The Case for Independence
David Schaefer, President and CEO, AHT Insurance
Insurance brokerage is ultimately and fundamentally based on trust and a number of important promises. AHT firmly believes our independence is foundational to the promises we make to every client as it relates to service and our commitments to the partnerships we form with our clients. Losing our independence means a change in control of the business and an unambiguous surrender of the commitments we have made to our clients and our employees.
Built to last, AHT is structured optimally to provide every one of our high-performing professionals the opportunity to participate in the success of the organization. This fact contributes to our unusually high retention and long tenure of our professional staff as well as an unmistakable sense of teamwork and camaraderie. This consistency and professional latitude to always do what is right with absolute integrity is another important differentiator as our deliverable to AHT clients.
As a growing number of our competitors have lost their independence—along with the singular focus on serving the client—and are now also serving stakeholders seeking to take returns and value out of their organizations sooner or later, AHT believes there is a growing opportunity to serve a growing constituency of insureds and great insurance professionals who understand and appreciate the differences between these models.
In a manner of speaking, yes, but not in the classic sense. The competition of well funded, acquisitive organizations for insurance brokerages is intense, as everyone familiar with the industry knows. Through some first-hand experience and from what we have learned from others, regardless of the high-minded approach many sellers begin with as they dip their toes in the M&A market, in the end most sell to the highest bidder or near that, with little regard for the implications for their clients and their employees. The failure of serious, ongoing, sustainable perpetuation planning is nearly always the No. 1 driver to sell an insurance agency, despite the red herring of “more resources for our clients” that many sellers indicate is the primary driver to sell after the fact.
This is in spite of the fact that many of these organizations have survived, even thrived, on the promise of continuing independence and an opportunity for many of their next-generation best and brightest to own a part of the company and have a “seat at the table” at some point as a part of a perpetuation strategy. No wonder the industry has problems attracting and retaining youthful talent! AHT sees this dynamic as a wonderful opportunity to attract those professionals, cast out into acquiring organizations they never planned to join, with now-dead dreams of owning a part of the now-gone company they helped to build. These stranded entrepreneurs in search of a better business model—both individuals and teams from production, service and support—are AHT’s acquisition targets.
By building and continuing to grow a privately held, world-class brokerage operation that has a proven, sustainable perpetuation strategy, AHT has designed the perfect destination for like-minded insurance professionals who understand that this model we embody is an ideal for really serving insurance clients best. Leveraging a variety of connective technologies, AHT is agnostic to geography when it comes to employing these stars; we are about delivering a superior brokerage experience and service model to insureds who understand working with an owner is always better.
Dan Keough, Chairman and CEO/Shareholder, Holmes Murphy
This is a difficult question in a growth-oriented company. Our leaders compete for investment dollars to expand our growth or meet our customers’ needs. Innovation fuels growth. We are always thinking and looking ahead to see what’s on the horizon and how it could be developed to meet or exceed our clients’ needs. Over the years, Holmes Murphy has created many startups, each one designed to fulfill our clients’ needs to drive down costs and/or create efficiencies.
Our captive and clinical capabilities differentiate us, as well as our expertise in several industry verticals. Most recently, we developed and launched SimplePay Health, which will be a game changer in the healthcare space. SimplePay Health eliminates the confusion and frustration with healthcare in America and replaces it with a new way of doing things. One way, in particular, is you can know the total cost of your medical care before you schedule an appointment.
With regard to technology, we are partnering with companies, are investing in companies, and have formed a team to survey the insurtech landscape to find opportunities. We believe innovation within our company provides employees with the opportunity to change the game, create wealth and drive a culture where ideas are welcome.
Duane Smith, CEO, TrueNorth Companies
The responses above are not the opinions or beliefs of MarshBerry and were supplied by each individual named. —Editor