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When it comes productivity, the top insurance brokers say people are the most important ingredient.
Business Insurance ranks the most productive brokers by dividing each company’s revenues by the number of employees and this year Alliant Insurance Services Co. made the number one spot in a ranking of brokers with more than 50 employees.
Greg Zimmer, president of the Newport Beach, California-based brokerage, said the ranking is a “statistic that we’re very proud of.”
“It’s really a testament to the business plan,” he said. “The majority our employees work within a very specific space. That could range from having expertise or focus on a particular industry or on a particular product. We’re very much a niche type business and what happens when you focus your organization that way is you become very, very efficient.”
Mr. Zimmer said expertise is also a key element behind the company’s productivity as employees “know the business better than their competitors, so that gives you a competitive advantage right out of the chute.”
“It’s very rare that we lose business,” he said. “To go out and identity and to bring in business is a time and labor intensive process, so once you get these clients, the more you can keep those clients, retain those clients, the more efficient and effective as an organization you become.”
People are also a key element of productivity at New York-based NFP Corp., which also ranked in the top 10. Terry Scali, executive vice president and CEO of NFP Property & Casualty, said the company’s corporate culture puts people first.
“We treat people like they’re important because they are,” Mr. Scali said. “They’re the most important part of our business. I think we’re focused as a company on doing the things well that make people feel invited and part of the team, and trusted and important.”
Mr. Scali said NFP recruits most of its staff through acquisition and the broker uses “the acquisition onboarding process to make sure we’re finding people that have a similar cultural fit.”
“Both parties I think can sniff if it’s going to be a human fit on the other side of the deal,” said Ed O’Malley, president, corporate benefits and individual solutions at NFP, “but I absolutely think that’s the differentiator in our favor in a very competitive acquisition universe out there…even though NFP is a relatively new brand on the national brokerage stage, I think we’ve developed in pretty short order a reputation among talented people in this industry that NFP is a great place to work.”
Mike Mitchell, vice chairman at The Graham Company, said the Philadelphia-based broker is “very policy and procedure oriented.”
“We’ve always been that way,” he said. “We have a certain way of doing things and when people come to work at The Graham Company, they’ll spend six months in the classroom and then they work with a mentor for probably two-and-a-half years, so we have three years invested in people before they become productive and before they start making money.”
People are also important for the broker’s productivity, Mr. Mitchell said, noting that the brokerage doesn’t always hire people from inside the insurance industry.
“We’re willing to take people from other walks of life,” he said. “Attorneys, accountants; we have graduates of military academies — smart, hardworking people. They come to us with a certain worth ethic, a will to win, a competitive spirit, it’s a teamwork environment. They attack their job every day with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of passion and we treat them the right way.”
The Graham Company recently become 100% employee owned through an employee stock ownership plan and Mr. Mitchell said this has been a good recruitment and retention tool.
“Now all employees own a piece of the rock,” he said.
Richard Gurney, London-based CEO of JLT Specialty Construction, said in an email that “the broking industry has always been about the relationships we have with our clients, and I still think that’s the secret of being a successful broker.”
“Many industries have significantly changed the way that they deal with clients over the years,” Mr. Gurney said, “but broking has fundamentally stayed the same. We’ve continued with a ‘client-first’ approach and it’s paid off – building and retaining relationships is still at the very heart of our business.”
Business Insurance 2017 Broker Supplement