H.W. Kaufman leader on how better carrier relations benefit agents and insureds

Strong ties come in especially useful in the event of claims

H.W. Kaufman leader on how better carrier relations benefit agents and insureds

Life & Health

By Alicja Grzadkowska

Back in September, H.W. Kaufman Group added a new position to its leadership team and brought in an industry veteran to fill the role. Paul G. Smith (pictured) joined the group as vice president of carrier relations and took on the responsibility of leading and managing strategic relationships with Kaufman’s insurance company partners. He told Insurance Business that his 34 years of experience in the industry so far helped lay the foundation for the expertise he brings to the new post.

“The opportunity to join the Kaufman group of companies is a result of my deep relationships in the marketplace with carrier partners,” said Smith, “and the need for this organization as it continues to grow and expand into new areas to have someone that can lead that initiative, as well as strengthen and deepen the relationships and to the degree necessary, develop new ones.”

Smith’s top of mind goal as head of carrier relations, besides strengthening the existing relationships, is to establish a consistent reporting process of metrics and data so that Kaufman can measure those relationships in a fashion other than just premium.

“Premium is one measurement of how a relationship is going, but there’s certainly many more,” he explained. “I think we have the opportunity through our data and our analytics to get into a deeper analysis as to how we’re doing with our carrier partners. And in the event that we’re not doing well in a particular area, how do we address that in order to create a fix or some type of amendment to an opportunity that currently isn’t going the way in which we would like it to?”

The new role at Kaufman comes at a time when the current conditions in the carrier-wholesaler marketplace are driving the need to strengthen relationships on the whole between these natural partners.

“As carriers look at their distribution of capital in a very selective manner, they only allow brokers to distribute the product that they have trust and faith in, that has the expertise and the appropriate folks in the field to do so. Just because we’re open with a carrier doesn’t mean we’re open with a carrier in every office, and it also doesn’t mean we’re open with a carrier on every line of business,” said Smith, adding that stronger carrier relationships also trickle down to retail agents as well as insureds.

“The stronger our relationship with a carrier, the better the terms and conditions are for us and the better the process is with respect to policy issuance. Most importantly is in the event that there’s a claim – which is the reason why we’re all here, since clients do have claims – we have the opportunity to have a discussion with carriers on those claims, and hopefully get some preferred treatment with respect to the expedited payment process. In the event that it’s a large claim, [we have the opportunity] to have a portion of it paid out in advance so the client and the named insured on the policy can get back into an operational mode before the formal claim is adjudicated or finalized.”

Smith is now based in the Greater New York City area and reports directly to Daniel J. Kaufman, executive vice president at H.W. Kaufman Group, and chief operating officer at the wholesale insurance brokerage and underwriting manager, Burns & Wilcox.

While Smith has an important mandate to lead carrier relations, he told Insurance Business he’s most excited to work with the “wonderful team” at the family-owned and run organization after coming from a career spent at two large global brokers.

“It’s a proud organization that’s full of rich culture and integrity, which is perhaps the most important thing,” he said. “I’m so proud to be part of this organization and part of a family run business that has their name on your door, and to be a member of that leadership team is just quite refreshing for me. Having moved from a large organization that was publicly traded, it’s a smaller, private, [and] family-owned business, and it’s rewarding for me to now be part of that team as I embark on the next chapter of my career.”

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