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Interview: Halcyon Underwriters Provides Agents with Access to Competitive, Comprehensive Coverage

By Annie George

Posted on 25 Jul 2011

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We recently caught up with Paul Lyons, Executive Vice President/Profit Center Leader of Halcyon Underwriters, a “standard market” broker/wholesaler, to talk about the Florida-based firm and its 25 years in serving the needs of independent agencies. Halcyon specializes in all lines of insurance for general-type businesses in addition to offering specialty niches including mono-line Umbrella and Inland Marine and a growing volume of Excess & Surplus lines business/markets. Its carriers are both admitted and non-admitted and are all rated “A-“ or better by A.M. Best.

Paul, who has a Bachelor of Science in Risk Management-Insurance from Florida State University’s College of Business, has focused on insurance throughout his entire career. He held underwriting positions with two companies prior to joining Halcyon when it was founded in 1986. He manages 30-plus employees and is responsible for the underwriting and production of the firm’s property and casualty insurance business.

“The brokerage wholesale business is the best business to be in,” said Paul, “as it allows you to combine your underwriting and sales skills and enables you to fulfill the needs of both the retail agents and insurance company underwriters. Our staff is trained to provide the most competitive and comprehensive quotes to allow retail agents to take care of their insureds, while providing carriers with underwriting profitability.”

Paul explained that a key factor in Halcyon’s success is that from the beginning they’ve focused on building and maintaining strong relationships. “Insurance underwriters have a great deal of confidence in us and in the accounts that we submit,” said Paul. “The information is complete, as we do a lot of the front-end underwriting and prequalification on the accounts before submitting the risk. We look at the class of business, overall loss experience, and size up the status of the prospect’s incumbent carrier to determine where opportunities exist in terms of coverage need, pricing, or a combination of both. Our carriers know that we’re not wasting their time, that there’s a real opportunity for us to gain the account. And our agents know that we work very hard for them, and that based on our experience, we can deliver. We’ve built up great relationships with both carriers and agents. We’ve been doing this for 25 years, with quality people that know how to get the job done.”

What also makes Halcyon unique is that they provide agents with access to carriers and markets that they would typically not have. “In today’s cost-efficient environment, many of the admitted carriers are not looking to make new agency appointments,” explained Paul. “They’re relying on existing relationships that provide a profitable volume of business to help them grow. They see us as a solid distribution method for their products, and rely on us to help them with their growth strategy. We have a very efficient profitable model, and our overall premium volume with our companies continues to grow. Because of the market condition in 2010, we were flat overall, but in prior years we’ve demonstrated profitable growth. Our historical loss ratios are among the top percentage levels in terms of overall performance. 

“Additionally, agents know that we write profitable business for our company partners and they come to us to gain access to these markets. They don’t have to commit to a high volume of business with a carrier, which can typically be $1 million in new business in the first or two years. They can write one account or many accounts with us. What’s more, agents may have a full stable of direct markets but they may be missing one or two of the important markets, such as Chubb, Fireman’s Fund, Hartford, or Zurich. With us, agents gain access to many more preferred carriers, and there are no fees required.”

Halcyon’s product portfolio is concentrated in main-street business, whether it be offering coverage for contractors, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, or service, among others. “We write all lines, Property, Liability, Workers Comp, Auto, and Umbrella. We offer a broad range of commercial and personal lines products with access to preferred admitted markets, in addition to offering a commercial package policy, and mono-line Umbrella and mono-line Inland Marine for various classes of business. We also write a great deal of mono-line Property that is tied into main- street business.”

Although about 75-80% of its business is concentrated in Florida, Halcyon works with agents all over the country and is looking to grow outside the state and expand its footprint. “We work with small local agencies, mid-size firms, and some of the largest national brokers,” said Paul. “About 60% of our business is in the middle market; 25% is personal lines, specializing in the high-net worth sector; with the remaining 15% is in the select or small business area.” Halcyon's present book of business ranges from accounts as small as $1,000 in premium to accounts in excess of $1,000,000 in premium.

Halcyon markets to agents through, email blasts, a quarterly e-newsletter called Agent Partner News, and with face-to-face agency visits by the Business Development Manager and Production Underwriter. “What’s more, due to our strong relationships with our carriers, we get a lot of agency referrals to write business through us,” said Paul.

There is a formal appointment process with Halcyon to become an agency partner. You can find out more by visiting the Halcyon site; or call Tinamarie Harrington, Business Development Manager, at 800.393.9090, ext. 310 or contact her via email at: