A handful of New Jersey insurance agents came together in 2009 and created a network that aimed to be the best of both worlds: The agents would retain their independence, but their combined heft would win them better deals from the big insurance companies.
Four years later, the network is working better than they could have imagined.
Consolidated Insurance Agents of New Jersey has grown to 42 agencies, and its aggregate premium revenue has been rising by double digits, to $350 million in 2013.
John K. Tiene, Consolidated's chief executive, sees no end to the growth. By mid-year, he said the network should have about 60 New Jersey agencies. At that point, Consolidated expects to start signing up agents in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, then Massachusetts and Maryland.
Tiene thinks total premiums will reach $450 million this year.
The ability of Consolidated's members to handle all types of insurance has been key, Tiene said.
“Everything from the small corner nail salon to some of the largest construction companies in the state — we do it all,” he said. “Our agents write the full depth and breadth of insurance for the business community of New Jersey.”
Here's how it works: Consolidated pools the premiums its members generate into a single master contract with an insur ance company such as Chubb or Hartford. This allows small agents to do business directly with insurance companies and their underwriters, thus enabling the agent to provide faster and more efficient service to the client.
The traditional alternative for a small agent is to go through a wholesale insurance broker, which places the policy with a carrier and splits the commission. Consolidated collects a portion of the premium to cover its overhead, but Tiene said as Consolidated's members generate more business, their share of the commission grows.
Consolidated's setup made sense for Bill Scuorzo, the president of BCG Advisors, a nine-person agency in Jersey City.
Founded in 1999 as a benefits broker, BCG began building a commercial insurance business from the ground up in 2008.
“(It) has been a huge benefit to us because it's hard to get direct (insurance) carrier appointments when you don't have any business to begin with,” Scuorzo said. “CIA provided us the access to the carriers that we need that we would not otherwise have been able to get.”
Scuorzo said his firm's commercial business grew 35 percent last year, with much of the credit going to Consolidated.
Gary Capone, the vice president of field services for Franklin Mutual Insurance in Branchville, agreed.
Capone said Franklin Mutual only writes insurance in New Jersey, mostly small businesses and homeowners. Joining Consolidated made sense.
“(Consolidated) knows what we do, and they match us up with agents that are a good fit,” he said.
The result, Capone said, has been good, steady growth.
Tiene said about 67 percent of the insurance Consolidated agents write is commercial insurance, such as business liability, workers compensation, property casualty and health insurance. The rest is personal lines such as auto and homeowners.
Tiene said Consolidated has contracts with 26 insurers.
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