Home on the range: challenges insuring farm residences

Trilogy insurance veteran also lifts lid on Cornerstone acquisition

Home on the range: challenges insuring farm residences


By Daniel Wood

The succession of flooding events across Australia has put pressures on farmers, including wreaking havoc on their summer harvests. However, insurance can offer crop protection from some natural disasters and poor harvests. PMA Trilogy Insurance Solutions’ Geoff Boyle (pictured above) said that apart from protecting crops, a growing issue for farmers is hanging on to their homes.

“One of the greatest challenges is insuring the residential home on the farm,” said Boyle, who is senior account manager. His Toowoomba based brokerage specialises in insurance and risk management for agricultural business clients.

“The insurance premiums are increasing every year,” he said. “The cost to rebuild is also increasing due to the remote locations and the extra costs builders face to adhere to workplace safety requirements.” Boyle said a builder’s employees may have to stay on site for weeks.

Many farm homes can’t get flood cover

Boyle said the added issue is flood coverages for the home.

“Also, we’ve got that ever present struggle in purchasing flood cover,” he said. “It’s often needed but it’s difficult to purchase.”

Boyle estimated that for about 30% of his customers on farms who would like to have flood coverage, he can’t find it. “This is very disappointing and unfortunate,” he said.

The Toowoomba resident, who is also pastor at the local Pentecostal church, described Australian farmers as a resilient and hardworking backbone of the community.

Broker wants more community help for farmers

“We need to do our best for them in all aspects of their life, not just in insurance,” he said.

Boyle suggested that supporting farmers to group together to buy their premiums would help make coverage more available and push the premiums on their homes down.

“We need support from our buying group (Resilium Insurance Brokers) to try and use the buying power of the group to work with the insurers to solve the problem,” he said.

An acquisition that provides cash and certainty

In early December, Cornerstone Risk Group announced the acquisition of Trilogy. Boyle joined Trilogy in 1993 and has been sole owner since 2008.

“At 60 I think I’ve still got five to eight good years of work in me,” he said. “So selling to Cornerstone now provided me with some cash and the certainty of future employment.”

He described the deal as a “win-win for me.” Boyle explained why he chose the Brisbane-based brokerage. “A little over two years ago, I needed an extra salesman to help with the workload,” he said.

Eight months prior to that, Cornerstone had purchased an insurance business in Toowoomba and its “very capable owner had semi-retired.” However, said Boyle, the former owner was on a standard restraint of trade, non-compete provision.

“I approached Scott and Damien, [Scott Mitchell and Damien Mulvenna from Cornerstone] who agreed to release him from that restraint so he could come and work for me,” said Boyle. “They didn’t have to do that, but they did.”

Boyle said it was easy to sell a business to people that he liked, respected and trusted.

Carlea Toms (pictured immediately below), Trilogy’s Toowoomba operations lead, anticipates very little change following the acquisition.

“Apart from the fact we are now in a larger supporting network,” she said. “We’re still based in our former office so nothing has changed really apart from a new member coming in from Cornerstone.”

Boyle is looking forward to less business worries.

“Yes, that’s right,” he said. “You end up not having to worry so much about all the business ownership and you really just keep the team humming in the office and looking after the clients’ insurance needs.”

Cornerstone’s acquisition of the Toowoomba-based brokerage was the third by the Brisbane headquartered firm in three months.

“We’ve been able to offer PMA Trilogy a flexible M&A approach thanks to the continued support and backing of Resilium Partners,” said Cornerstone’s director, Scott Mitchell.

Both Cornerstone and Trilogy are authorised representatives (ARs) of Resilium Insurance Broking.

In September, Cornerstone acquired Central Highlands Insurance Services (CHIS) in Emerald, Central Queensland. In October, Cornerstone finalised a deal to purchase Brisbane based SureFinity Insurance Brokers.

The economic slowdown and inflation haven’t stopped Cornerstone’s ongoing acquisition strategy.

“It’s something I’m cognizant of,” said Mitchell. “We are very careful to acquire businesses that are the right fit and align with our strategic objectives.”

However, he added that recent times have demonstrated that insurance broking is an “extremely resilient business.”

“We’re confident in our ability to adapt and grow despite the challenging economic conditions,” said Mitchell.  

Trilogy was founded in the mid-1980s as PMA Insurance by a former AMP Life Insurance agent. Prior to the Cornerstone acquisition, the brokerage was the biggest of Resilium’s ARs in the Darling Downs district.

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