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Technology driving brokering profits at Billy Craig Insurance

Published:Friday | April 12, 2019 | 12:24 AMHuntley Medley - Senior Business Writer
William Craig, CEO of Billy Craig Insurance Brokers Limited.
William Craig, CEO of Billy Craig Insurance Brokers Limited.

Insurance brokerage house Billy Craig Insurance Brokers Limited is talking up an ongoing value-added technology upgrade that its executives say is setting the company apart in an increasingly competitive market of insurance intermediaries.

The provision of innovative, cutting-edge and use-friendly insurance solutions to its growing number of corporate clients and their employees is not only said to be resulting in enhanced service delivery, but is also growing the business exponentially.

The company was started with the purchase of an insurance house agency some 56 years ago by William ‘Billy’ Craig, a former custos of St James, and has been run by his son William Craig since the death of the elder Craig in 1997.

Billy Craig Insurance got its brokerage licence in 1988 and has been licensed to provide employee benefits services since 1997. The company, which started out in Montego Bay, added its Kingston location in the 1980s. It still maintains operational centres in both cities.

The company has seen an almost 18-fold increase in premium income to $3 billion a year, from $170 million in 1997, and a whopping near-1,500 per cent jump in commission income, from $22 million to $350 million per year over the 22 years.

Focus on corporate clients

The brokerage specialises in serving corporate clients and does very little individual insurance business, a function, CEO Craig says, of the high volume of claims, small margins and heavy administrative costs of the personal insurance line, particularly for motor vehicles.

Since 2010, Billy Craig has been the Jamaica representative for Aon PLC, the US$10-billion-a-year London-based global professional services company that provides risk, retirement and health insurance consulting. Aon has approximately 500 offices and a staff of 50,000 in 120 countries.’This relationship sees the Jamaican company servicing the insurance needs of several Aon clients, which are large multinational companies – including big hotel chains – operating in Jamaica. The risk of some Billy Craig Insurance’s clients in Jamaica are placed with overseas insurers, including in Miami and London.

In an interview with the Financial Gleaner, Craig said the online service that started with group employee health insurance administration for large clients, then widened to include e-filing of insurance claims, is improving the insurance experience in a heavily bureaucratic and paper-based industry.

“Some of our hotel clients have a lot of liability claims, both public liability an employers’ liability, and it’s a big challenge for them to track [these claims],” he says, regarding the practical application.

“Some hotels file up to 20 incidents a month and at the end of six months, they have no idea how many claims they have filed or where they are in the process of each incident. With our online portal, they are not only able to file the claims, but also track them as well and print reports so that they can pinpoint where those claims are occurring.”

Billy Craig has not put a figure to the technology investment, which started around September 2017, a build-out that has been done largely with internal resources augmented by contracted programmers.

Head of brokering operations Peter Walker says that with electronic filing of some claims having started since September 2018 and e-filing of motor claims coming on stream in January this year, the layering of the technology platform will continue with more services to come.

“I am a firm believer in: ‘serve our customers and they will look after you’; and I believe that in business, you have to distinguish yourself in the marketplace. What we have done does both those things,” says the brokerage house boss, noting that the technology is already driving new business to Billy Craig above its current numbers of more than 1,300 clients of varying sizes.

The client list cuts across all industries, including more than 12 large international hotel chains and many business process outsourcing, BPO, companies.

Billy Craig’s overseas partners, including Aon, have access to the Jamaican broker’s online portal, billed as a game changer in the local insurance brokerage industry. While it is not licensed outside Jamaica or seeking to expand its operations overseas, the principal of Billy Craig Insurance Brokers indicates that the company is open to cooperation with other insurance brokers, particularly in the Caribbean region.

Craig is proud of his assertion of the company his father founded and that he took over, being the oldest and, by his account, the most innovative insurance broker among some 30 competitors.

For him, the value-added contribution of the technology innovation is most impactful for the brokerage, its clients and their staff in the area of employee benefits, a segment of the market the company has been operating in since 1997.

In this area, Billy Craig provides health insurance and related benefits for some 29,000 lives, including clients’ staff and their dependents. This service is provided to its many clients with large staff numbers in hotels, security firms, accounting firms, factories, etc. The e-platform enables self-enrolment and file update by the employees.

Additionally, the human resources departments of these large firms are said to be spared the burden and details of employee benefits administration.

Craig says growth for Billy Craig Insurance has come with the support of a loyal and well-trained team of 46 persons, including former managing director and now chief technical director Ian Miller, who has been with the company for more than 25 years.

It’s also been driven, he adds, by continuous service improvement and expansion of the range of services offered, good advice to clients, and being assertive about business development, including continuous training at the global level for risk managers, he said.