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Homegrown insurance carrier knows Mississippi marketplace

Jackson — There’s nothing else in the state quite like Mississippi Insurance Managers Inc. (MIM). Representing a number of national insurance carriers, the financial and operations management services company was formed in 1984 to serve independent insurance agencies. But six years ago, MIM went a step farther and created an insurance company to fill a void left by national carriers with little interest in Mississippi

According to MIM president Thomas Quaka, the state represents sixth-tenths of 1% of the insurance business in the United States. “Mississippi was not the crown jewel of the insurance industry. We were representing companies that were showing less and less interest in the state,” he said. “We saw a window of opportunity and, with help from a lot of people, formed Brierfield Insurance Company.”

Brierfield was licensed by the state in 1999. Quaka describes it as a company for Mississippi, run by Mississippians, governed by the state’s jurisdiction and reporting to Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale. The company provides commercial, property and casualty insurance for 80 independent agents in the state.

“We make it and someone else sells it,” Quaka said. “There is nothing to compare us to because we create the product here.”

He says Brierfield is holding its own competing with insurance carriers that have been around for hundreds of years. Now they are one of the top 10 carriers in the state. They’ve grown from virtually nothing and expect to finish the year with $30 million written premiums. They currently represent 12,000 insurance clients of independent agents. There are more than 300 independent agents in the state.

“That’s a very healthy thing for consumers.” Quaka said. “There are agents out there who want to work with us but they also have other insurance companies,” he said. “None have only one. Some have a few and some have 300 companies.”

“Independent agents contract with us. They match their customers to our product line,” Quaka said. “They’re choosing us because we’re a local, domestic carrier, and they call Jackson, not New Delhi, with a claim.”

He likens the formation of the domestic insurance company to the consolidation of banks that form large banking systems. “It’s a way for us to do what we do more efficiently,” he said.

This company does everything national carriers do — claims, premium audit, loss control, money management and policy delivery. Quaka says they provide full-service out of the Jackson office without outsourcing anything. The firm employs 40 people at its Crane Ridge Drive office.

“Consumers benefit by our knowledge of Mississippi. We have specialized knowledge of the marketplace,” he said. “Thirty percent of our staff and all of our senior staff have attained the Charter Property Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) designation.”

He said that having highly qualified staff is one of the key ways MIM accomplishes its corporate strategy to be the market source for its contracted agencies in Mississippi.

The MIM president favors independent insurance agents because they are individual businessmen who make their own decisions. He finds them functional, practical and skilled at the delivery of service and professionalism.

“For consumers, service counts no matter what you buy,” he added. “You must find the agent that fits your needs.”

Ray Dixon, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Mississippi, said MIM’s presence in the state provides a unique blend of key insurance markets and underwriting expertise that are invaluable to its member agencies.

“Over the past few years, many national companies have closed their local branch offices and moved to larger out-of-state regional centers,” he said. “We are indeed fortunate to have MIM domiciled in our state.”

As a veteran of the insurance business who spent 18 years with the American International Group, Quaka is optimistic about the status of the industry in the state today. “The future of the insurance business is better than it has been in 20 years. Two nice things happened for the state,” he said.

“Those are the creation of a domestic insurance company and the enactment of very reasonable tort reform. All of us are better off for that.”

He also believes that competition is flattening and reducing prices; a direct correlation to tort reform.

Looking toward the future for MIM and its Brierfield Insurance Company, Quaka says growth will continue at a rate in excess of normal growth. He predicts that to be 15% to 18% annually. Currently licensed in Arkansas, MIM plans to expand beyond state borders in 2006, adding more states.

“That will be good for everyone,” he said. “It better spreads the risks and makes losses more predictable.”

In addition to its own homegrown Brierfield Insurance Company, MIM provides general agency management operations for Chubb Insurance Company and F&D Insurance Company.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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