How One Agency Has Grown with E&S Expertise and Insurance Network Guidance

October 4, 2022

Kyle McMackin is the owner of Main Street Insurance, a full-service independent agency offering personal insurance, commercial insurance, and coverage for high-risk accounts.Kyle McMackin is the owner of Main Street Insurance. The full-service agency offers personal insurance, commercial insurance and Medicare plans, as well as retirement planning services. The agency also provides coverage for many high-risk accounts that standard carriers are reluctant to sign. Network support from Smart Choice has helped Kyle navigate this challenging market.

Getting Started

Like many successful insurance agents, Kyle didn’t always plan on a career in the insurance industry. After graduating from college with a health science degree in 2001, he decided to take a job in insurance, just to try it out.

For the first 10 years, Kyle worked as a captive agent, but eventually grew tired of being limited to one carrier’s products, so made the decision to go out on his own and establish an independent agency.

Getting started as an independent agent wasn’t easy. “We couldn’t get access to the big-name carriers in the very beginning,” Kyle says. Despite having worked in the insurance industry for many years, there was a lot that Kyle didn’t know about the independent business model. “So, I started researching cluster and network groups and discovered Smart Choice.”

Kyle met with Cary Wilson; Smart Choice’s South Carolina State Director based in Greenville. Once he joined, and with Smart Choice in his corner, Kyle was able to gain the carrier access he needed to give his agency a running start.

“That first year was crucial,” Kyle remembers. “I leaned heavily on Smart Choice’s commercial team and the personal lines area too,” he recalls.

Developing an E&S Niche

From the beginning, Kyle’s agency was able to offer coverage for risks he likely wouldn’t have been able to cover when he was a captive, thanks to having access to excess and surplus (E&S) markets. He got started in that niche when he set out to insure a good friend who owned an environmental company. It was the sort of risk that no standard carrier would sign, so turning to the E&S market made sense.

Since then, a lot of other clients have faced challenging insurance situations that Kyle has solved with E&S coverage.

Today, Kyle estimates that his agency writes equal amounts of E&S and traditional insurance business – which is no surprise given the recent shift in the insurance marketplace.

“Greenville is growing so much and the construction activity around here is insane,” he explains. As a result, difficult-to-insure risks come up frequently. The same conditions probably exist in any rapidly growing area with construction workers who are starting their own contracting businesses. They all need coverage. Many agencies just say no, but thankfully Kyle feels comfortable and has the resources to provide solutions for those businesses.

The E&S market can be useful for all types of accounts with unique risk exposures. For example, Kyle says he can usually find insurance for convenience stores, but if the store is also a liquor store, or if it has a garage attached, standard carriers may not offer sufficient coverage. Standard coverage can also be out of reach for unusual industries, like one commercial client that cleans oil rigs.

Time and again, these E&S market options come to the rescue.

A beach house on a cliff requires E&S insurance.

Advocating for Clients

While many agents avoid or shy away from high-risk accounts, Kyle embraces the challenge. As infrastructure projects grow, and the market correction continues, he thinks E&S markets will play an even bigger role. “The need for these markets will only increase,” he explains.

With E&S, exclusions are the primary complexity, but exclusions are becoming more of an issue in standard insurance policies, too. As it turns out, dealing with exclusions can actually be easier with E&S. “The good thing about E&S coverage is that we can sometimes negotiate it,” Kyle says. “We can tell them that an exclusion is unacceptable, and they may be able to make an adjustment,” he explains.

Fortunately, he can always rely on the Smart Choice team for guidance. When Kyle isn’t sure of the best approach to take, he is able to call on the knowledgeable reps at Smart Choice for advice.

“It’s really easy just to shoot our rep, Rick Matthews, a text and say, ‘What do you think about this carrier? Can we get coverage?’ And they’re on it,” Kyle says. “They handle all the research and legwork, which saves us hours out of our busy day.”

Building Lasting Relationships

Kyle believes his agency’s success is attributable to how they take care of their customers. “We do our due diligence,” Kyle says. Sometimes this may take an extra day, but if we’re going to provide an insurance policy, we want to take time to do it right.”

The strategy appears to be working. “We’ve never advertised,” Kyle says, explaining that their business has grown primarily from referrals.

Kyle rarely loses clients, and typically only because they relocate, and he’s only lost two accounts to another agency in all his time as an agency owner. His agency’s success is built on this high retention rate, and he’s able to achieve it by covering ALL his clients’ exposures – even the ones that are extra challenging.

Having access to E&S markets and guidance through Smart Choice is essential. Without it, Main Street Insurance would lose a major source of revenue, and all the cross-sold insurance products that E&S clients also purchase.

Through Smart Choice Express Markets, Smart Choice provides access to E&S insurance carriers. Are you interested in becoming a Smart Choice agency partner? 

Get Started