- $1 million or more in premium revenue in 2022; those with $4 million or more were designated Platinum Retail Brokers
- at least 50% of commercial P&C business
- year-over-year growth from 202
In addition, IBA’s acquired qualitative descriptions of a top broker by eliciting commentary from the nominees.
- “The best advocate for the client and the carriers. Trust is the No. 1 key in our business.”
- “An all-around person who utilizes influence and relationships. Specializes in a niche and always shows ethical practice.”
- “Has qualities of growth, retention, technology, and profitability, but the top brokers have a culture that embraces inclusivity, well-being, and diversity.”
- “An expert in coverage, terms, and conditions who can explain it in layman’s terms while simultaneously being an approachable leader.”
Blueprints behind the Top Retail Brokers’ success
David Ragno is the CEO of Keyes Coverage, an insurance and risk management solutions provider in South Florida. For him, being a top producer is about distinguishing oneself.
“Innovation is the most important factor separating top brokers from their peers,” he says. “Disrupting the traditional methods of insurance placement, marketing, and programs is key to differentiating.”
Ragno’s achievements include:
- an individual book growth of 25% year over year
- growing his office by 56% year over year, half through acquisitions and half organically
- building an exclusive substance abuse program countrywide that is growing at 40%
Ragno found himself at a crossroads early in his career.
“I walked away from a Fortune 100 company with a predefined career path at 25 years old to bet on myself for a middle-market retail broker with no national affiliation,” he explains. “I worked from the ground up to learn this side of the business, and I’m a better person and a better leader because of it.”
In the meantime, the attributes that he identifies as differentiating himself from his peers are:
- being a lifelong learner
- working closely with the Insurance Services Office on building classification critical for underwriting quality and taking a construction skill set to review
- experience running businesses other than a traditional insurance brokerage
This approach is highlighted by industry expert Peter Miller, president and CEO of The Institutes.
“Top brokers are client-centric and focused on building relationships with both their clients and insurers,” he says. “They plan and strategize with their clients’ best interests in mind.”
Exemplifying this is winner Shantelle Cabir, Newfront’s senior vice president, who takes pride in delivering alongside the firm’s 800 employees.
“I’ve asked multiple clients why they’ve chosen to go with me and one of the recurring themes is their appreciation for my approach to doing business,” she explains. “I have a lot of grit and tenacity.”
This approach has resulted in Cabir achieving:
- $500,000 in new business revenue (equivalent to about $5 million premium) year over year
- over 95% client retention
For fellow winner David Clausen, CEO of Coastal Insurance Solutions, the key to success is not simply relying on a niche.
He says, “To truly excel, you must deliver an extraordinary customer experience that is completely customized to that segment. This involves designing every aspect of the client journey, from acquisition and onboarding to claims handling, billing, service, and eventually cancellation.”
Clausen also highlights the need to improve the customer experience as it builds trust, which ultimately leads to “increased retention”.
Looking at creating a rewarding experience for clients from a different angle is Jessica Weaver, owner of Weaver Insurance Agency.
“We are a woman veteran-owned, family-owned, and 100% woman-operated company that employs staff that ranks high on the empathy profile, which provides our clients a warm experience,” she says.
The differentiating factors that allow Weaver and her team to make their mark are:
- expertise and specialization: commercial insurance (manufacturing, investment properties, restaurants) and flood insurance (private and FEMA)
- exceptional customer service, personalized attention, and a client-centric approach
- strong industry connections and relationships over the last 14 years
- being proactive in tracking market trends, identifying emerging opportunities, and providing valuable insight
- figures showing 80%–90% retention and less than 60% loss ratio on average
Bob Middleton is the owner and director of the Arts Insurance Program, the largest insurer of dance, ballet, and touring Broadway shows. To him, success in the retail sector requires mastering an area of concentration.
“You become an expert in coverages, markets, and exposures and become a real asset to your clients,” he says. “This leads to referrals, organic relationships with other professionals servicing these risks, and even insurance carriers respecting your knowledge of the sector.”
Middleton feels he and his firm stand out in the sector for:
- service with personnel averaging 12 years of experience in the entertainment
- dedication to working with clients of any size
- great flexibility with carriers and coverages and helping clients with issues
- generating increases of over 30% in annual revenue post-COVID, mostly from referrals
Unlocking opportunities with insurtech
The Top Retail Brokers 2023 have embraced digital tools in their operations.
Industry expert Miller advocates for leveraging tech to “provide data-driven insights to help reduce clients’ cost of risk”.
Clausen is fully behind integrating tech and notes that his firm has used it to drive two major initiatives: improving customer experience and extracting actionable business intelligence metrics.
This investment has enabled Clausen’s team to integrate their Salesforce CRM with the agency management system, resulting in the linking of:
- phone systems
- texting platforms
- email services
- marketing campaigns
- other third-party integrations
“Just about everything is connected. From the first client interaction, we can track metrics associated with acquiring, and servicing, and ultimately are able to determine the lifetime value of a customer in many cases. Having sanitized, clean data is essential,” says Clausen.
Weaver has also witnessed the benefits of technology integration. She has been able to harness it to:
- provide user-friendly online platforms, making it easier for clients to access information and conduct business remotely
- utilize data analytics tools to analyze market trends and pricing patterns, and monthly NPS score metering to give a grade on work performed with each client
- utilize various communication channels like instant messaging, video conferencing, and social media to connect with clients in real-time
- automate repetitive tasks, renewals, and new client onboarding, and also leverage AI chatbots for customer support
Newfront has over 50 engineers working on a proprietary agency management system. This enables Cabir to offer clients stronger:
She adds, “‘De-risking human progress’ is a tagline that Newfront uses as we infuse AI advancements into offering automated processing and services through analytics and easy program administration so we can help businesses grow at the pace they need to.”
Looking ahead for clients
Brokers need to deliver in the present but must be dynamic enough to be prepared to innovate in the future.
Describing the Top Retail Brokers in this context, industry expert Miller says, “They are forward-thinking and not only see opportunities that other brokerages might not.”
Cabir exemplifies this mindset on behalf of clients.
“We partner with them to devise a plan forward and then with the help of our internal risk management team, we will roll up our sleeves to put that plan into action,” she says. “We take it a step further to also ensure that in an event of a claim, our clients work with our in-house claims advocacy team that includes multiple attorneys and previous adjusters that advocate for the best results for our client’s claims.”
For Weaver, there are two effective ways to adopt a forward-thinking approach:
- “Conducting extensive market research to identify upcoming trends and changing consumer preferences”
- “[The staff and I] engage in ongoing professional development, attending industry conferences and staying updated on regulatory changes, economic factors, and technological advancements”
“Remaining nimble” is Clausen’s mantra on being able to prepare for future trends and issues that clients will encounter. He also places an importance on uniformity.
“Everyone in the organization must be dancing to the same tune. From the CEO to the secretary, everyone needs to understand the reason behind their tasks and the value they contribute,” says Clausen. “For example, if the marketing department is generating five times more opportunities than the sales team can manage, it could cause operational friction, inefficiency, and cultural challenges. Everyone should be rowing in the same direction.”