The irony of wholesale brokerages is
that they must specialize to attract business but spread their
efforts over many tight niches to survive as a business. Being
pigeonholed into one niche can cost business in
I miss generalization.
Remember when knowing a little about a lot got you somewhere
in this business? A broader base of knowledge meant a broader
selection of insureds, right? Sure, we had underwriters strung
out from attempting to quantify every conceivable
risk—just part of the job. That E&O exposure from
working with risks we didn’t truly understand? Worth
every penny. And all that “what’s best for the
insured” mumbo jumbo was just that. What mattered was
“more.” More markets, more products, more work.
Apparently, I also miss my sanity. The fact is that
wholesalers and other intermediaries understand that
generalization is a thing of the past. Or is it? The truth is
that everyone wants to be known as a specialist. The word has
become so saturated that it leaves retailers wondering who is
actually worthy of the moniker.
I recently spoke with Bob Scaglione, senior vice president
of business development for ThomCo, a program manager based in
Kennesaw, Georgia, about what it means to be a specialist in
terms of distribution.
“Specialization is permeating through the entire
industry,” he says. “We have found our most
successful agents are those who specialize in one or two of the
programs we offer.”
ThomCo was founded in the late 1970s as a regional,
non-standard MGA and wholesale brokerage writing a wide range
of industries. In the mid 1980s, CEO Greg Thompson (who remains
CEO today) began to see the benefit of the national program
administrator model, and over time he converted the company to
a specialist operation. Today, ThomCo manages 25 specialty
programs on a national basis, writes $170 million in premium
and employs 100 people in three offices in Kennesaw, Kansas
City and Denver. Programs access a mixture of admitted and
“We deal with national brokerage houses and Main
Street agents,” Scaglione says.
He says that ThomCo’s role as a specialist is
characterized by product exclusivity and focus of
“We are the exclusive outlet/provider for all of our
specialty programs,” he says, adding that the company
takes careful measures on behalf of its underwriters. “We
protect their expertise. Our medical transportation
underwriters only write ambulance and para-transit business. We
do not have underwriters underwrite in unrelated
programs.” He credits this focus as a primary reason why
carriers choose them to manage a program.
The common theme in most of ThomCo’s programs is
“For many of our programs, it’s the professional
liability exposure that differentiates us,” Scaglione
says. Many competitor programs do not include professional
liability coverage, he says, a notable omission considering the
types of risks.
For example, ThomCo has programs that focus on healthcare,
social services and schools. It writes complete packages of
coverage, including workers comp for many programs. Scaglione
says medical transportation, senior living and other
healthcare-related organizations are fueling growth in their
respective programs, even in soft market conditions.