But if Mother Nature has other plans, they may be forced to retreat to the local Starbucks and grouse about not only the weather, but maybe some bad broker experiences also.
Obviously, there are some certain common traits such as indifference and failing to return phone calls. But the fact they remain such memorable experiences says something for the industry in that those good and profitable relationships are the rule and not the unforgettable exception.
Wayne Salen has been a risk manager for 35 years, the last three of which has been his most challenging, in that it's been in the temporary labor field, which does not have carriers panting to write his risk.
Salen says he has found the most success with the so-called boutiques, which may have 20 or so producers.
"I just don't want to make three phone calls to find out what code some job falls under if I am trying to sell a client," he says. "You know, my wife says I am awfully picky in general, and this is something I am very picky about."
As for the large regionals and the globals, Salen finds that there is not much of a synergy between the folks who sign you up and those that eventually service your needs. "It is sometimes difficult to work through that infrastructure that has been developed," he says. He also observes that some of the best brokers are not the ones that advertise so much. "So you really have to go out and look closely for them."
Gordon Adams, senior vice president and direct of risk management for Irvine, Calif.-based SunCal Cos., a residential land developer, has the benefit of having served as broker and underwriter before becoming a risk manager.
"What I dislike the most is brokers who come in and pontificate and try and tell you what you need," he says. "Nobody is going to know what you need for your own company as well as you do. So the broker (who) understands that it must be a partnership for the relationship to work will be the most successful." Adams' longest relationship with a broker has lasted seven years, while his shortest was one year. The ponitificators, of course, never make it into anything that could be called a relationship.
Elizabeth Clarke, risk manager for the city of St. John's, Newfoundland, recalls how, in a previous position she held, a broker once attempted to go over her head to her boss while she was away on business.
"My boss did the honorable thing and called me right back to deal with the issue," she says.
That broker ended up losing a major portion of the account and "was upset and tried to make me look like all bases were not covered, which of course they were."
In any event, she says, "it was not me who ended up with the red face."
Lance Ewing, vice president of risk management for Harrah's Entertainment, recalls getting a solicitation from a broker he knew after moving to a new job. "And the guy misspelled my name," he says.
Ewing (the spelling of which I triple-checked but as a Dallas fan am not too worried about getting it wrong) says he also relies on the two-broker system to keep them both on their toes. "This forces them to work together, which they don't always like to do," he says.
STEVE TUCKEY has written on insurance issues for a decade for several national media outlets.
April 15, 2008
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