Pillsbury, Dennis H

Group celebrates with $19 billion in premium; new tools for Partners

It is hard to believe that Assurex Global has reached the ripe old age of 50. The company continues to behave like a young organization-vibrant and self-assured. And it is this dynamism that has led to Assurex Global’s astounding growth, reaching $19 billion in annual premiums, an amount that makes it the largest privately held risk management and commercial insurance brokerage group.

Assurex Global recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a party that included British Royalty at the St. James Palace in London. Interestingly, the global nature of Assurex not only was displayed by the party’s location in the United Kingdom, but also by the fact that Gregory S. Belton, president of Hunter Keilty Muntz & Beatty Ltd., Toronto, Canada, serves as the organization’s first chairman from outside the United States.

“Assurex has come a long way since its founding in 1954,” Belton comments. “We truly are an international organization, with 130 Partners in nearly every major city in the world. Our reach allows each of our Partners to compete with anyone for domestic and international accounts. Assurex Partners offer their clients the best insurance and risk management services with representation in every major country around the world from local brokers who are familiar with the insurance, business, and government requirements.”

Assurex Global also has established tremendous clout with carriers, as evidenced by insurance company contributions totaling more than $500,000 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration.

Assurex Chair-elect Kent Nelson, president and CEO of T. J. Adams Group, LLC, Lombard, Illinois, adds, “This is the best of the networks. Each Assurex Partner agency is asked to identify the players who will participate in the group. Each person attends meetings with their counterparts-CFOs or IT people and so on. There’s a great amount of synergy. The meetings help Partners identify firms they would like to emulate. The agency may be in the next phase of an IT project you’re working on or at the next revenue level you’d like to reach.”

Brian Cullen, executive vice president and vice chairman of T.J. Adams, adds, “We first learned about Assurex several years ago. When we looked into it, we really started to admire the organization for its ability to put smaller agencies on an equal footing with the major brokers,” continues Brian, who serves as the alternate principal to Assurex from T.J. Adams. “We really wanted in and jumped at the opportunity to join when we found out that the Chicago-area Partner was being-acquired and would no longer qualify for Partnership. We were very pleased when we were selected. They had a lot of good agencies in the area to choose from. I’m convinced we were chosen because we had a viable plan for growth, and growth is a very important part of the organization.”

James R. (Jim) Hackbarth, president of Assurex, points out that one of the unique aspects of the organization is that “our brokers own the company. They are shareholders in Assurex Global and take a very active role, and the stock continues to climb in value every year. All our ideas come from the Partners. When we recently decided to form a captive, that was at the request of the Partners and they wrote checks to support its formation.” This is a heterogeneous captive based in Bermuda, and Assurex has other captives in the development stage.

Jim joined Assurex in 2003. Prior to that, he was CEO and founder of Cornerstone Partners, Inc., a Columbus, Ohio-based high-tech consulting firm handling executive recruiting, venture capital activities, and acquisition due diligence. He has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry with a focus towards information technology, including serving as president of Leader Systems, division president of Agency Management Systems, and president of Information Dimensions, Inc.

All of which brings us to another initiative that has been launched by Assurex for the benefit of its Partners-an IT platform using Microsoft .NET technology. As Jim explains, “We’re in the tool business. Our job is to provide the Partners with the tools they need to compete successfully in both the domestic and international markets.”

The IT platform will “enable Assurex Partners to collaborate internationally,” says William (Bill) D. Tedrick, IT consultant to Assurex. “The system uses an ASP model and, in addition to access by Partners, will also allow access by insureds to information specified by their agent.” In an upcoming issue of Rough Notes, we’ll look at the IT initiative in depth.

Bill has a 20-year career in strategic technology planning and implementation in the insurance industry. He was a founding partner of the software and services company BWC Systems, Inc., and served as president and CEO from 1983 until 1997 when BWC was purchased by IVANS.

“The IT initiative is a value-added that will help to give us a competitive edge in the international marketplace,” notes Greg Belton. “The platform will use the Assurex database to help all Partners become what effectively are instant experts in virtually every line of business. Today, our Partners communicate regularly via e-mail (there are more than 4,000 registered users on the Assurex intranet) whenever they need help with a particular risk and other Partners step up to help. We were working with a group of Roman Catholic dioceses that were looking for coverage alternatives, and we used the Assurex Global extranet to survey our Assurex Partners for relevant expertise and carrier relationships. Many of these Partners responded, one of whom introduced us to a carrier they were using for their local diocese. The end result was we wound up bringing the insurance company into Canada and placing in excess of $10 million in premium with that company.”

Kent adds, “That’s exactly the kind of synergy that has made this organization so successful. When a tough risk appears on our horizon-motorcycle dealers was one recently-we send an e-mail to all principals and always get an answer. In one instance, we learned that an Irish Partner had a specialty for golf courses. It turned out the agency wrote two-thirds of all courses in Ireland. The point is that everybody has niches and that adds to our overall marketing clout and ability to solve client problems.”

Brian continues, “When we sought out Assurex, one of the reasons was to find people with whom we could compare ourselves. I have to say that we underestimated just how important this was. The Partners are open and solid experts in the insurance community. We’ve found the Partners willing to drop everything and respond when we ask for help. And the international scope has proven more valuable than we anticipated. This Partnership has been twice as valuable as we expected-and we expected a lot!”

Kent continues, “Assurex simply takes away the competition. We’re a U.S.-based company with international capabilities. It’s us against the big guys. We’re not looking to compete with smaller independent agencies. Our international capabilities also make a good story for us when we are recruiting. We’re able to attract top quality producers throughout the Midwest.”

Jim concludes, “Assurex Global is proud to have reached the half century mark as a privately held corporation-a significant milestone for any business in any industry. Its success is a tribute to our Partners’ unwavering commitment to private ownership, including 40 Partners that have each been in business for over 100 years, several multi-generational family-run businesses, and many employee-owned brokerages.”

For more information:

Assurex Global

Web site:

Phone: (800)-ASSUREX [(800) 277-8739)]

Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. Aug 2004

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