I wanted this week’s blog to be a bit different and special since I am posting it on Monday February 29th. 2016 is a “Leap Year” and today is the extra day.
Personally my thoughts on Leap Year are very practical. I always wondered “why” if you are going to add an extra day to the year, would you want to add it in February. Wouldn’t an extra day in June or July, when the weather is so much nicer be more welcome? I doubt that anyone wants to extend the month of February, (doesn’t almost everyone root for the groundhog to NOT see his shadow, and spring to arrive early?). Seems like bad planning or the decision of someone who loves winter and to ski.
But since the last February 29th was in 2012, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on what has changed in my agency since the last time we, “leaped”.
- Four years ago, my company Warwick Resource Group was a three office, independent insurance agency with our headquarters in Warwick, NY. We were (and still are) one of the largest and oldest agencies in the New York Tri-State Area with a history that dates back to the mid-1800’s, but we were looking to grow. Modern Insurance agencies thrive, grow and continue to be able to conduct business by either purchasing individual “books of business” from independent producers; acquiring other agencies that wish to sell; or merging with other entities. At WRG we had a long term friendship with an agency based in Washington State, Libke Associates. I met the President of Libke, Jeff Rounds at an industry roundtable years ago. We found that our business philosophies were similar, our agencies size and reach were compatible, that each of us thrived in different niches and had parallel expertise. Our location and dominance on the east coast, and his on the west coast made a partnership between our companies seem ideal. Two years ago we began the process of uniting WRG and Libke under one roof, one vision. Begin with a bi-coastal company that could slowly expand across the continent to include the middle states. Two years into the process of "melding" the two divisions we have built a solid foundation with with to move forward into the next decade together.
- Another change that has occurred in the last four years is the emphasis, focus and expanded need for an insurance policy that did not even exist a decade or so ago …. Cyber and Privacy. What seemed like a “fringe” and “niche” insurance need, has become indispensable to any company or business that deals with customer data. Who would have thought 20 years ago, that branches of our Federal and State Governments along with major industries, banks, healthcare providers and even local “Mom and Pop” shops would have such a need to protect their data and plan for a possible and sometimes inevitable data hack? Now we recommend to every commercial lines/business client to consider ‘Cyber-Liability” insurance and devise a Cyber Attack plan. Because odds are that your business will be the recipient of a targeted breach sometime in the next decade (and over 65% of medium-sized businesses have already been data hacked in the last five years)
- Gone are the days with filing cabinets and hand written bound insurance policies lining the walls of our agency. Paperless, forward thinking, electronic and technologically-advanced have been one of our largest expenditures over the last four years. An advanced and state of the art agency management system from Vertafore; an interactive “customer-relationship-driven” website, even our “unified communication service” phone system is designed for ease, speed and conductivity. In the constantly evolving world that is the insurance industry, you can fall behind very quickly if you do not update your systems to match the modern marketplace.
- And lastly, even though we at WRG as always looking to embrace the most innovative technology and advanced systems available, I am very happy to report that some things do not change. John Sanford, whose family founded our company back in 1864, and who is one of my mentors and business partners, is still an important aspect of our company. Although John semi-retired in the last few years, to dedicate more time to his expansive dairy farm, Maple Terrace, John is still an essential member of our group. He is our go-to expert on all insurance policies agricultural and rural, and he is a hero to many fire departments in New York for his vast knowledge of specialty emergency services insurance coverage.
Here is to hoping that John Sanford is still visiting firehouses and farms, just as he always has, when the next Leap Year occurs. (And that four years from now, when I write my Feb 29, 2020 blog I will have more excellent new to report about my company, Warwick Resource Group.