Franklin Street, a full-service commercial real estate and insurance services firm headquartered in Tampa, Florida, has appointed Rob Allen as president of its Insurance Services division.
Allen is a 30-year veteran of the insurance industry. After completing a degree in risk management, he started his career as an insurance broker in South Florida in 1988, with a company that was later acquired by Marsh. He then spent 25-years with Willis, progressing up the leadership ladder until he was named president and CEO of Willis Towers Watson’s Atlanta division in 2015, where he turned a shrinking organization into a leading growth office in just three years.
In 2019, Allen joined USI, where he served as a practice leader in the brokerage’s property and casualty division, focused on growing complex accounts, coaching brokers and recruiting top talent.
Now, as president of Franklin Street’s Insurance Services division, Allen will oversee a national team that provides the full spectrum of commercial insurance service offerings for commercial real estate owners, developers and managers, including program design, market placement, portfolio administration, lender compliance, risk management and claims advocacy.
What attracted Allen to Franklin Street was the firm’s “deep specialization” in the real estate space. The firm was founded in 2006 during one of the toughest real estate climates, and has since grown to include seven business divisions: Investment Sales, Tennant and Landlord Representation, Capital Advisory, Insurance, Property Management, and Project Management.
“Franklin Street was conceived initially as a very diverse real estate ecosystem, and there’s a great deal of collaboration across the various divisions of the organization,” said Allen. “What attracted me to Franklin Street was an opportunity to get very specialized at a time when I think that’s the trend in the insurance broker space in general.
“When the markets are difficult and in the age of digitalization, it’s more and more important to be a specialist in our business. Being a generalist is really something of the past, and, in Franklin Street, we have a very specialized insurance team in a large, diversified organization.”
Franklin Street experienced a record year in 2021, achieving nearly 50% organic revenue growth and $1.5 billion in total transaction volume. The Insurance Services division – one of the firm’s largest divisions - grew by over 25% last year, achieving record revenue, earnings, new business wins and renewals.
Allen’s core focus in his new role will be to leverage Franklin Street’s collaborative platform to lead the insurance team into “new territory and historic growth”.
“Franklin Street Insurance Services does a tremendous amount of business in the residential multifamily real estate space. We are hyper-focused right now in that particular section of real estate,” he said. “But the resources and expertise that we’ve built in that space are relevant to other subsectors within real estate, such as hotels and hospitality. What I’d like to do is grow our business beyond residential multifamily and expand into other parts of the real estate sector.
“Historically, Franklin Street has done a very good job of identifying and hiring young talent, and then teaming that talent up with more experienced professionals within the organization. It’s a great model and it’s a model that I intend to continue to replicate. I want to continue to feed what we’ve been doing in the residential multifamily space, but I’d also like to build some similar teams in other sectors of real estate, such as hotel and hospitality.”
Delivering solutions for commercial real estate clients, like those in the hotel and hospitality sector, will not come without challenges – especially if those clients were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are now navigating a complex recovery.
“The hotel and hospitality sectors were hit hard by COVID-19, and they’re now looking to strike the right balance of efficiency in risk transfer, while also getting adequate protection for themselves,” Allen told Insurance Business. “As a specialist broker in the real estate space, we’ve got some ideas that they may not have seen before, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to invest heavily in that space internally and try to grow our business there.
“One of the things that really attracted me to Franklin Street was the unique offerings that we’ve developed for our clients, which I’ve never seen before at any of the major brokers I’ve worked with. For example, one of the major challenges that commercial real estate clients have is lender compliance, and often the insurance terms they’re insuring to are dictated not by what’s prudent or efficient, but by what lenders require. We’ve actually developed a team in-house that specializes in assuring lender compliance, but also in negotiating with lenders and getting better terms.
“To me, the ability to be innovative, and create new offerings and new resources – like our lender compliance solution – is a true differentiator, and I think that comes from being hyper-focused in the real estate space.”
Beyond developing new insurance solutions for commercial real estate clients, Allen will be focused on two priorities in the early stages of his Franklin Street career. The first is searching for new capacity, or finding ways to create capacity in what is quite a hard and restricted property insurance marketplace.
“My other priority is to identify and attract talent,” he added. “At Franklin Street, we’ve got a really interesting story to tell, which a lot of people have never heard. I want to get our story out there in front of my insurance broker colleagues who are in the real estate space, and help them to understand that we’re a great place to be.”