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Companies to Watch - September 2010

Company: Totten Insurance Group

President and CEO: H. Ross Totten, FCIP, CCIB
Year Founded:
2002
Public or Private: Privately owned, but part of HUB International
Premiums/Year: In excess of $65 million
# of Employees: 85

Beginnings: Insurance wholesaler Totten Insurance Group, a specialist in niche products, was established at the end of 2002 when company president and CEO, Ross Totten, left his position at South Western Group to branch out on his own. The 35 years of experience he’d gained as a national wholesaler came in handy when Totten launched the small venture, which today has grown into six locations, including offices in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Manitoba.

Reasons to Watch: Totten Insurance Group has experienced rapid growth–the company has more than doubled in size in the last 2.5 years. With a product selection that stretches from adult video stores to zoos, the company has established itself as a one-stop shop for unique and hard-to-place business. “We are not trying to just write volume,” says president and CEO, Ross Totten. “We are working with our partners to develop new products and innovative ways of doing things.”

Recent Triumphs: Earlier this year, Ross Totten received the CIP Society National Leadership Award for being an ambassador to both the Institute as well as the P&C insurance industry. The Society cited his work in building a nationally recognized company with management and staff that are dedicated to providing exceptional service, and supporting education and charitable causes as the reasons for this honour. Totten says it’s his supportive team, who handle most of the day-to-day operations, that he owes this award to.

The company’s recent rapid growth did not come without some difficulty, says Totten, who realizes their ability to provide great service took a slight hit at the time. “Through the dedication of the staff, we’ve been able to overcome this challenge, and we’re still enjoying substantial growth this year. Our service has improved. It’s still not quite where we want it to be just yet, but it’s getting better.”

Totten states the growth also allowed the company to take on larger P&C lines of business while enhancing its ability to write certain classes of business. “Insurance companies have given us more capacity to write a larger frame of products because they have confidence in us,” he says.

Challenges: Competition is by far the biggest challenge facing Totten Insurance Group. “It seems everyone wants to be in the wholesale business right now,” says Totten. “Many of them are coming from outside the country, including large international firms that are establishing residence in Canada.” Additionally, the soft market is putting pressure on the industry, causing insurers to expand their appetites by writing more specialty lines of business.

“These companies don’t necessarily have the expertise in these areas, and they set the pricing too low,” he adds. “This is forcing people who have the expertise to compete on price alone or risk losing their books of business. There is a false savings right now and someone’s going to pay for it.”

New Ventures: Totten Insurance Group recently expanded its hospitality program and now writes liquor liability that offers legal expense coverage.

Also, the company launched a liability pool that writes up to $5 million in general liability. “We act as an MGA to produce, underwrite and issue all the documentation on this primary liability facility,” says Totten. “We are also now formalizing an excess and umbrella liability pool that will allow us to underwrite up to $20 million using domestic and international markets.”

Quote from CEO: “We aren’t interested in being the biggest wholesaler in Canada. We are more concerned about being the best.”

Totten Insurance Group
Charitable Cause: Totten Insurance Group recently took part in WICC’s Relay for Life, raising over $12,000. Additionally, Totten held its 15th annual charity golf tournament, which supports Vision Canada. The company also donates its used computers to Vanier school in London, Ont., a school for children with special needs.
Headquarters: 557 Southdale Road East, Suite 105, London, Ontario N6E 1A2
Website: www.tottengroup.com
Telephone Number: 1.888.868.8367 (Tottens)


© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the September 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

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