Episode 093 — The Digital Broker Podcast

Values Help Insurance Agencies Deliver Value in Uncertain Times


On this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds interviews Trevor Baldwin, CEO of Baldwin Risk Partners, about the effect of values on value. By listening to this episode, you will learn:

  • How a clearly articulated set of values helps insurance agencies stay consistent in a period characterized by inconsistency and uncertainty.
  • How Baldwin Risk Partners has distilled its core values into the Azimuth, a document available to everyone inside and outside of the organization.
  • How insurance agencies can continue to deliver value even as customer expectations of it evolve.

Baldwin Risk Partners is a multi-million dollar insurance brokerage and distribution firm headquartered in Tampa, Florida. In 2019, it became the first commercial insurance brokerage firm to IPO in over 15 years. This is a modest way of saying that the company has a good track record of keeping customers satisfied. And yet, when it comes to defining “value” from the customer’s point of view, even the company’s CEO volunteers only a humble reply.

“We’re constantly focused on figuring it out,” Trevor Baldwin tells Ryan Deeds on this week’s episode of The Digital Broker. “But I would never say that we have it fully figured out.”

That’s because it probably can’t be. Value is variable, and it’s definition changes not just according to who you ask, but when. Customers used to expect insurance agencies to help them become whole after a loss; nowadays, they expect insurance agencies to help them prevent a loss altogether. This is possible thanks to data analytics that provide insights into what’s driving losses and how to cut loss costs. But the “value” category for insurance agencies is stretching further to include services like loss control, risk engineering consulting, claims advocacy, and more.

“The list goes on,” Baldwin admits.

So the definition of value is ever-changing. But your values can’t be. That’s because your values help you deliver value, particularly at times when everything else is unclear. We are living through a period of unprecedented uncertainty in the insurance industry due to global transformations in technology and consumer preferences. When it’s not paralyzing people into making decisions, uncertainty pressures people into making bad decisions. At times like this, a consistent set of values is the closest thing you have to a compass—a guide to help you make good decisions, or at least consistent ones, amidst a sea of uncertainty and inconsistency.

Baldwin Risk Partners so exemplifies this attitude that it has distilled its own core values into a document and named it Azimuth, after a term used in navigation to determine a ship’s direction. If uncertainty tears people apart, Azimuth can keep them together by “cultivating a culture and a system of shared beliefs.” For example, a dominant theme in the Azimuth is a focus on people, be they customers, stakeholders, or employees. Azimuth goes so far as to stress a preference for the term “colleagues” over “employees.” In Baldwin’s words, “a colleague is a peer, someone who works with you instead or for you or above you. It’s a word that should denote the kind of collegiality, collaboration, and professionalism that we want to exhibit as an organization, and it should define the kind of relationship our colleagues have when they’re interacting with each other.”

This is an example of a value that tethers the organization to a timeless principle regardless of what happens in the rest of the industry. There is much we cannot be sure of, either with or without a set of values, but Baldwin is pretty confident about one thing: “The insurance brokerage business is a people business. It’s a people business today, and it will be a people business tomorrow. That doesn’t mean that technology won’t have a meaningful impact on how we drive efficiency, streamline our processes, and expand the ways in which we can interact with our clients, but at the end of the day, we’re providing advice to clients, and that’s a relationship business based on trust.”

Could this focus on people be the reason why Baldwin Risk Partners has already done so well? Baldwin seems to think so. “We believe that one of the very few long-term competitive advantages we can cultivate is our ability to attract and retain the very best talent in the industry. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a terrifically talented group of leaders in our organization who are empowered to make decisions in a manner that’s consistent with our goals, objectives, and culture. When you get the right people, everything else falls into place.”

“Hire people who are smarter and better than you, and empower them to make decisions and drive success in your organization. That’s a fairly simplistic view of it, but it’s a formula that’s worked extremely well for me.”

If you’re interested in meeting great people in the insurance world, you will find plenty inside our Digital Broker LinkedIn group, where we also post updates about upcoming episodes and give our listeners a chance to talk with Ryan Deeds and our guests. Join us and tell us what’s on your mind.

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