Helping brokers adapt quickly to changing times and evolving challenges, MGAs provide the specialized expertise and geographical reach needed to meet unique needs. “What sets MGAs apart from the standard market is that we fill gaps in coverage and gaps in product that the mainstream insurers don’t like to offer,” says Anthony Passarelli, president of Modern Specialty Insurance (MSI).
For this year’s 5-Star MGAs report, IBC set out to discover what sets outstanding MGAs apart from their competition. To do so, we surveyed hundreds of brokers and asked them to rank their MGA partners in 10 categories. We also asked brokers what’s most important to them when choosing an MGA partner. As in previous years, responsiveness was brokers’ chief concern; 91% rated it as an important factor when selecting an MGA.
One of this year’s three All-Star MGAs, MSI earned a 5-star rating from brokers in all 10 categories. Passarelli launched the company in late 2019 and has since grown it to $40 million in revenue, added 12 employees and launched three niche MGA programs, mostly aimed at filling gaps in the insurance marketplace for transportation fleets. MSI also offers P&C, industry, professional services and contingency programs.
Responsiveness is key to maintaining an all-star level of excellence, Passarelli says. “In terms of our turnaround on a quote, we can turn a new business quote around in less than 24 hours,” he says. “We happen to spend our efforts on turning around those quotes quickly, because we know that the brokers really value that particular part of the service.”
Responsiveness is also a top priority at Milnco Insurance, another of this year’s All-Star MGAs, although a spike in submissions has made turning quotes around quickly a challenge over the past year.
“We triage all submissions received based on class of business and quality of submissions, and our team does our best to have a response provided within 24 to 48 business hours,” says Lisa Clayton, EVP and COO at Milnco. “We continue striving to provide outstanding service and turnaround time, as well as a wide range of products to our partner brokers. We believe these factors, combined with continued open communication and an expanded digital presence to our valued broker partners, will help us maintain our 5-star standing for years to come.”
While pricing and product range have traditionally rounded out brokers’ top three priorities when choosing an MGA, this year’s survey results indicate that the value of MGAs’ expertise has come to the fore: 90% of brokers said the ability to place niche and emerging risks is key, while 87% said technical expertise and product knowledge are critical.
Milnco received high marks from brokers in both categories. “We are experienced risk underwriters who are passionate about insurance and truly care about helping our broker partners place business,” Clayton says. “Our team has many years of industry experience and is continually expanding our knowledge. By keeping up with the newest products and emerging risks, we are able to supply our brokers with the best solution for their client. We encourage our underwriters to think outside of the box and to underwrite each risk specifically versus blanketing a class with a broad brush.”
While it was relatively low on the list of brokers’ priorities, technology and automation has risen steadily in importance to them over the years – last year, only 9% of brokers said tech was one of the three most important things they consider when choosing an MGA; this year, 69% of brokers said they consider it either important or very important.
Technology is top of mind at APOLLO Insurance, an insurtech MGA and 5-Star winner. APOLLO’s digital insurance exchange portal allows brokers to quote, bind and issue policies in real time, making it possible to get coverage within five minutes.
“We have a team of experts on live chat who are available to delight our brokers with relentless responsiveness,” says Kevin McKinnon, vice-president of national business development at APOLLO. “As well, we have built a product team full of industry experts who understand the Canadian market and what product APOLLO needs to build in order for us to be successful. We will continue to build products that will complement our current offering while watching for market trends that we can respond to in order to maximize our mutual growth with brokers.
“Technology is really where we differentiate ourselves – ultimately, we’re an insurtech company,” McKinnon adds. “We continually invest in our portal and technology to improve our broker users’ experience as well as their clients’ experience.”
While Milnco received good scores from brokers for its technology offerings, the company realizes there’s always room for improvement.
“We are working with a software developer to provide portal access for our valued broker partners to quote Milnco products online, obtain policy documents and request specific types of endorsements online,” Clayton says. “This is in the preliminary stage at the moment, and we are excited to be working towards this, as it will provide added value to our brokers.”
APOLLO, too, plans to continue leveraging its technical skills to push the boundaries of what an MGA can do.
“Innovation within the insurance industry has largely focused on creating new products for the digital age,” McKinnon says. “We are approaching this digital shift from a fundamentally different angle, enabling insurance to be digital. Our mission is to be the most customer-centric insurance business in the world – letting computers do the work so that we can focus on building relationships. We provide a lens on the industry that nobody else is able to offer: a completely unique value proposition of combining technology and insurance expertise in a scalable, affordable way. We are advancing the insurance industry, eliminating paper-based processes in favour of more efficient digital workflows.”
On the horizon
As far as challenges go, Passarelli says the most difficult obstacle over the past year has been simply keeping up with his company’s rapid rate of growth. “This particular award is going to catapult those efforts for us,” he says.
MSI is also focused on growing its operations in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Newfoundland.
“Expanding into those newer markets is an exciting opportunity for us and a challenge going forward,” Passarelli says. “And then there’s divesting myself of some of the centralized authority and accountability I have, as I’ve already done, because of growth.
Obviously, one person can’t do it all.”
Clayton sees all regions struggling with capacity as insurers have reduced their exposures and appetites. Milnco continues to see rate increases and larger deductibles, especially in the hospitality sector and unprotected rural areas.
Yet Clayton is optimistic about the future. “We would love to be able to have in-person meetings with our broker and insurer partners – once COVID restrictions are fully lifted and it is safe to do so, of course.”
To determine the most outstanding MGAs in Canada, IBC surveyed hundreds of brokers across the country, asking them to rate the service they’ve received from their MGAs over the last 12 months. Brokers rated MGAs on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in 10 categories, including pricing, overall responsiveness, product range, technical expertise and product knowledge, and more. Brokers were also asked to rate the importance of each category when choosing an MGA partner.
The MGAs that earned an average score of 4 or higher in at least one category were awarded a 5-Star rating for that category. In total, 27 MGAs earned a 5-Star ratings this year. Of those, three achieved All-Star status by earning 5-Star ratings across all 10 categories.