During a milestone year for his brokerage, Hylant CEO Mike Hylant reflects on how the business has changed and how his company is keeping up.
IBA: Hylant is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year – what’s the secret to the company’s longevity?
Mike Hylant: A big part of it is family. I’m one of nine children, and at some point in time, all of us have been in the business, so it's really been a family tradition to be part of the insurance brokerage world if you're a Hylant.
Additionally, staying true to our mission of serving our clients, communities and employees in alignment with our brand values of family, first and foremost, [as well as] empathy, hard work, honesty and respect. When you balance the top priorities of customer needs with employee satisfaction, the results are astounding – we have seen it firsthand.
IBA: How has the brokerage landscape evolved in recent years?
MH: The change has been very rapid in the last 10 years with the introduction of private equity and the formulation of ownership firms that occupy our space. We find that the changes have actually worked to our benefit, meaning that as private equity firms come into our space and buy more peers and competitors that look and feel like we do, they change the landscape of the service deliverables, not only for the customers, but also for employees.
For us, having a family business, it's not the same field, it's not the same deliverables, and it's not the same platform. Customers are looking for service platforms that are more responsive, and employees are looking for places that they can go [to] grow and participate in the success of firms. In keeping to our mission of putting clients first, we have invested in more talent and technology than ever before in this last decade, and we do not plan to take our foot off the gas on growing anytime soon.
IBA: What’s impact has COVID-19 had on Hylant?
MH: Hylant is certainly not alone in feeling the impact of COVID-19. All things considered, our business has remained in full operation throughout the pandemic, and our employees have done a phenomenal job supporting our clients’ needs.
While our employees miss the culture that we have, 95% of our employees shared in a recent survey that they feel productive in their remote work environment, and managers concurred with that feedback.
As far as the business goes, [COVID-19] is impacting our ability to go out there and acquire new customers. It's harder to sell and connect with people when you're not face-to-face. Having said that, though, we're about 80% to where we thought we would be in new business coming into this period, so we feel pretty good about that. Client retentions are way up – they're well in the upper 90th percentile – and I think clients are busy trying to hold on to their own businesses, so unless insurance and risk management programs are broken, they're probably not looking at new solutions at this time.
IBA: How do you expect the pandemic to affect brokers in the US over the long term?
MH: I think it will expand the footprint of brokers as they take advantage of working remotely. Typically, brokers work within geographical areas and are surrounded by bricks and mortar. I think the bricks-and-mortar value proposition is still going to be there, and you're still going to have to be local to a degree, but the resources that a brokerage firm employs can be based anywhere.
If you're in Toledo, Ohio, where our headquarters are, we could certainly have people working for us in Charlotte, where we don't have bricks and mortar, as long as that talented individual or resource is capable of delivering service on a remote basis for our customers. I think the ability to go out and attract and retain really good employees is out there for those firms who want to think outside of bricks and mortar and their local geographies.
IBA: What’s ahead for Hylant as you look to the coming year and beyond?
MH: Being a privately and family-owned brokerage is really a rare thing anymore in today's world, and there's a distinct advantage for us to do that because I believe we can make decisions based on the needs of the customers versus the needs of investors – that's a big difference in our world of deliverables.
Our decisions will be made to satisfy client needs, and our service model continues to be much more responsive to customers, so we certainly hope it will impact our ability to continue to grow as we've historically been able to do, particularly in the last 25 years.