Jessica Weaver, Weaver Insurance Agency, Wyoming
David Ragno, Keyes Coverage, Florida
Lindsay Dress, Ryan Specialty, Texas
With clients facing a maelstrom of uncertainty, CEO Ragno met that head-on and laid out a strategy for his 95-strong team.
“We’ve been laser focused on what we do well, and that’s getting in front of clients with a high level of transparency about what to expect,” he says.
Being based in the tri-county part of Florida has meant Ragno’s clients have seen their premiums increase without many of the weather events that typically cause such a rise.
He says, “That’s the most confusing thing for the clients. They are asking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So we are having to explain the macroeconomic factors that are built into insurance.”
In practice, providing the same level of service to each client is an arduous task for Ragno and his team. It not only takes time but also preparation to lay out the details of each individual’s situation with respect to the providers.
Ragno says, “It does require a great deal of attention and time, but the results have been fabulous for us because we’ve been going the extra mile in crafting the story and the strategy for them.
“We have won clients in a hard market, and it doesn’t always stay this way as insurance is cyclical. There’s going to be times where the strategy shifts for them, and we’ll have won their trust during the hard times.”
“A very high level of communication and transparency with perspective and current clients is what has worked best for us over the past 12 months”
David RagnoKeyes Coverage
Plowing a similar furrow is Weaver, the founder of Weaver Insurance Agency, in the small city of Sheridan, Wyoming. She is part of a team of three who have gone the extra mile to support their clients during the last year.
She says, “I have been really trying to educate our clients on why we’re in a hard market, and because of that, we’ve retained a big chunk of them.”
Weaver deals with a lot of ranchers and small businesses, so she has a personal connection to them.
“I don’t pull the wool over their eyes and say, ‘It’s just the economy or inflation’ like a lot of agencies do,” she says. “Here they are spoken to like real people and given respect.”
Part of this has involved Weaver sending out mailings explaining goings on in the industry and highlighting what is driving the increase in premiums.
“They appreciate that we’ve actually gotten a lot more business because of our outreach. So we’re writing business even though there’s a lot of upset in our area too with carriers pulling out of the region and rates being exponentially high,” she says.
Another benefit Weaver’s clients have is that her agency is independent, allowing her to pivot appropriately.
“How I explain the details is based on the personality of the client,” she says. “If they like diving into the weeds, I’ll go into the weeds with them.”
Sometimes she might discover they are overinsured and can afford to come down, thus reducing their premium and also taking advantage of bundling.
She says, “I tell them, ‘Please talk to us so we can really get into it.’ Maybe they don’t have a bundle situation, so by bringing the auto over, it may offset that premium increase on the property.
“But it could be that we have the home with Travelers, we have the auto with Safeco, and we have the umbrella with RLI. We’ll be upfront with the customer and tell them they’re losing the bundling discount, but the saving is much greater with the premiums that way.”
While the decision to be honest with her clients has paid off, Weaver did have some concerns, as the natural reaction for a lot of clients is to start using another agency in the hope they will get better premiums even if that’s not possible.
“As an agency owner, I was on the fence about sending an email out to everybody to say rates are going up,” she says. “However, I made sure I told everyone that if you are concerned about your premiums being too high, we don’t want you to starve to death to pay them. I told them to talk to us first, as we’ll do everything we can to help.”
“I wrap myself, my agency, and my manpower around my client’s assets and financial future. I sleep at night, and so do the other agents, knowing that we’re giving a good product to match what our clients need”
Jessica WeaverWeaver Insurance Agency
This service-oriented approach is also followed by Dress, executive vice president in RT Specialty’s property practice. Her team ensures it deals with clients using the following principles:
“We differentiate ourselves by being transparent and overly communicative with our trading partners, providing as much possible lead time as we can, and preparing for our clients,” says Dress. “So, they are able to pivot, if need be, in certain circumstances, to make sound business decisions about how they will purchase insurance.”
While IBA’s Top Insurance Brokers and Agents of 2023 were judged favorably by their clients, it requires dedication and a thriving internal culture for that to happen. Particularly in a tough market, the winning brokers and agents had to maintain morale and energize their teams.
Dress reveals how her team drives each other by keeping standards high.
“We have a work hard, play hard mentality and try not to take ourselves too seriously. We have a very high-achieving team, so there is constant reiteration of doing the best possible job that we can on each and every deal we touch,” she says.
But there is also a focus on making sure balance is maintained.
Dress says, “We have made a concerted effort to encourage everyone on the team to take their time off and spend it with the people they love doing whatever they love to do.”
“We are an extremely client-centric team; we want to do a good job and do right by the client. We will continue to deliver competitive outcomes for the insureds regardless of market conditions”
Lindsay DressRyan Specialty
While Weaver paints a picture of how being so transparent with clients added to the workload.
“We were tasked to the max, taking work home with us and working on weekends,” she says. “We did everything in our power to keep the business going and keep everybody happy.”
For a small team, being under that pressure was a challenge.
Weaver says, “All three of us are very empathetic people, and we don’t want to be the bad guy charging them more for their premium. We’re a very small agency, but we’re in this because we love it and have an environment that reminds us of why we do this: because we love to help people.
“Every day we have a fresh start, put a smile on our faces, dig in, and hope we can help the people in our community.”
Again, it’s a similar experience for Ragno and his team. Despite being a much larger operation, the pressure is the same.
He says, “Of the specific roles within the organization, all of them are pretty much harder now.”
To combat this, the firm changed the culture and made a point of organizing more team bonding events, such as:
attending sports games
“It doesn’t replace the fact that the job is hard,” Ragno says. “But it’s really critical to make sure that the staff that you have are aligned with your values because it takes a special type of person to work in this market and do it successfully, as they’re having to go above and beyond.”
Another inventive thing that Ragno and his partner were able to offer their staff was spot bonuses for outstanding work.
“It’s a way we can try to help lessen the load, which I know the staff appreciates,” he says.
Offering these different initiatives and including everyone is the reason Ragno was named an award winner by IBA.
“Having a clear vision and development plan for each individual as to how they fit into the greater vision of the firm is the most important thing right now because the job is stressful,” he says. “That’s why this award isn’t about David Ragno; it’s about the team here and how much they’ve helped push the needle to get these results.”
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