We recently spoke with the executives of CMS, LLC, a full-service wholesale agency, and one of our newest storefronts. CMS, with locations in Massapequa, Long Island, New York City, and Florida, provides agencies with access to more than 50 insurance carriers. CMS is licensed in 21 states with a concentration on the East Coast, and a heavy emphasis in Casualty. We spoke with Scott Charney, president of CMS, Richard Verdi, Executive Vice President, and Tom McDonald, Vice President, Business Development.
Scott has 35 years in the insurance industry working as a retail insurance agent, an underwriter, and wholesaler. In 1996, after having worked with one of the largest wholesalers on the East Coast, he founded CMS. Since then, he has grown the firm from a two-person operation to one of the leading wholesalers in the Tri-State area.
Rich began his insurance career 21 years ago for his family-run agency in Brooklyn. In the mid-1990s he changed his career path and entered the wholesale side of the insurance business and started Creative Coverage Network Inc (CCN). Through mergers and acquisitions, CCN eventually morphed into Combined Underwriting Agency Network Inc., which merged with CMS in July 2009.
Tom joined CMS in December 2005 after a long career on the corporate side of the industry. He has experience in all aspects of the business: underwriting, marketing, and business development. Tom brings over three decades of experience in all phases of commercial and personal lines insurance. With CMS, his responsibilities include overseeing sales, production, and the day-to-day business functions with both the firm’s customers, and the markets it represents.
When discussing what distinguishes CMS from other wholesalers, there are several critical factors that make this firm so successful. “One of the things we did when we first started and we continue to do,” explained Scott, “was to hire account executives who have retail insurance background. By having agency experience, our staff is able to understand the challenges that agents face, including the urgency and importance of providing timely service and results.
“We also set up CMS like a retail agency with different departments handling the various functions needed. Our Marketing Department handles new business and tough renewals, our account execs handle servicing on day-day-day business and renewals. We have a Financial Department with a CFO and HR, and a Claims Department. Everything is separated much like an insurance agency would be structured.”
“Another key differentiator is our mix of markets,” said Rich. “Most wholesalers specialize in E&S markets. We not only have these markets, but we also have the standard markets and the intermediary players. Depending on the risk, its characteristics, and if an account is difficult to place, we have access to the specialty lines market; or we can go to the standard market for Main Street business. We have the best of both worlds, which provides us – and our agents – with a more competitive advantage.
“We have the capability of handling anything from a $500 BOP to a multi-million-dollar complicated retro deductible program, with the staff experience and expertise that spans across the board,” continued Rich.
Scott explained that many agencies come to CMS for standard markets as they may not represent the carriers either because the volume is not there, they’ve had losses with a specific company, or they find it easier to deal with a wholesaler. “We do business with more than 50 insurance carriers – including most of the major and regional standard lines companies.”
“We have the ability to provide market access for the very small independent agent to the large brokers,” underscored Tom. “Our greatest advantage – atypical to wholesalers – is our resume of markets that includes the standard markets that most don’t have, especially on a national level.”
CMS’ mission is straightforward as Tom explained: “It’s to provide unparallel service with an always-accessible staff; tailored coverage at a competitive price; and a commitment to ‘put the pieces together’ regardless of the size of your customer or your agency.”
“We get things done really quickly and cost-effectively,” said Scott.
CMS’ programs are open access, with a long-term goal of developing mutually beneficial relationships with their agents. For more information about CMS, please visit their website at www.cmsrisk.com. You can also call 516.799.4200.