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Monday, Dec 5, 2022
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OC Insurance Brokers Experience ‘Wild Ride’

Orange County’s largest insurance brokers as a group saw their revenue climb 7.1% last year.

While down from a 10% growth in 2019, it was a relief that it wasn’t worse.

“Last year was a wild ride,” Irvine’s Burnham Benefits Insurance Services Chief Executive Kristen Allison told the Business Journal.

“All the different industries were trying to navigate COVID and understand what the benefits were provided for, how to get people tested for free.

“When people died, we’d provided support. We felt we were at ground zero helping employers navigate health care,” she said.

The 24 biggest brokers with headquarters or significant operations here combined for $933.8 million worth of policies in 2020.

Twenty reported revenue increases, with only five that saw more than 10% growth. Only two firms reported a decline and two are Business Journal estimates.

The Business Journal ranked the largest insurance brokers in the county with a cutoff of $6 million in policies.

The list also counts the number of licensed brokers, support staff and companywide offices, though those figures didn’t affect rankings.

Their revenue growth outpaced their OC support staff, which increased 1.1% to 1,799 as of August. A year ago, a few months after the pandemic broke out, companies had reduced their staff 2.8%.

Ranked insurance brokers reported their counts of property and casualty producers in OC rose for the first time in three years, increasing 3.5% to 385. They had fallen 8.8% last year and 2.1% in 2019.

OC benefit producers jumped 12% to 278, versus a 17% decline last year.

Strong Bounce

No. 9 Wood Gutmann & Bogart Insurance Services LLC in Tustin reported revenue grew 8.2% to $36.8 million.

“The local Orange County economy has bounced strongly out of the prior COVID time, which was horrible on everybody,” CEO Kevin Bogart said. “Our county was really resilient. Lots of industries are booming.”

Those booming sectors include construction, manufacturing, healthcare, security and environmental clients, while the most heavily affected areas like hotels and restaurants are continuing to face headwinds, he said.

“The insurance brokerage is a microcosm of our local economy,” Bogart said.

Bogart said initially, his team was concerned the pandemic would create a two-year slowdown like the 2008 financial crisis.

Instead, he was able to keep all his workers employed and last year’s slowdown was short-lived. He expects to add about 20% more employees to his companywide count of 165.

“We’re very blessed we live in Orange County because it’s much more dynamic in leading. Our clients are looking to grow their businesses and invest more.”

Mental Health Increase

No. 9 Burnham reported revenue at its OC offices rose 15% to $37.8 million in 2020.

Claims for mental health have skyrocketed, Burnham’s Allison said.

“It’s so sad,” she said. “We have a compassion for mental health. It’s an area that we can all concentrate on.”

Burnham is growing significantly this year, around 13% to 15% as many potential clients became real clients after witnessing the efforts by her employees.

“Doing the right thing helped. No question was too small,” she said. “We care passionately for the health and welfare of the insured.”

Notables

• Top-ranked Alliant Insurance Services Inc. in Newport Beach maintained its top spot as the largest insurance broker based in Orange County (see story, page 22). It’s planning a move to Irvine.

• The Irvine office of No. 2 Marsh Risk & Insurance Services/Mercer climbed 13% to $107 million.

• Third-placed USI Insurance Services LLC in Irvine reported sales increased 4% to $62.7 million.

• Nipping at its heels with the No. 4 spot is Chicago-based Gallagher, which was the fastest grower on last year’s list, up 59%. This year, its Irvine office reported 13% increase to $62.4 million.

• The fastest grower was Newport Beach-based Orion Risk, which jumped 34% to $15 million. President Clifford Davis, who has been in the insurance industry for 30 years, founded the company in 2001 to serve the retail insurance space.

• The biggest decliner was No. 12 HUB International Insurance Services Inc., where sales fell 8% to $34 million at its Newport Beach office.

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