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Thursday, November 10, 2011
Oklahoma City– A new carrier for commercial earthquake insurance represents the first fruits of an initiative launched by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak to bring more products and competition to the Sooner State, and comes at a time when tremors have shaken awake the state’s insurance consumers.
Van Wagoner Companies, the oldest managing general agency in Texas, will begin selling “monoline” commercial earthquake insurance as a surplus line in Oklahoma in a move several weeks in the making and facilitated by Doak’s new “Open for Business” initiative. The “Open for Business” program is intended to improve consumer choice and lower policyholder premiums by increasing the number of insurance companies competing for business in Oklahoma.
Van Wagoner’s earthquake insurance will be available in Oklahoma through selected independent agents.
“We’re pleased that the principals of Van Wagoner have decided to serve Oklahoma consumers by offering commercial earthquake insurance in this state,” Doak said. “This announcement couldn’t come at a more opportune moment. The Oklahoma Insurance Department was already approving Van Wagoner’s licensing before the recent, damaging earthquakes in this state, and we at OID look forward to recruiting and licensing more companies to sell earthquake policies in Oklahoma, both commercial and particularly residential.”
Doak and the Oklahoma Insurance Department launched the “Open for Business” initiative on Aug. 1 in order to bring new companies, unique and additional insurance products, and greater competition to Oklahoma’s insurance markets. Keith Kelley was hired as the Insurance Department’s marketing director for the program.
At an Oklahoma insurance industry gathering on Sept. 28, Kelley was approached by an independent agent who noted that she was struggling to find a carrier of earthquake coverage for homeowners. Though Kelley is still pursuing other insurers to fill the homeowners niche, he did manage to enhance Oklahoma’s commercial earthquake offerings by facilitating entry to the state’s market by Van Wagoner after meeting the company’s marketing chief Brian Dakota later in the day at the same Sept. 28 convention.
“Mr. Kelley took the time to visit with every exhibitor and showed genuine interest in the products and services each representative had to offer,” Dakota said. “… Developing relationships and opening dialogue with the companies is critical to creating and providing insurance coverage and services that the consumers of Oklahoma require.”
While becoming acquainted, Dakota told Kelley that Van Wagoner’s parent company, the Chesterfield Group, is a Lloyds of London-accredited broker. He said that if there was a particular coverage need in Oklahoma, Van Wagoner’s General Managing Partner Gary Hirst could explore options through Lloyds.
“Mr. Kelley immediately inquired if we wrote monoline earthquake coverage, which has generated great interest among the public due to the recent earthquake events in Oklahoma,” Dakota said. “Although we did not currently offer the coverage, I agreed to pursue the issues with London. Within several hours, our broker colleagues were able to respond with a program.
“Keith worked diligently with Van Wagoner Companies in a joint effort to construct the insurance product required to serve the needs of his Oklahoma constituents.”
Doak emphasized that in the case of Van Wagoner, the “Open for Business” program worked exactly as he envisioned: Agents, consumers or the OID identify gaps in coverage available to Oklahomans, then the “Open for Business” program finds reputable companies with products well-designed to fill those gaps.
“As Insurance Commissioner, one of my top priorities will always be consumer protection and assistance,” Doak said. “It certainly is in the interest of Oklahoma consumers to have a vibrant market with plenty of companies and products to choose from, and competition between those companies to drive down the policyholders’ premiums.”
Dakota suggests that Doak and the OID can build upon the recruitment success with Van Wagoner because the “Open for Business” approach is unique among state insurance departments.
“This was the first time in my 20-plus years of marketing and exhibiting at trade shows across the country that I can remember having ever spoken to a representative of a state insurance department at a convention,” Dakota said.
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About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.
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