In this Q&A with Ullico, Jennifer Guidry (Great American Insurance Group) talks about trends in commercial insurance underwriting, what the partnership with Ullico Casualty Group means for unions, and the most important lessons she’s learned during her career.
Joe Vaccaro wakes up every day at 4:30 in the morning to make the most of the time he has in life. It is an approach that has worked quite well for him in his professional career. A wholesale broker at ARC for over twenty years, Vaccaro specializes in Directors and Officer Liability, Union Liability, Financial Institutions Professional Liability and more. In a recent Q&A with Ullico, Vaccaro spoke about his experience as a wholesale broker and using his insurance expertise to help protect unions and their leaders.
The world of insurance can be confusing for those outside the field. Can you explain why people hire wholesale brokers?
Sure, as a wholesaler, we are a broker’s broker. In a situation where a retail broker isn’t familiar with a particular type of insurance, a wholesale broker can offer their expertise and help them develop the best policy for the insured.
Thanks for that overview. Can you share an example?
I may help a retail broker with, say, executive protection lines or fiduciary liability. These are not common policies to place for many retail brokers. They typically see a lot more property and auto insurance.
Let’s say a broker has a brother-in-law who is a union trustee and wants him to manage the union’s insurance. That’s great, but this broker may not be very familiar with the union marketplace. As a result, he could potentially write up a policy with some significant gaps in coverage. That’s a quick way to lose a client.
To avoid that, the broker brings in an expert like me to make sure they are getting the best coverage and premium. They lose a little bit of profit from the commission, but they get the protection and expertise that I can provide.
As a wholesaler, you work with a lot of different insurance companies. What are some of the best practices you see? Where do others fall short?
Well, being creative with respect to new products is great and always really helpful for us. It helps us stay up-to-date in the marketplace and it allows us to sell more policies and retain clients. So that is always a good quality of a retailer; someone who is consistently looking for ways to broaden their coverage or introduce new features. We like that.
Time is of the essence, so good service is the most critical thing—both from a quote perspective as well as a servicing perspective. We work on very thin margins because we share the commissions with our retailers. So, I have to be as efficient as possible. I’ve already lost money if I have to follow-up with an insurance company five-to-six times to navigate something as simple as an address-change endorsement. I like to place my business with companies where I know if there is an issue it will get resolved quickly.
Union-focused insurance is one of your specialties. How did you get into that particular market?
That’s a good question. I think all of us at ARC pick up a concentration just out of practice. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with handful of retailers that focus on the union market and I’ve managed to build and sustain a lot of that business.
Sometimes your specialty stems from geography. I happen to do business in areas where unions are very strong and concentrated. There is a big organized labor presence in New York where I live. I do a lot of business in the Chicagoland area and it’s the same there. I also work in Maryland with the seafarers and the maritime folks as well.
My relationship as Ullico’s broker has certainly helped. When someone is introduced to me and I’m explaining how I can help them out, I can say “Not only do I place business with Ullico, but they respect my expertise to such an extent that they come to me for their own insurance coverage.” That speaks volumes to people.
Let’s end with something a little different. After reading your profile on ARC’s website, you strike me as someone who leads a vigorous life—you wake up at 4:30 every morning to work out, you participate in triathlons, you enjoy camping and the list goes on. What motivates you? How does this approach to life influence your professional career?
I try to experience as much as I can, because eventually I’ll have to slow down. I read a book by this investor named Bill Perkins called Die with Zero that speaks to some of this philosophy. It is not about spending all your money and not having any left. It is about maximizing the return on your experiences. For instance, if you go skiing in your twenties, you have the energy to get a lot of value out of your lift ticket. In your fifties, you’re not able to do as many runs so you get less value for the price. It is a simple idea—I just want to keep experiencing things while I’m able to, because it won’t last forever.
Professionally, I try to stay active as well. I stay engaged with union liability and such, but I also have other areas of focus. I have a background with financial institutions, for example, so I also love working in that space. As long as I like doing something, I want to do a lot of it. The knock on the insurance field is that it might feel like you do the same thing every day. I’ve been fortunate that my time at ARC has always brought new challenges. Accounts come and go so there are new people and new experiences all the time. It keeps things fresh and keeps me engaged.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.