The pushpin map of the United States at FCCI Insurance Group is getting crowded.
One of the largest commercial property and casualty insurance underwriters on the Gulf Coast, the company, based in Sarasota, has been in national expansion mode for several years. But it recently amped up its growth strategy, both in locations and products. The goal, say company executives, is to use what it considers its best asset — relationship-centric employees — to pluck more market share.
“We are constantly looking for organic growth,” says Bill Speaker, senior vice president for home office underwriting at FCCI. “We didn't stop expanding when the economy went south.”
For example, the company opened an office in Maryland in early 2012 and in Dallas in October for the Southwest market. The Dallas office, says Speaker, brought in $2 million in premiums in the fourth quarter, which exceeded expectations. “Even though we are new there,” says Speaker, “we have name recognition in local employees.”
FCCI also opened an office in Louisiana Jan 1., and Arkansas is on the list for later this year. All told, FCCI now writes policies in 17 states.
The firm's new offices focus on what the company has always done: It sells a diverse line of insurance policies and programs for businesses through a large group of partner agents and agencies. FCCI, the fourth-largest private employer in Sarasota County, with 374 local employees, doesn't sell homeowners insurance policies.
The only time FCCI plans to slow its expansion, says Speaker, will be sometime over the next year — but merely to reassess where in the U.S. it wants to go next. Speaker says the company seeks markets with a solid economy, a business-friendly judicial climate and growing populations.
That means the Northeast and the West Coast aren't in the plans, for now at least. States in those regions, which are mostly high-tax and low growth, tend to lean more hostile to insurance companies. Says Speaker: “We want to be a in a state where we can make money and be profitable.”
A key to profitability, says Speaker, stems from a move FCCI made in fall 2011, when it expanded the types of businesses it targets. The firm, through a product it calls Premier Package Policy, now offers property and casualty coverage to everything from hotels and motels to dry cleaners.
FCCI was founded in 1959, when it was called Florida Contractors and Construction Industries. A bulk of its clients are mid-sized businesses, and for many years the company focused on the building and related industries. “The (new product) helps us go out beyond construction,” says Speaker. “We didn't want to go away from construction, but we wanted a better mix.”
Premier Package clicked with agents and clients. In fact, it's brought in $9 million in new premiums in the past year. “We are really pushing it,” Speaker says.
The biggest potential impediment to more success, in locations and products, says Speaker, is what other insurance firms do to take business from FCCI. That's why Speaker says the hires in the new offices, the people who become the face of FCCI, are a key component of the strategy. “The challenge will always be the competition,” says Speaker. “Everyone has similar types of products.”