With program business booming, the symbiotic relationship between program administrators and their carriers is more important than ever. While the former maintain an essential agent-facing role and day-to-day oversight, the latter deliver the financial stability and resources needed to keep coverage rolling through turbulent times.
To celebrate this relationship, IBA surveyed scores of program administrators across the US to find out more about the unique ways they capture market opportunities and how they’re making the best of the latest technologies. The IBA research team also asked program administrators to rank the most important factors they consider when partnering with a carrier.
Bringing it all together
So what does it take to be a 5-Star Program Administrator? According to Shawn Woedl, CEO of REInsurePro, “we always say that it’s not really what we do that sets us apart, it’s how we do it. With our extensive understanding of the real estate investment industry, and with ease of use as our primary focus, our program continues to grow and evolve to be the one-stop shop for investors and retail agents working with investors. We go above and beyond to provide solutions for agents who bring opportunities that may not fit nicely within our underwriting box and leverage our industry relationships to find a solution for those needs.”
REInsurePro works with nearly 1,000 independent retail agents across the US and is poised to insure more than 140,000 locations by the end of 2021. Real estate is the company’s flagship program, and it offers a range of coverage, from earthquake and flood to tenant protection and equipment breakdown. Its custom-built online platform empowers agents to propose, bind, issue and service clients quickly and easily.
To deliver outstanding service, Woedl says REInsurePro concentrates on building productive relationships with underwriters and carrier partners.
“It is critical that the relationship is based on a solid foundation of trust in one another’s experience and expertise, as well as carefully set and agreed upon expectations for the relationship and the performance,” he says. “As such, we do excessive due diligence when evaluating a new carrier partner, studying and researching market trends and clearly understanding the carrier’s appetite for the risks they are taking on.”
Another 5-Star Program Administrator, Risk Placement Services (RPS), launched its own programs division, RPS Signature Programs, in 2020. Chris Leisz, president of RPS Signature Programs, describes it as a “go-to underwriting resource for specialized coverage. We’re a top-rated program administrator working with top-rated carriers across the country to design exclusive coverage for niche risks.”
RPS Signature Programs offers 36 unique programs for a variety of industries, including public entities, education, healthcare, construction and sports. The division sets itself apart from the competition by maintaining deep industry expertise; its specialists often have 20 to 30 years of experience in their respective industries.
Demonstrating its ability to adapt to changing market conditions, RPS Signature Programs helped replace Munich Re’s program administrator for its public entity program, including setting up an underwriting platform to streamline the rating process and launching a multi-channel marketing campaign.
“Munich Re is one of our longest and broadest carrier relationships in RPS Signature Programs,” Leisz says. “We maintain a few active programs within the not-for profit space and a unique brokerage solution. The benefits of our relationship were highlighted not just in our continued profitable growth with them, but also in their trust to launch a new primary public entity program with us in 2020.”
RPS Signature Programs also puts a high priority on incorporating the latest technology and has rolled out new tech-enabled solution for the legal industry. “Our lawyers’ professional liability [LPL] e-commerce platform illustrates our continued commitment to think innovatively about how we distribute best-in-class insurance solutions,” Leisz says. “Since launching the digital LPL solution, we have been approached by other carriers looking to partner with us on bringing other digital solutions to market through our e-commerce platform.
Carrying the weight
Because carrier partnerships are essential to program administrators being able to deliver the best offerings, IBA also wanted to find out what the top program administrators care about when teaming up with a carrier. Their top priorities included financial stability, reputation, relationship management and underwriting guidelines – more than 90% of respondents named these factors as important when choosing a carrier to work with.
Arch Insurance received high marks from program administrators in all of these areas, as well as for its compensation, internal expertise, commitment to innovation and exclusivity of working relationships. The company has more than 30 programs and over 10 program administrator partners.
“The programs business is one of Arch’s original businesses,” says Paul Sullivan, executive vice president of P&C programs at Arch. “When Arch was formed in 2001, programs was one of those first businesses, and it has been the biggest part of Arch Insurance since our inception. We know it well, and we value it highly. And that is maybe different from some other carriers, where it’s a less significant part of what they do.”
Sullivan attributes Arch’s success to conducting thorough due diligence to find the right partners and then engaging in outstanding relationship management. Ultimately, he says, Arch prides itself on maintaining a consistent relationship in both soft and hard markets. “Our consistency throughout those cycles is what has earned us that reputation,” Sullivan says.
In addition, Arch stays competitive by keeping one eye on the future and leveraging the latest technologies through its program administrator partnerships.
“We put a lot of stock in data and analytics,” Sullivan says. “We seek out those that not just have that expertise, but have strong capabilities in providing data and analytics, sharing that, and working with us to improve their book of business.”
At Great American Insurance Company – which earned top marks from program administrators in all 10 categories, earning it the title of All-Star Program Carrier – “the secret to serving the program community is to understand that the ‘sauce’ is different for every program and the ‘sauce’ itself will change over time,” says Carol Frey, divisional vice president of business development and marketing at Great American Alternative Markets. “Embracing change is critical to being the best in this space. The needs and the value associated with those needs are different and will evolve and change for every program and its administrator over time.”
Frey says “focus, flexibility and fluidity” enable Great American to reprioritize based on trends, results and forecasts.
“Unlike other program carriers, we even bend and flex when it comes to compensation and program structure,” she says. “From traditional to profit-sharing and even risk sharing, this too can change over time. This fluid partnership approach creates an environment of certainty that as things change in the marketplace, a program structure is not stuck with a ‘one-trick pony.’”
Great American also embraces “thoughtful” technology, Frey says, making sure it’s not just chasing insurtech based on buzz. Frey says any technology must add value in a discipline such as claims, or be an enterprise-level technology that can foster growth.
“At Great American, we are encouraged to experiment with new ideas and innovation,” she says. “This is our culture, and it encourages more creativity at every level of the division and positions us for great things in the future.”
In June, IBA put out a call for nominations for the best program administrators in the industry. Nominees were scored based on their achievements and initiatives across a range of areas, including largest programs, expertise and stability, innovations in program development, and use of technology.
Program administrators were also asked to provide feedback on the carriers they work with, which IBA used to determine the 5-Star Program Carriers. Carriers were evaluated on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in 10 categories; those that received an average score of 4.00 or higher in a particular category were named 5-Star Award winners for that category.