Horton Group’s Waukesha office forms international practice

The Waukesha office of The Horton Group, a Chicago-based insurance, risk management and employee benefits firm, has experienced significant growth in the first quarter – and a significant part of that growth has been the office’s capabilities to help commercial clients who do business globally.

“Dan (Horton, a sales executive in the Waukesha office) has formed an international practice group here,” said Robert McIntyre, president of the Waukesha branch of The Horton Group. “And we have formed significant relationships with Reinhart (Boerner, Van Duren S.C.), Virchow Krause and Chase Bank. They’re all doing the same thing – trying to serve the needs of mid-market businesses, especially those with international needs. And we see them as strong partners in those areas.”

More clients are developing overseas operations and international relationships and need international insurance expertise, even if they don’t know it, Horton said.

“(Businesses) have complex needs now and limited resources,” he said. “And insurance can be one more iron in the fire.”

In early 2007, the company joined Assurex Global, a global network of independent insurance, risk management and benefits brokers, McIntyre said. The association is by invitation only, and allows members to access other member firms in other parts of the world where they do not have operations.

The Horton Group is the Illinois member of the organization. Waukesha-based R&R Insurance is the Wisconsin member.

Being a member of Assurex Global allows The Horton Group to serve a larger pool of potential clients than it could without membership, McIntyre said.

“Often, we’ll have a Milwaukee company with German operations and they’ll want us to take care of that (operation),” he said. “And there could be a German company that wants to do something in Wisconsin or Illinois.”

The Horton Group also operates a one-person office in Beijing that opened in 2001, where it works with about 40 clients from Wisconsin and the Midwest that have operations or sourcing partners in China. The company’s Chinese office reports to the Waukesha office, largely because many of the companies The Horton Group works with there are from Wisconsin.

The company’s membership in Assurex Global and its China operations allow it to help clients with complex, often unfamiliar insurance regulations in other companies.

“We have to be able to place (the client) with the local compulsory insurance, and in most countries that has to be placed by a local agent with a local insurance company,” McIntyre said. “The problem is, they are usually deficient when compared to U.S. insurance policies.”

Clients that have global operations usually buy insurance in their local markets, using The Horton Group’s Chinese office or its relationships through Assurex Global. In almost all cases, those clients also buy bolt-on policies in the U.S. to augment their policies purchased in China, Europe or other countries, Horton said.

“There can be big differences in coverage, and this can get them to a level they consider adequate,” he said. “And it’s all controlled from the U.S., dovetailing a domestic program with a foreign, local program so the client has sufficient coverage.”

Having an agent in China and relationships with other brokers around the globe allows The Horton Group to send an agent to a manufacturing plant, interact with the general manager there, directly translate documents and buy local insurance policies.

“You’ve got to know the people in a foreign location,” Horton said. “(By having people there), we can go to a plant, they can tell us local information.”

Interruptions to international business relationships can significantly impact local operations, McIntyre said, and having someone in the local marketplace can be crucial.

“Having someone on the ground when things go wrong is when it gets important,” he said. “We’ve been through the experience.”

The Horton Group also became a member of World Trade Center Wisconsin, a member of the New York-based World Trade Centers Association, late last year.

The focus on international services has helped the company’s Waukesha office grow its first quarter 2008 revenues by 54 percent over its first quarter 2007 earnings, McIntyre said.

“Most of it has been organic growth,” he said. “We’re focused on developing a sales culture. It’s been helped by specializations like the international practice.”

The Waukesha office’s earnings were bolstered, in part, from the acquisition of Health Care System Consultants, a Milwaukee employee benefits firm that focused on the public sector, McIntyre said. The acquisition was finalized on Jan. 1, and HCSC’s employees have been rolled into The Horton Group’s operations in Waukesha.

The Horton Group moved from Schlitz Park in downtown Milwaukee to a new $3.5 million, 30,000-square-foot office building on a 3.3-acre site on Riverwood Drive in the Riverwood Corporate Park in Waukesha last year. It currently occupies half of the space.

When it moved to Waukesha, The Horton Group had 35 employees. The company currently has 50 workers.

The company is also looking for other firms to acquire, both for geographical expansion and additional services, McIntyre said.

“It’s heated up lately,” he said. “With the economic situation there are a lot of small agencies hurting now.”

 

The Horton Group

Address: N19 W24101 N. Riverwood Dr., Waukesha
Growth: 54 percent growth in Q1, 2008, over same quarter 2007
Local employees: 50
International capabilities: Office in Beijing, China and member of Assurex Global, a global organization of local insurance agents with reciprocal service agreements.
Web site: www.thehortongroup.com

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