Posted on 04 Aug 09
Today we are proud to feature Irving Weber Associates (IWA), one of our long-standing members, in our Storefront Spotlight. We spoke with Adam Weber, president of IWA, a fourth-generation insurance brokerage based in Ronkonkoma, New York, that provides several programs for key niches including cover for the Fabricare industry (dry cleaners, linen supply, uniform rental, and commercial launderers) for more than 60 years.
IWA’s roots go way back. Adam’s grandfather, Irving, started the company in 1946 when he decided to branch out on his own and open a Property/Casualty agency. Irving met an executive director of a dry-cleaning association that was forming in New York City and offered to design an insurance program to service the sector. Since that auspicious meeting which Irving had the foresight to develop programs that were designed for depression-proof businesses, IWA grew its Fabricare program to be the largest in the country, and developed a Restaurants program (NY state), in addition to creating programs for Grocery, Supermarket, and Convenience Stores (NY and New England states), and one for Business Products (NY state).
“The philosophy was simple,” says Adam. “Although there may be fewer businesses to insure during an economic downturn, the strongest will ultimately survive and those will be the ones needing our specialized insurance programs. You’ll always want to have your clothes cleaned, you’ll always need to eat, and businesses will always need office supplies. We followed that basic principle from the onset in developing and expanding into new programs.”
IWA’s Fabricare program has been designed over the years to meet the needs of the various classes it covers. “No one does what we do in this area,” says Adam. “We don’t offer the same BOP policy to a dry-cleaning operation as you would to a florist. It’s a very technical business with a lot of moving parts and various exposures that have to be considered from an insurance vantage point. For example, when it comes to Customer Goods coverage, most don’t offer a policy on an unlimited basis. As you don’t know on any given day what the value of clothes on the premises is, and values fluctuate based on that inventory, it’s best to have a policy with an unlimited amount. Another example is that you’ll find Storage coverage missing from most policies. And many times overlooked, Boiler and Machinery is essential for these operations. These are just some of the things that need to be addressed, and our program addresses them and more.”
The Fabricare program covers: Property, Liability, Auto, Umbrella, Pollution Liability, and a Dividend-Paying Workers Comp program. In fact, the only national Workers Comp program for the fabricare industry that has been paying dividends for 58 uninterrupted years is managed by IWA.
What’s more, IWA’s Fabricare Program has many association and industry endorsements (16). “We are proud of our work with the industry, and we’re partnering with them on the “greening” of the sector as it evolves, as well as expanding the program to encourage certification,” says Adam.
Due to the success of Fabricare, other trade associations, such as the New York Restaurant Association, approached IWA to develop a program for them, eligible to both members and non-members. “We worked together with Great Central Insurance Company, now a subsidiary of Argo Select, to tie into their Restaurant program, from family-style to fine dining,” says Adam. “They had a quality program but didn’t have a successful distribution program here in NY, so together we worked to expand their distribution channel.” The program provides Property, Liability, Auto, Umbrella, and Workers Comp.
In as much as IWA’s focus is as a specialist, it has been equally important for the brokerage to work with carriers that are just as committed to its principal programs. “We have been fortunate over our 63-year history to have had only five different carriers working on our main programs,” says Adam. “And although over the last five years, Great Central Insurance Company morphed into a bigger entity (Argo Select), the insurer continues its specialization and a philosophy that is aligned with ours. It’s a great relationship in which our skill set, industry knowledge and unique marketing practices are recognized and provide us with the flexibility and authority we need to run successful programs. In fact, the majority of our programs are with Argo Select: In addition to the Fabricare program, we write Grocery/Supermarkets and Restaurants with them. The Business Products Program is a Workers Comp Safety Group that is NY-specific through the NY State Insurance Fund.”
When discussing IWA’s unique position in the market, it is clear that it is based on a complete understanding of the industries that the brokerage represents. “Our challenge is limited to educating the brokerage community, in letting them know that, although the direct markets may offer policies for our industry classes,” says Adam, “their policies do not include the specialization required to provide customers with proper protection.”
When looking at IWA’s marketing strategy, a shift occurred in the 1990s from a strictly retail sales approach whereby its captive agents were its only distribution network to both a retail and wholesale distribution platform. “When we chose to undertake this direction, one of the platforms we selected to get the attention of the agent and broker community was ProgramBusiness.com. We had a relationship with its sister company National Marketing Services (now NMSDATA) to conduct telemarketing for our programs to the "end-users," which proved successful. So we decided to become a Storefront on ProgramBusiness. We’re able to get our information in front of potential prospects asking that they encourage their brokers to contact us for a proposal, and also get our message to the agent & broker community which may have prospects which fit into one of our niche programs. Usually, once they contact us, they are well educated on the differences between how our program would protect their clients or prospects versus the shortfalls that result from a conventional product offered by direct markets.
“When we are working with a broker, our goal is to help him/her look good. We have the best program available in the industries we represent and, in most cases, have very competitive pricing. Our hit ratio in converting our proposals into sales is high, and we provide the education required on the industry risks they may not have understood before.”
Adam also emphasizes that IWA is always looking to add programs as long as they fit the model with which the company has been so successful.
To find out more about IWA’s programs, please visit the company’s Storefront and their website at www.iwains.com. You can contact Adam at 800-243-1811 or via email at email@example.com.