InsureZone Agency Network Enters Florida
Fort Worth, Texas-based InsureZone, a national brokerage and agency network, has launched operations in Florida. The new operation, Florida InsureZone Direct (IZD), is targeting small-to-midsized insurance agencies, offering them markets, tools and support to help them compete with larger brokers and direct writers.
The agency network will offer members access to close to 30 carriers writing home, auto and business insurance. The carriers include Travelers, GMAC, Federated National, Peoples Trust, Heritage, Universal Property and Casualty, Southern Oak and more than 20 others, according to the company.
“Florida is a unique state for insurance companies. The geography, among other underwriting challenges, has limited groups like ours from doing business in the state,” said Ed Gillman, company president and third-generation insurance agent.
Gillman said the hiring of a long-time Florida agent, David Wilson, has given the firm the local experience it needs to expand into the state.
Wilson began his insurance career as a captive agent in 1991 but switched to the independent world where he has been a producer, manager, agency owner and consultant. He has worked for insurance agency WeInsure Florida Inc. as well as for Landcastle Title Insurance Co., in a Tennessee office where he sold homeowners insurance to title customers.
Wilson is no stranger to agency networks, having co-founded the Accord Insurance Network in the state with Norman Sapp in 1999. Wilson said Accord grew to be the largest agency network in Florida but he left after it was acquired by an investment firm that wanted to take it national.
According to Wilson, the dearth of national carriers such as Travelers, Progressive and Hartford writing homeowners in Florida has been one obstacle to operations like InsureZone entering the state. Fraud and sinkholes have also discouraged expansion, he said.
“Sinkholes are under control and we now know how to avoid a lot of the insurance fraud,” he told Insurance Journal.
Partners in InsureZone, unlike those involved with some agency franchises, own their entire books of business, he said. “No franchise in the state can make this claim,” he said. “We are not a franchise but they are our competition and have dominated Florida for the last decade or so. They are not happy we are entering the state with a much friendlier agent alternative.”
Wilson said InsureZone is looking for experienced small-to-midsized agencies including former Allstate, Farmers or other captive agents looking to go independent.
“Experience is a must,” he said, citing as good candidates those with agencies that are one to three years old.
Florida InsureZone Direct (www.insurezonedirect.com) charges a $10,000 start-up fee, which Wilson says is a one-time charge and lower than what competitors charge.