Perspectives

Case Study

Putting the Brakes on Customer Defections

Industry & client situation

Our client was a commercial lines carrier with a long history in the industry and a reputation for finding a way of underwriting some of the very toughest commercial risks.  The company distributed its product exclusively through wholesale agents who functioned as MGAs. After several years of booming revenue and profits, customers had begun deserting the company in droves. At first, executives attributed the plunge in revenue to a vicious soft market that had taken hold the previous year. Some wondered whether wholesale agents were being disintermediated by retail agents with the willingness and ability to deal directly with carriers, though they lacked the data to know for sure.

The company hired Bridge to identify the true sources of the premium decline and to develop a plan to reverse the trend to set the company on the path to regaining their market position.

approach

Bridge developed an approach built on analysis of the company’s internal data, competitive data and selected agent interviews to diagnose, then ultimately, propose solutions to the issue. Within a few weeks the analysis generated valuable insights that narrowed field of potential causes.  Key insights included the following:

  • The recent drop in revenue had little to do with the distribution methods employed and a viscous soft market cycle, but everything to do with deficiencies in product design, pricing, risk selection, and how agents were being managed;
  • Competitors were moving toward distribution via retail agents faster than retail agents were developing the capabilities necessary for (and large enough books of business to warrant) working directly with carriers;
  • The company lacked a viable distribution alternative for the foreseeable future, given its near total reliance on wholesale agents to perform critical tasks on its behalf; and
  • Based on interviews with a number of wholesale agents, demonstrating loyalty to the wholesale agent channel seemed likely to give the company a competitive advantage over carriers who had begun working directly with retail agents.

Based on the analysis, Bridge recommended a renewed commitment to the wholesale channel and developed detailed plans for addressing the deficiencies in product design, pricing, risk selection, and agency management. One other key element of the strategy was to develop a set of services for wholesale agents that, should the wholesale channel ever dry up entirely, would leave the company far better positioned to explore distribution alternatives than at the time of this writing.

Results

The new strategy has since been rolled out to the company’s wholesale agents, who received it with a great deal of enthusiasm. Renewal rates began rising almost immediately, and the company is projecting a snap-back in revenue based on plans and projections from its agents.