the summer hurricane along the U.S. East Coast, have heightened the need among many of Willis' middle-market clients for service, said Mr. Krauze.

“If you look at today's mid-market client, there are very few that aren't global in their operation, which also means whenever there's a catastrophe, whether it's Japan or it's Thailand, there are a lot of clients that are impacted,” Mr. Krauze said.

Fortunately, Willis has access to a global network that can provide assistance with insurance recovery and risk mitigation, including helping to put contingency plans in place to minimize supply chain disruption.

“When there's a catastrophe in a part of the world where you normally wouldn't give a second thought to, there's probably a middle-market company doing business there. And it's not always heavily industrialized companies. We're getting reports from clients about supply chain disruption due to flooding in Thailand. Japan dwarfs it, but it's still there,” he said.

Willis North America's strategic outcomes practice also is handling more than 400 damage claims on behalf of middle- market clients affected by Hurricane Irene.

“When 80% of your business is middle-market, every catastrophe has the potential to affect your clients,” Mr. Krauze said.

View profiles of all the honorees here.