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Breaking new ground in Pennsylvania
From left to right: Scott Hillegas, FCCI; Ronald Livingston Jr., Babb, Inc.; and Eric Fudoli, FCCI
In September 2020, FCCI was thrilled to write its first policy in Pennsylvania – Wricley Nut Products, a food products manufacturer – with agency Babb, Inc. This came in FCCI’s first month of operation in the state and was reflective of our specialties, which include manufacturing, construction, distribution, and a broad range of other businesses.
The entrance into Pennsylvania and writing of the first policy was the culmination of nearly five years of work, as the expansion planning started in 2016. The process began with market research but all involved knew that the state – which has the sixth-largest economy of all 50 states – offered attractive possibilities.
FCCI’s 2025 strategic plan detailed the resources available and strategy to make the effort a success. Prior to his arrival in 2020, Scott Hillegas, FCCI Sr. Business Development Specialist, noted that much of the heavy lifting was done – including the appointment of a number of agencies and the development and nurturing of key relationships essential to FCCI’s success in the state. However, it was booking that first account that really announced FCCI’s presence in Pennsylvania.
“Closing that first account helped to clear the path for others, especially with Babb, Inc. It gets the attention of other producers within the agency as they see our aggressive rates,” Scott said. “This is a prime example of how things can snowball. Opening in a new territory can be a slow process because the brand isn’t as well-known. Agencies look at a new carrier like they’re kicking the tires, taking us for a test drive. But since booking Wricley Nut Products, we have seen a lot of submission activity, we’ve quoted a good number of those activities, and we’re looking to increase our closing rate as time goes on.”
We’re looking forward to a long and productive relationship!
FCCI’s Pennsylvania operations are coordinated through its Mid-Atlantic Region – under the leadership of Courtney V. Hart, Senior Vice President – which is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, and also operates in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The launch in Pennsylvania brought the total number of states in which FCCI operates to 20 as well as Washington, D.C.
“The binding of our first Pennsylvania account was exhilarating – it was the culmination of much planning and hard work by all those working diligently behind the scenes to make it happen,” said Eric Fudoli, FCCI Underwriting Specialist. “It was so appropriate that we bound this coverage through Babb, Inc. We worked side by side through the underwriting and quote process to ‘seal the deal.’ It was a wonderful experience and I look forward to many more.”
Scott noted that Wricley Nut Products was the perfect first account for FCCI. “One of our key target market segments is manufacturing – it’s a perfect fit for us,” he said. “We have the coverages they need – which not all carriers have – we’re good at underwriting it, understanding it, and handling claims when they do occur. We have great expertise in this area.”
This was FCCI’s first expansion into a new state since 2012, when the carrier entered Maryland and Texas. Kevin Odberg, Managing Director, Business Development, is optimistic about how things are looking so far.
“Through the first six months, we’ve appointed 16 partner agencies and will look to continue to grow that number in 2021 while protecting franchise value,” Kevin said.
The Underwriting team booked a little over $2 million – and another large account was written by a Virginia agent – in Pennsylvania in 2020. That number is expected to increase significantly as additional underwriters and agencies join the effort.
What I like most about FCCI is that … we’re one of just a handful of agents who has access to them.
While there was no formal competition, the underwriters working potential business in Pennsylvania were all eager to book the first account. Eric says that hearing others discuss their progress spurred him to push Babb, Inc.
“I called Babb to let them know that there was a Maryland agent working to write the first account,” Eric laughed. “I wanted a Pennsylvania agency to be recognized for that achievement and asked them to get me the bind order first thing the next morning. And they came through!”
Eric and Scott traveled to Pittsburgh to present a plaque and recognize Babb, Inc., for their trust and partnership. Since that time, additional business has been booked through Babb, Inc., and the relationship has developed even further.
“Breaking the ice for the first time is always a great thing. When an agency finds a new carrier that is easy to work with, they’re going to let everybody know,” Eric said. “They’re going to go to the carrier that they have good relationships with, that is easy to work with. When there’s success, they’re going to put it on the board. The word spreads very quickly within an agency.”
Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Authority officially permitting FCCI to write business in the state
“Babb, Inc., has worked closely with FCCI since our entrance into Florida over 10 years ago, so when we heard they were coming to Pennsylvania, we were excited and thankful for our appointment in that state. We knew about their processes and people and were optimistic FCCI could become very successful in Pennsylvania,” added Ronald Livingston Jr., President of Babb, Inc. “What I like most about FCCI is that … we’re one of just a handful of agents who has access to them – it’s something special we can offer our clients. We’re looking forward to a long and productive relationship!”
The Mid-Atlantic team views Pennsylvania as a tremendous growth source not only for the region but also for FCCI as a whole as it works toward its 2025 goals and targets. The groundwork has been laid, and staff is being added, as that first ‘keystone’ account and further business – $2.1 million in direct written premiums and 12 accounts – have affirmed the expansion is an initiative that has boundless potential for growth.
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