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Interview: Dauntless Specialty Brokerage Distinguishes Itself in Habitational Market

By Annie George


Posted on 12 Jul 2011

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In today's Daily NewsFlash, we're featuring Storefront Dauntless Specialty Brokerage, a wholly owned subsidiary of MiddleOak. We interviewed Rick Cote, Vice President of Dauntless, about the company, its philosophy, and programs. Rick has 18 years of insurance agency and company experience. He joined MiddleOak 12 years ago and has been heading Dauntless for four years.

Annie George (AG): Tell us about Middle Oak’s vision for Dauntless; the company’s history, philosophy, and overall culture.

Rick Cote (RC): “MiddleOak (and therefore Dauntless) specializes in providing world-class solutions for 'undeservedly underserved' markets, a phrase we coined several years back to express our thinking about creating a specialty capability. The idea is that, even in soft markets like we have now, there are classes of risk that lack insurance capacity or are not being offered the types of coverages they need. Those are undeservedly underserved markets. In other cases, it’s simply a question of an underwriter being willing to do three things: One is to take the time to understand the exposure in order to properly price and underwrite the coverage. The second is to be able to put together the capital and reinsurance support needed to absorb the risk. The third is to have the resources to put together creative solutions for the exposure.”

“We define success as being a nationally recognized leader in our markets. To do that, it’s critical to have the right partner carriers. In 2004, MiddleOak’s Dauntless was a scratch agency, and we had to talk with other insurers and make sure our story really resonated with them. We went to key companies and brought our underwriting, loss control, and claim files. We are very proud of the fact that we were granted an appointment with every single company we sought out. We made clear to these carriers that we were committed to developing mutually beneficial relationships with them, but above all I think it was our fundamentals that allowed us to obtain appointments with industry leaders. We have MiddleOak proprietary programs within our brokerage that the companies don’t even give to their directly appointed agents. They appreciate the quality of the submissions they get from us because, essentially, they’re dealing with another insurance company who has ‘skin in the game’ on every risk presented.

“Philosophically, the focus of Dauntless (the same as with MiddleOak) is on doing the right thing – doing business in a way we can be proud of. Our claims approach – to look to provide coverage – is an extension of this philosophy. Some carriers look to make money in the claims department. We’re not one of them. ‘Pay what we owe’ is central to our commitment to deliver on our promise. 

AG:  What are four key points differentiators that help MiddleOak’s Dauntless stand apart?

RC: “MiddleOak has a long history of being an underwriting company. To us, the four legs of the chair are individual risk underwriting, individual risk pricing, loss control, and claims capability. This commitment carries over to the capabilities delivered through Dauntless Specialty Brokerage. Our claims capability brings it all together. Applying our four-leg strategy to each and every risk is what we believe gives us our greatest competitive advantage.

“Dauntless offers wholesale distribution capability at a national level. Our wholesale brokerage allows us to give every agent access to the same specialty capabilities that MiddleOak’s appointed agents enjoy, while having no volume requirements or long-term commitments. And, although they receive lower overall compensation, Dauntless provides a great solution for those that need our capabilities and quality coverage now. We provide quick quote indications in minutes, direct bill, and our main specialty products with MiddleOak are financially rated A.M. Best A+ (Superior).”

AG: Let’s talk about the programs you provide and what makes them unique.

RC: “Dauntless provides solutions for a broad array of habitational segments that include Market Rate apartments and Primary Residential Community Associations, but also more challenging segments where deep expertise is critical and the ‘difference maker’ for agents, property owners, and property managers. Examples include student housing, senior housing, Tax Credit (L.I.H.T.C.), affordable housing, housing authorities, secondary associations, seasonal associations, timeshares, and HOAs. We focus on these segments because deep expertise is the key to long-term success over market cycles. Agents have told us that it’s in their interest to partner with those that know what they’re doing in these specific areas. We’ve built that expertise which provides us with staying power during both hard and soft markets. 

“In addition to solutions for apartments and community associations, we offer access to admitted MiddleOak markets for vacant dwellings, vacant commercial property, and vacation income property.”

AG: How do you market Dauntless these programs to agents?

RC: “We market in many different ways with ProgramBusiness being a key partner. In today’s world, you really have to try to be in as many media types as possible since people prefer to get their information in different (or multiple ways) and there are many choices in our ‘always online’ world.

“MiddleOak’s claim service is worth highlighting. We survey all policy owners who experience a claim – 100% of them – including denied claims - and 96.9% of respondents tell us they’re satisfied with their experience. This is a real sellable difference for the owners and property managers who want to focus on running their business rather than managing claims.”

AG: Do you provide agents with marketing support?

RC: “Yes, we have a wide range of marketing collateral and the know-how to help an agent who really wants to develop a book of business with our products. In fact, some of our agents coming to us through Dauntless ended up being appointed directly due to growing their book into a multi-million dollar business with us.”   

Dauntless Specialty Brokerage is led by Rick Cote, with the entire Dauntless team ready to help! You can contact Dauntless in many ways: Email: brokerage@middleoak.com, Phone: (888) 655-6778, or visit www.dauntlessbrokerage.com.

 

 


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