Florida agency zeroes in on client needs
All too often, we see self-styled consumer advocates who seem more intent on personal aggrandizement than on actually advocating for consumers. But that isn’t true of the independent agency of Caton-Hosey Insurance in Daytona Beach, Florida, where the interests of the consumer are taken into account in every insurance transaction and service.
CEO Rex Caton, CPCU, CLU, and President John Hosey have overseen the agency transition to a paperless environment that maximizes technology. Rex explains with a smile the consumerist attitude by noting that he is not an expert in all matters insurance (although they have people on board who are) or in IT (where once again expertise is there), but “I am a terrific consumer. And I know what I expect. So I make certain that our clients get what they need when they buy an insurance product or service.”
The agency was started in 1948 by two brothers, Dorris Caton and Frank Caton, who are Rex’s grandfather and great uncle, respectively. “It got on the map quickly, when one of the first accounts they landed was the Florida Highway Patrol,” Rex says proudly. That leant a cachet of credibility to the new agency that attracted clients and helped bring customers to its doors. Of course, the fact that Dorris and Frank were focused on providing great service to clients, a mantra that has permeated the agency as it moved into the future, didn’t hurt its efforts to grow.
In the mid-1950s, Rex’s father, Richard Caton took over the helm and steered the agency to continued and significant growth. Rex, who has been with the agency since 1985, became an owner in 1993. The same year, John Hosey joined as an equity partner as well.
Making Einstein proud
When Rex and John took over the agency they decided that they needed to compress time, which in Einstein’s universe involves approaching the speed of light, but for them it meant “maximizing technology in order to collapse the time it takes for certain tasks so everyone at the agency had more time to spend with customers and develop strong business relationships,” Rex points out.
“We wanted to create a culture that accepted technology as a beneficial tool, helping us and our clients succeed,” John notes. “That meant we really needed to focus on hiring great agents and technical people who could jump into our system. In a number of cases, we brought in people with technical backgrounds and taught them insurance.” “You have to go all-in,” Rex continues.
“You can’t just take half measures and expect to develop the best technology for your clients. If you are hesitant in your adoption of technology, then you’re sure to end up with people on staff who are hesitant as well. We made it clear that we were looking for 100% buy-in to our technology effort and explained how it would benefit everyone at the agency as well as our clients over the long term.”
David Vandervoort, an independent contractor with Daytona Agency, a firm that provides marketing and IT support to independent agencies, serves as the marketing director for Caton-Hosey. He points out that “Rex and John never stop moving forward. They are always looking for the next major innovation that will let the agency do an even better job of serving clients.
“They were one of the early adopters of agency technology and have implemented a series of innovative solutions, including being the first to have Vertafore’s Producer Plus™ in the cloud, allowing their producers to have instant access to information about any business while they are on the road.” In fact, the agency is 100% cloud based, Rex points out proudly. The newly renovated home office has no fax machine or servers.
David continues: “They also use live chat, electronic signatures, and are working with vendors to facilitate online payment. It is a dynamic, moving environment and Vertafore is on board with that as Caton-Hosey is a regular participant at the company’s meetings.” Caton-Hosey was last year’s winner of NetVU’s Automation Excellence Award for agencies with less than 25 users.
Einstein eats his words
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”—Albert Einstein
While Einstein may have been justifiably upset that one of the first manifestations of his brilliant insights into the relationship between matter and energy exploded over Hiroshima, he might feel more sanguine today as technology more and more often is being used to better conditions for those using it. Certainly, at Caton-Hosey, the use of technology has helped to create a close-knit agency family as people who once spent most of their time bent over the keyboard doing routine tasks now have more time to spend helping clients and their colleagues at the office—in essence, more time on their humanity.
It has become a somewhat recurring theme in recent stories about agencies that technology, rather than reducing human interaction and interfering with relationships, has actually facilitated an increase in those activities as people have more time for other people.
That’s certainly been the case at Caton-Hosey, where the 21 people who work there are able to provide excellent service to some 6,350 active clients and still have time to help each other and their community. As Senior Account Manager Paula Shephard says: “We all get along as though we are one family.” Paula, who has been with the agency for 13 years, goes on to note that she has worked with various producers and “at all times, we have worked as a team with the best interest of the customer in mind—they are always the priority.”
Agent Tim LeBlanc points out how critical it is that everyone at the agency work together since “most of our clients have both commercial and personal insurance with our agency” which means they will need to interact with many different people at the agency when “they look to us for guidance.” This diversity of expertise is important because the Caton- Hosey family is “always looking out for our customers’ families and their diverse needs,” says Director of First Impressions Alecia Colian, adding that “each person at the agency brings something different to the table.”
Tech’s human face
But perhaps the most difficult and finest hour for the agency and its humanistic technological underpinnings involved Commercial Lines Account Manager Melissa R. Adrian, CPSR. Melissa lost her husband to cancer last year. She says “without the support of my Caton-Hosey family, I don’t know how I would have been able to handle working and caring for him at the same time. We spent basically three years in Gainesville and I was able to work from the hospital for all that time. The technology we have access to made it possible for me to work in between treatments, hospital stays and doctor appointments.” But it wasn’t just the ability to do the work but the fact that everyone at the agency “is there for one another in times of need.”
“We share each other’s hurts and celebrate successes,” says Personal Lines Manager Debbie Roberts, CPCU. “We make a point to encourage one another. To help one another. And to have fun at our agency. And that fun is transparent. Our customers notice our cheerfulness and our willingness to help them.”
The agency’s commitment to technology also has produced another advantage. As John notes: “For an agency our revenue size (a little over $3 million), we have tremendous carrier representation that allows us to play in the big markets and compete with the big brokers. When we tell our story, carriers are excited to join us.”
And that is key in developing new business, as Producer Nick DeSantis says, pointing to management’s being “fair and open-minded to new ideas for expanding quality business and lining up with the most competitive markets available.”
Once more with feeling
Yep, it’s Albert again: “Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.”
And that philosophy permeates Caton-Hosey at all levels, extending to the community which it serves. “As an office, we do quite a bit together to support the community,” Melissa says. “We participate in 5K and 10K races for charity events.” And John continues: “We’re very active in Rotary and the Chamber. We’re also the sponsor of a 5K race for hospice care here in the area.” And last April, the agency sponsored a “Paddle Out Poverty” event that drew more than 400 attendees and raised $24,000.
Rough Notes is proud to recognize Caton-Hosey Insurance as our Agency of the Month. It truly lives up to the best ideals of the independent agency system and Einstein’s words as its day-to-day efforts clearly “exist for other people.”
Article written by Dennis H. Pillsbury