Championing the public sector

Sue Coates brings her decades-long experience and enthusiasm for public entities to her role as president of Trident Public Risk Solutions

Championing the public sector



Some people stumble into insurance and discover that it’s where they’re meant to be. Such was the case for Sue Coates, who started her insurance journey 25 years ago with an entry-level, service-oriented role at an insurance agency near her hometown. Today the president of Trident Public Risk Solutions, Coates spent the first decade of her career in service sales and managerial roles before transitioning to underwriting, where she was introduced to the public entity specialization that would come to define her insurance career.

“The transition to underwriting was pivotal for me, as it gave me an opportunity to advance professionally, but to do so at a rapid pace while applying my skills in a dynamic environment,” Coates says. “And I really enjoyed this specialized niche.”

Entering this new space gave Coates an open runway to learn as much as she could and apply that knowledge in her work. It also provided her with opportunity to be recognized for what she could deliver not only to agents and policyholders, but also to the organization. In 2008, Massamont Insurance Agency, the public entity specialist where Coates worked at the time, was acquired by Argo Group’s Trident Insurance Services unit, which later became Trident Public Risk Solutions.

“It was a small regional firm, and with the acquisition, it became a nationwide opportunity,” says Coates, who held a variety of roles before being named president of Trident in 2017. Her top goal for the organization today is to ensure Trident is the best insurance provider it can be for all stakeholders. For employees, Coates wants to pass along the excitement she has for the public entity space to her staff. For policyholders, she’s focused on delivering value through products and services aimed at public entities’ unique risks. Finally, for agents and brokers, she wants Trident to provide valuable expertise that they might not have in-house.

“We are a knowledgeable group of professionals who have over 100 years of combined public entity experience, so we can deliver value to agents – not just in the products and services that we provide, but also in our knowledge of the marketplace,” Coates says. “My goal is to meet these needs in the best way possible, grow our business and be that sustainable marketplace for public entity buyers over the long term.”

Not an average exposure
Because governmental organizations work differently than standard commercial businesses, insuring the public entity space requires a specialized know-how. Every city and town is unique and has differing needs, based on the state where they’re located. There are also certain expectations and functions that public entities have to provide to their constituents that are governed by regulations and legislation. That means insurance providers like Trident have to become experts in public entity administration to ensure that they’re providing products and services that actually meet the needs of their clients.

“There are a lot of different types of insurance that public entity organizations purchase, so to be an underwriter for that marketplace, you have to have a good base of experience to help them,” Coates says. “They really partner with their agents, and then their agents partner with us to make sure that we are meeting those needs. It can't be just one size fits all.”

A lifelong learner, Coates is dedicated to making sure her team stays on top of developments in each state, as well as the risks that public entities face. Public schools or local law enforcement, for example, face many responsibilities, and municipalities continue to be challenged by social inflation, Coates says. Many public entities are rising to the challenge by adopting enterprise risk management strategies and implementing best practices around their risk management structure with the help of Trident. In addition to insurance solutions, the company provides tailored risk control services to assist every insured, from small entities that need risk management resources to large municipalities that have dedicated risk managers who are continually involved in crafting risk management strategies.

Innovating in the public sphere
Just because Trident already has a robust product and service lineup doesn’t mean it’s skimping on innovation. One of its recent offerings is an insurance enhancement to help firefighters cover elective procedures for injuries received on duty, which was developed after Trident witnessed a gap between workers’ compensation and health insurance that was falling to individual firefighters to cover.

“We are always scanning the horizon for areas of gap – what’s something that your public entity is having to deal with that might not fit within a traditional insurance solution?” Coates explains.

The company has also released a suite of cyber and data compromise insurance solutions tailored for public entities and has refreshed its entire suite of coverage forms for its first-party lines, including improved enhancements that recognize the unique challenges of public entities.

There’s more to come for Trident in the near term, too. At the beginning of May, Paragon Insurance Holdings completed its acquisition of Trident from Argo Group, kicking off the next chapter in both Trident’s history and Coates’ career. She says her team is excited and looks forward to expanding its level of public entity specialization while continuing to bring services to its policyholders. This deal will bring Trident that much closer to its customers, Coates says, allowing it to keep delivering on its commitment to public entities, and will strengthen the team’s partnerships with insureds via agents and brokers.

“I've been able to do my best work through my career by having an alignment around purpose and the motivation and empowerment to go do the work,” Coates says. “That's what we have, and those are the tools to make everything else happen.”

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