Ownership and sharing: The Robertson Ryan balance

With a dedicated staff of seasoned professionals more than 240 members strong, Robertson Ryan & Associates is a preeminent independent insurance agency in the Milwaukee area, and one of the nation’s largest privately-held agencies. The company’s cost-effective programs span spectrums of both individuals and commercial industries alike, including the education, agriculture, healthcare, technology, entertainment, hospitality, construction and manufacturing sectors.

Robertson Ryan’s mission to cover individuals and businesses of diverse sizes and risk profiles is precisely what attracted Vice President of Benefits & Personal Insurance Christine Rogers to join its ranks in 1995.

At the time, a small team handled underwriting and rating for both individual and commercial accounts. Within five years, the agency’s personal insurance business had expanded, and in 2000 Christine found herself overseeing a new, dedicated personal insurance department. “We have been growing ever since,” she adds. The diversity of clients that Robertson Ryan serves, and the complexity of challenges her team helps solve for them, continue to energize Christine today.

“A Robertson Ryan client might own a large home in Wisconsin, plus a vacation condo. They may have properties located in a different state, on the coast or in a wildfire zone,” Christine explains. “Cases like this present a range of complexities, from building codes to other unique exposures. Robertson Ryan’s expertise provides coverage solutions that help make fiscal and strategic sense for each client. As insurance agents, we thrive on these challenges.”


Redefining the game


Launched in 1960 by founders A.D. Robertson and Jack T. Ryan out of a small office building on East Mason Street in downtown Milwaukee, Robertson Ryan decided early on to embrace an innovative operational business model that’s unique in the insurance industry. Here, each agent personally owns his or her book of business and shares in the company’s profits, thereby incentivizing them to extend top tier service to each and every client. And with more than 30,000 current policyholders, ranging from homeowners to small businesses to national accounts, the Robertson Ryan approach is clearly paying off.

“When I joined in ’95, we had one location and 30 agents. Today, there are over 20 locations and over 100 agents,” Christine notes. “Robertson Ryan agents have the ability to control their own professional destinies. Here, an agent’s hard work benefits the agent first and foremost. And although our agents are free to do what they want with their books of business, we’ve found that they tend to stay right here.”

Of course, Robertson Ryan’s cutting-edge model demands an infrastructure that empowers all of the company’s underwriting, marketing and rating teams to maximize their efficiency. To achieve this, the team has weekly virtual brainstorming meetings that enable all operatives to share stories and collectively benefit from the group’s wisdom. These idea-download sessions let employees from all locations, across all business lines, parse through the complicated cases than can arise.

“We’re very collaborative and we help each other out, because no matter how intricate a risk analysis may be, there’s always someone who has run into a similar situation,” says Christine.

“And given that our employees’ tenures average more than ten years, there is a significant breadth of knowledge and experience to share about ways we can best serve clients,” she adds.

The firm also sends daily company-wide emails to employees, with helpful hints, industry information, and any other content that inspires greater employee performance and increased customer satisfaction. Such information is also made available to the team for later reference. “When it comes to communication, it’s always better to overshare than to under-share,” opines Christine.


Embracing technology


Robertson Ryan prides itself on its forward use of digital technology to streamline communication with clients and transform the user experience. Last year, the company launched a new “My RRA” app. Using the app, individuals can access policy information over their laptops, tablets and phones, pull up ID cards and request changes to their policies. It’s a great example of how Robertson Ryan is committed to being at the forefront of digital experience to align with their clients’ preferences. After all, explains Christine, a majority of Robertson Ryan’s clients today prefer emailing their insurance administrators over connecting with a phone call. Now, they can also interact digitally through the app.

Even so, Robertson Ryan appreciates how personal interactions remain important to clients. For this reason, all account managers strive to maintain consistent, contiguous contact with their clients, to build personal rapports.

“When clients speak to an employee at Robertson Ryan, they don’t feel like they’ve dialed into a large call center. The person who placed a client with his personal insurance will be accessible on ongoing basis,” Christine notes.


Striking a strategic partnership


In partnering with Berkley One, Robertson Ryan seized an opportunity to join forces with another innovator in the insurance space.

“We trust the Berkley name, and we appreciate Berkley One’s leading-edge coverage,” says Christine. Berkley One, a member company of Berkley, offers coverages that transcend the traditional reach, embracing emergent risks that clients face. For instance, they can provide their clients solutions for modern exposures like home sharing and ridesharing. Berkley One also offers an innovative annual travel insurance plan in Wisconsin and other states.

“Like us, Berkley One understands the needs of sophisticated clients. Their values dovetail with our own, in that we both want to help ensure clients receive the best service and experience possible,” adds Christine.

“We like that the team at Berkley One is thinking outside of the box, and working with agents to improve the insurance experience for clients.”

Robertson Ryan & Associates offers Business Insurance, Personal Insurance, Benefits Insurance, as well as resources and consultation. The agency is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.