Cheers to SWG: how a premiere MGA conquered hospitality

Mar 2018

There are companies willing to expand into any new line of business just to make a quick dollar. And then there’s South Western Group Insurance Group: a collection of expert managing general agents who only provide offerings where they know they can provide exemplary service. One such sector is hospitality, specifically bars, pubs, and nightlife. SWG did not operate in this arena until 2014, when it acquired 30-year veteran of the field, Doreen Teoh. “South Western Group shied away from writing hospitality for many, many years because our leadership felt that to write for this class of business, you had to have a knowledgeable person who has been doing it for many years.” Fitting the bill is senior underwriter Teoh, who has been writing this class since 1996. While the MGA is excited about the prospect of building a specialty casualty team in this niche market, they are only doing so incrementally to ensure that each line is expertly crafted before rolling out another. “We’re taking it slow,” Teoh said. “We’re not writing adult entertainment yet, we’re not writing night clubs, but we’re concentrating on an area where we feel we can be competitive and write good business.” It’s been a little over a year since Teoh was appointed to lead SWG’s hospitality team, and it appears that this strategy has been a marked success. This largely in part to her incorporable knowledge base – both on the insurance business side and in regards to the everyday issues facing the clients that her brokers serve. She maintains this by tracking the progress of rules and regulations concerning liquor liability, staying apprised of developments in nightlife such as pub crawls and powdered alcohol, and remaining up-to-date on the insurance industry as a whole through trade publications and insurance magazines. “Brokers are looking to companies for their expertise because they are often dabbling in so many different classes that they need someone who is going to help them with everything they need to know,” she explained. In addition, she holds South Western’s hospitality offerings in a high regard and a particular point of pride is its legal expense insurance, which is comprised of a five-point program that touches on almost every legal issue that bars and lounges could potentially face. Specifically, it includes employment disputes, criminal and/or statutory defense, property disputes, personal injury pursuit, and tax disputes. Each area is covered up to $50,000, totaling an impressive $250,000 in the aggregate. “This is the type of coverage where the more that people are aware of it and understand its benefits, the more they understand how important it is, because it means exorbitant amounts of money won’t come out of bar owners’ pockets if they ever encounter a legal problem,” Teoh said. But perhaps what makes South Western Group and Teoh’s role there so extraordinary, however, is how invested she is in it. While she finds the work interesting and holds a profound appreciation for the industry, when it comes down to it, her primary drive is helping others find success. “It’s not just a job. I like being able to help brokers, whether that means acquiring a new business or renewal or just helping them to understand more about the account,” she said.