American Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.
For Kip White, president and CEO of American Insurance and Financial Services, Inc., a talent for matching a client with the best possible insurance policy is a natural outgrowth of his love for business.
White majored in business at Towson University, but a recruiting effort by the Baltimore City Police Department led him to join the force, where he became a narcotics detective. But after a couple of years, he answered the call of business, working in management in the automotive sales industry.
He became intrigued by the insurance industry, and in 1991, he started American Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. as a one-person agency – himself. He gained valuable training with Nationwide as a captive agent, but he could only sell Nationwide products. Five years later, he became an independent agent, able to provide his clients with a variety of products from different insurance companies.
“I felt that it was important to have choices for my clients,” he says. “We can look at the customer’s whole picture and show them different options. I can show them a better value because of the choice of companies we deal with.”
Over the years, he has carefully winnowed the companies down to those he knows will provide both outstanding value and customer service.
“We don’t have a hundred different companies, but we have 20 of the best,” he says. “We double-check them to make sure they provide the best claims service. We’re not just the agent who sells you the policy and never sees you. If you have a claim, we will be in touch with you. We don’t just leave it for the claims adjuster to handle.”
The company is family-oriented – when he was growing the business, one of White’s first hires was his wife, and today his daughter is a partner in the company, which employs about 12 people.
American Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. is an independent insurance agency, with about 60 percent of its business along personal lines, offering insurance such as home, auto, life, disability, long-term care, and Medicare supplemental, as well as IRAs. About 40 percent of its customers are small to medium commercial accounts, needing insurance such as commercial property, liability, fleet, auto, inland marine and garage liability.
The company is licensed to do business in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina, which is a tremendous convenience for customers who relocate. The company’s website also offers a “digital office” where potential customers can get quotes, clients can get help, and everyone can access research and reports.
Each agent has his or her area of expertise.
“We do have our niches,” White says. “Me personally, I love working on any risk that needs a garage policy – a car dealership, a lift truck company, a body shop – because I have many years of expertise in that field. We have one guy who loves janitorial businesses.” The company also specializes in providing insurance for property-intensive businesses, such as apartment complexes or office buildings.
Two areas where White sees companies lacking coverage are cyber liability and employment practices liability. Data theft and hacking have affected companies both small and large, making them vulnerable in cyberspace, and employment liability protects a company if an employee has done something that gets the company in trouble, which can be something as small as inadvertently asking the wrong question in a job interview. The emphasis on cyber coverage has led the company to gain several clients with IT and web design businesses.
When it comes to protecting individuals, White counsels them to make sure their homeowner’s coverage is adequate.
“The biggest problem is not that they don’t have insurance, but they don’t have the proper liability limits for proper coverage,” White explains. The homeowner may have added an addition, upgrading the value of the house without letting the insurance agent know, or the house simply may have appreciated far more than the homeowner realizes.
“One of the biggest claims that we constantly see are sewer and drain back-up claims, and they have an average claim cost of around $30,000,” White says.
American Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. specializes in recognizing gaps in coverage, whether for a business or a family, and then finding affordable coverage.
“We look for gaps in coverage and then try to give them adequate coverage,” White says. “We give them as much coverage as we can for as little cost as possible. We can do instant comparisons and get accurate quotes through 10-plus companies to see which will be the better value for you.”
He adds, “Another big part is our commitment to training and education for our staff – they know what they’re doing. Fifty percent of our staff has earned special insurance industry designations after their names. We made a big investment in ourselves to get these designations.”
The investment has paid off for a company that is built largely on referrals.
“I have clients who have been with me since 1991 who are still with me,” White says. “I like the long-term relationship.” I95