“I can’t wait to show you this!” Mack Ward pulls up blueprints for AssuredPartners’ new space at One Liberty Square. “What a marquee place,” the insurance broker shares with excitement. “We’ll be occupying 75% of the ninth floor. Greenville has become the regional hub for AssuredPartners, so the regional team will work here, as well. This was a dream back when we came together.”
The growth Ward, co-partner Jess Dantice, and agency President Michael Herlong have experienced since merging their independent insurance agencies over the past two years is commendable. The trio came from Spartanburg, Anderson, and Greenville, respectively, with $1.5 million in agency revenue apiece. They teamed together under the banner of AssuredPartners Inc., which ranks No. 12 on Business Insurance magazine’s recent Top 100 U.S. Brokers list, based on revenue for property and casualty lines, employee benefits, and individual life and health coverage. The brokerage firm is one of the fastest growing in South Carolina, with AssuredPartners Upstate contributing more than $6 million to the agency’s $24 million statewide total in 2018.
“The world of insurance is transforming right before your eyes, and it’s never going to be the same again,” explains Dantice. “For most people, there’s too much at stake. They’re at a time in their lives and business to make a decision of what direction they’re going, and AssuredPartners is the vehicle in the Upstate that is going to take them there.”
The firm’s niche is helping midsize businesses, with 50-500 employees, maximize coverage and minimize costs through health care and property insurance and commercial risk management. Current clients cross industries, including Grace Church, Cely Construction, Sargent Metal Fabricators, and McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture.
Ward credits the agency’s growth to its ability to utilize AssuredPartners Inc.’s resources. The 43-year-old points to complex programs on his laptop, saying, “This is a consultive brand and approach. We now have access to capital and tools that the middle-market business owner wasn’t getting, and needs.” Those tools include field experts, local safety consultants, automated worker’s comp programs, and data-mining analytic tools. “This technology wasn’t available two and three years ago,” Ward says.
Dantice adds, “This is one of the highest lines of expense businesses have to deal with. These tools allow us to identify waste.”
Michael Herlong says AP Upstate has pinpointed hundreds of thousands of dollars of waste and guided cost-reduction measures for many clients who employ more than 100 people. The president admits, “Using our processes and implementing them to help companies is extremely rewarding.”
Health care coverage is an area ripe for discovery and savings. Currently, health care composes 35% of the firm’s business, but Ward estimates that number will jump to 50% within two years. Dantice points out they are “doubling down” to help clients navigate the ever-changing landscape. “You can’t possibly know all of the changes in regulations,” he says. “It’s actually become dangerous for the typical buyer to go to the jack-of-all-trades. This is our niche, and AssuredPartners is famous for its industry experts.”
Local clients can interact with those experts face-to-face at the new Liberty Square office in a 40-seat training room, loaded with state-of-the-art A/V components. AP Upstate has been renting space to hold these educational gatherings, but will now host them onsite.
Herlong says, “It feels great knowing clients are getting answers and the true expertise they need in a particular field, to make sure they’re operating their business the right way. We are planning future sessions that will focus on loss control, safety training, and our new automated worker’s comp application.”
The last training session explored health care coverage, including one of the firm’s new options: a bundled payment discount with a nationwide “center of excellence” for as many as 40 medical procedures. “This is what Walmart is doing for their employees,” Ward says. “By direct-contract negotiation, our clients are saving on average $24 thousand on knee replacements, a quarter-of-a-million on a heart transplant. It’s less money, and the outcomes are proven to be better. This is a huge solution in health care.”
This summer, the threesome will move from Global Trade Park to One Liberty, where an open house is planned for August or September. Ward anticipates a busy office with 50 employees and visiting business owners eager to take advantage of AssuredPartners’ new space, new tools, and bigger team. “There is a true hunger for these types of services and this type of value,” Ward says.
Dantice finishes the thought. “Most businesses are coming to the conclusion they do need it. The good ol’ boys are over, and folks are looking for some business-to-business value.”