Founded in 1988, Insurance Office of America (IOA) is one of the fastest-growing independent agencies in the United States. IOA is ranked 18th on Insurance Journal’s 2021 Top 100 independent Property/Casualty Agencies report and services more than 72,000 customers with 1,300 associates in 60 locations.
State Fund: What is the current state of the workers’ compensation market in California?
Paul: In a marketplace full of storm clouds, workers’ compensation insurance in California continues to be the silver lining for our clients. The market has been relatively balanced for the benefit of policyholders, their employees, agents, and insurers alike. We anticipate some upward rate adjustment in the near future, based on a multitude of socio-economic trends, but nothing like the underwriting crises we are seeing in other lines of coverage.
State Fund: How did the pandemic change the way your office conducts business? How many of those changes will become permanent going forward?
Paul: When the pandemic hit we had limited work-from-home capabilities in the agency, mainly due to technology and security-related factors. But within two weeks of the lockdown, we were able to get more than 1000 people working remotely, in a secure network environment, without skipping a beat in our customer service.
“It comes down to thinking about what kind of office we need. One size definitely doesn’t fit all, and … we want to meet people where they are.” – Paul Sullivan
Looking ahead, what we have learned about our people, our systems, and our clients is that we can be geographically dispersed, operationally efficient, and client-focused while working beyond the confines of our branch offices. We envision a “hybrid work model” as our standard going forward, which we believe will offer significant benefits to all our stakeholders: clients, associates, and carrier partners. It comes down to thinking about what kind of office we need. One size definitely doesn’t fit all, and as we emerge from the pandemic, we want to meet people where they are.
State Fund: What personal interaction or rewarding moment made sure you had found the right career?
Paul: I consider myself a student of business. One thing about insurance is that there is always something new to learn. So whether I’m working as an advisor to my clients to identify the issues facing their businesses, or working with our partners, like State Fund, to understand what is driving your business, I look for the common ground. I truly enjoy working within our agency to manage the growth of our business, and there too, it’s finding that common ground that makes our business work that’s most rewarding to me.
State Fund: What advice would you give to young people thinking about getting into the insurance business today?
Paul: When I talk to young people about the insurance business, I want them to know how much opportunity there is in this industry. Insurance is integral to all that is going on in business, locally as well as globally. And as an industry, we have made great strides in inclusivity and diversity. To some extent this business is a meritocracy–work hard, do the right things, get good results–and you will be rewarded with career opportunities beyond what many industries can offer.
State Fund: What does State Fund mean to your business?
Paul: State Fund has become a core part of our success in California. As your organization continues to evolve, we see a partner who is setting the standard for what an insurer can do for our agency, and most importantly, for our clients. The emphasis you have put on customer experience, whether agents or insureds, has changed the game. We have been telling the good news about State Fund for years now with our clients, and the tables are turning. Our clients are now telling us how good their experience is with your team, so we see nothing but good things ahead in our partnership with State Fund.
Special thanks to Paul for spending time with us.