Fletcher Wilson, president of Wilson Insurance Services Inc., has enjoyed running his small brokerage firm in north Winston-Salem for the past six years. Wilson Insurance
focuses largely on selling property and casualty insurance to small and midsize companies.For years, the company has sold policies where the premiums typically range from $25,000 to $200,000.
The executive is content with his
location near the corner of Robinhood and Whitaker roads -- recently moving into a larger first-floor office after years on an upper story. Wilson
has also been pleased with the steady growth at his
agency over that time.This year, he
will double the amount of premiums on his
books to $4 million, which translates into annual revenues of $400,000 to $500,000.
is interested in growing beyond the smaller policies and clients that have supported his
business in years past.He
soon will add a new accounts manager to target clients large enough to pay premiums that are triple those usually generated by his
firm. "Fletcher is a young aggressive go- getter, and it's nice to see that here in the Triad," said Chad Davis, who, like Wilson, is a Twin City executive in his 30s."Fletcher is a young aggressive go- getter, and it's nice to see that here in the Triad," said Chad Davis, who, like Wilson, is a Twin City executive in his 30s.
A key challenge for Wilson
in coming months will be finding the right employees to support his
strategy, while providing a high level of service to his
agency's long-standing clientele. Wilson
, for his
part, is confident he
can pull it off.
"We understand the various challenges," Wilson
says, "but I feel we can still outservice any of the area's larger agencies."
In terms of premium volume, Wilson Insurance Services
is a relatively small agency, compared to larger companies such as Aon Consulting and BB&T Insurance Services.
The firm also is significantly smaller than Senn Dunn in Greensboro, which is the Triad's largest locally owned agency.Last year it booked more than $80 million in premiums while eclipsing $10 million in revenues. Wilson
seeks to manage and expand his
insurance portfolio with just four full-time employees.Senn Dunn, by comparison, is staffed with more than 80 workers.So he
looks for ways to reduce paperwork for his
small work force, allowing them to make more time with prospective and existing clients.
'A lot of flexibility' Wilson Insurance
says, is "extremely automated," using technology to decrease the amount of documents processed through his
The agency also outsources some tasks to the service centers of its insurance carriers.Wilson
says those tasks are limited to minor policy changes, such as changing the vehicles covered by a particular policy.
Such a strategy does come with a cost: Wilson Insurance
has to give those outside service centers a cut of the commissions it derives.
"But our folks aren't bogged down with making mundane and routine changes," says Wilson
, who plans to rely heavily on such initiative as he
looks to expand into larger accounts.
...Chris Sparks, president of Cavalry Medical Transport in Winston-Salem, said it is Wilson who sets the pace for the rest of the agency.
gets personally involved in our accounts, and he's
hiring staff that are reflections of him."
Wilson Insurance's work with Cavalry Medical
represents another strategy for the Twin City agency: Targeting niche industries that might otherwise go unnoticed by other brokerage firms.
In this case, Wilson
is keying in on private ambulance service providers, which are growing in number as the elderly population increases.
In the past, the agency also has focused on restaurants, home builders and those in commercial construction.The key, Wilson
says, is to pay attention to emerging business trends in the Triad, and to try to understand those emerging industries as they develop.He
says hiring experienced workers will play into that theory.
"Those trends are ever-changing," Wilson
says."When we bring on new people, we want them to develop those new niches."
For the most part, he
has been able to find employees who previously worked at larger agencies in Winston-Salem, including Aon, where Wilson
once worked as an account executive, and Nationwide. Wilson
has developed incentives, beyond commissions, to entice workers to join his
agency.Foremost has been his
plan to allow employees to buy into the agency and to obtain an ownership stake in the company that bears his
Senn Dunn also has turned to such a practice to land top talent from larger agencies and to send the message to banks and other financial companies that the agency doesn't plan on selling to a larger entity.
"This allows younger agents to have an equity stake in this business," Wilson
says."It gives us another solution for hiring good people."
Opportunity from NY scandal? Wilson
also sees challenges and opportunities from the growing scandal in New York involving the nation's largest insurance agency.
, the challenge involves addressing the concerns of his
clients, making sure they understand that the Triad's smaller insurance agencies negotiate prices in a way that is different from their larger counterparts.
"We don't operate on the same scale," he
says, noting that insurers compensate his
agency by looking at the loss ratio -- or the amount of losses divided by premiums paid -- rather than volume as is the case with the larger firms involved in the Spitzer probe.
By contrast, Wilson views the shake-up as an opportunity to offer an alternative to midsize clients of his
larger brethren who might want to consider changing brokerage firms.
It all plays into his
focus to target larger firms in a move, that if executed properly, could more than double Wilson Insurance's work force to 10 employees over the next year.
"There are a lot of accounts in play for us," says Wilson
of the various dynamics in the Triad insurance market.