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Personal Excellence

Company: Burns & Wilcox

Chairman and CEO: Alan Kaufman

Year Founded: 1969

Number of Employees: 1100

Public or Private: Private

Beginnings

Herbert W. Kaufman founded wholesale brokerage Burns & Wilcox and its parent company, the Kaufman Group, in Detroit, Mich. in 1969. The company began with just one office in the United States and it now has more than 46 in the US, UK and, most recently, Canada. By year-end, all 14 Kaufman Group companies will have written $1.2 billion in premium.

Reasons to Watch

“The business in Canada, as we see it, is fragmented in the sense that wholesalers cover one territory or region, they’re into one or two specialties, they really don’t have the full service that we feel is necessary to serve in an effective and efficient way with the brokers,” says Alan Kaufman, president and CEO of Burns & Wilcox. When Burns & Wilcox acquired Chesterfield Canada, a wholesale broker with offices in Toronto and Ottawa, in January 2012, Canadian brokers were offered an alternative, says Bill Gatewood, director, product and sales. Gatewood says that Burns & Wilcox’s Centers of Excellence will provide Canadian brokers expertise in a variety of specific underwriting and broking knowledge, but only one point of contact. “We’ve talked to a lot of brokers who will go into various wholesalers to get a specific product placed—there’s a wholesaler who would specialize in professional lines, for example, another one would specialize in environmental and so on,” he says. “Through our Centers of Excellence, what we’re bringing Canadian brokers is the same level of expertise or better, but allowing them to have one relationship that they can manage and maintain. We think that’s better for the brokers; it’s better for the customers.”

We’re bringing another whole dimension to business in Canada that was not provided to brokers by Chesterfield and that’s personal insurance,” Alan Kaufman, president and CEO Burns & Wilcox

Recent Triumphs

According to Kaufman, another way that Burns & Wilcox Canada will differentiate itself is through its personal insurance products. “We’re bringing another whole dimension to business in Canada that was not provided to brokers by Chesterfield,” he says. The company has an exclusive arrangement with Perth Insurance to provide homeowner insurance for people who have been cancelled out of the standard market. “This isn’t unusual,” explains Gatewood, “except for the fact that we’re able to offer these folks that have been displaced comprehensive coverage.” The company has also launched a standalone personal umbrella program with a Lloyd’s broker that will, among other things, include liability insurance up to $10 million. “In talking with brokers all across Canada, there’s been a real need for someone to be able to sell a standalone umbrella product and that capability just didn’t exist.” 

Challenges

For any company entering a new market, brand recognition can present a challenge. Though Burns & Wilcox is well known in the US, Kaufman says the company will still have to work hard to establish itself in Canada. “We’d be foolish to think that we don’t have to promote our brand and make sure there’s brand recognition,” he says. “We have to have that recognition more fully established in Canada. Not only for business, but to attract the best talent.” 

New Initiatives

In Newfoundland, Kaufman is confident that Burns & Wilcox Canada has found the right talent to run its office in St. John’s, which was opened in April 2012. “We were fortunate to find a team of individuals who we thought met our expectations of high-quality service, professionalism and knowledge so we could expand there,” he says. Opening an office in Newfoundland also offered the firm the opportunity to expand its oil business. “It provides us with a base to really emphasize another centre of excellence that we have in the oil area,” says Kaufman.

The company is also looking to expand into other key Canadian markets. “We’re looking west,” says Kaufman. “By the end of 2013 we’ll have offices in Calgary and Vancouver.”

Head Office

333 Bay Street

Toronto, ON M5H 2R2

416.774.2477

http://www.burnsandwilcox.ca

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Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the January 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

Transcontinental Media G.P.