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From the Front Lines: Surety

Independent agent Richard Miller predicts that the surety bonds market will remain strong in the long term. "The future of surety is endless," he says. "As long as there are jobs to be done, financial guarantees are required, and bonds are uniquely suited to this purpose."
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Richard Miller

Rogers Insurance Agency, Inc.
Chipley, Florida

How did you get started at your agency?

My father-in-law, Gerald Rogers, started our agency in 1974. I joined the agency in 1984 writing life-health insurance and transitioned to property-casualty in 1987. My wife Donna and I purchased the agency in 1992 and were joined by our son, Richard “Craig” Miller, Jr., in 2007.

We’re a small-town agency with a 50/50 split between personal and commercial lines. Today, the agency writes seven and a half times the annual premium it did when we purchased it.

Why focus on surety?

There’s a Florida Department of Transportation district office in our town. They let bids for Department of Transportation jobs throughout the district, and many of those jobs require a performance and payment bond. That’s where we come in.

Biggest surety changes?

Smaller bonds—up to about $450,000—have become much easier to write because the underwriting process mostly relies on acceptable credit scores. Also, many of our companies have an easy online issuance system for this size bond, which makes placing the bonds a simple task.

For larger bonds, we tend to place them through the Big “I” Markets for simplicity’s sake. We simply enter the basic information on the Big “I” website bond application and the rest is handled through their bonding facility.

The beauty and simplicity of this process is that they contact the insured and handle all the details, such as applications and financial data collection. When approved, the insured simply contacts the bond facility and requests the bond directly with very little effort on our part.

Biggest surety challenges?

There is a need to simplify and speed up the underwriting and issuance process without compromising underwriting integrity.

Future of surety?

The future of surety is endless. As long as there are jobs to be done, financial guarantees are required, and bonds are uniquely suited to this purpose.

Surety advice for a fellow agent?

For smaller agencies like ours, it’s hard to have one person dedicated to writing surety bonds. Having a good small bond facility through one of your own companies for simplified bonds helps. For the larger bonds, it’s good to have a partner like Big “I” Markets to provide expert assistance to your client throughout the process.

Favorite surety success story?

Our agency helped a local landscaping company grow from doing primarily small residential and commercial projects to being able to handle projects with bonding needs up to and above the $1-million limits.

Will Jones is IA senior editor.

Sunday, August 2, 2020
Builders Risk