Berndt and Murfin Insurance Agency
- Based in Portsmouth, OH (3 locations).
- Founded in 1921
- 18% commercial and 82% personal
- 30 employees
“… I’ve seen the alternatives. I have the first-hand experience. Partner XE has the price and the functionality. It’s where you need to go.”
Dan Cassidy had 10-years’ experience when he joined Berndt and Murfin Insurance Agency in 2000. When he purchased the office in 2006, he evaluated the agency’s management system, Partner XE precursor SEMCI Partner, and its provider Strategic Insurance Software. In the system, Dan saw excellent performance and adaptability at an affordable price. In SIS, he saw a dedicated team of professionals rooting for his agency’s success.
Since then, Dan has acquired six agencies, walking each through a transition to Partner XE. We asked Dan about Partner XE’s evolution through the years, his experience onboarding agencies, and his secret to success. Excerpts from our conversation are below.
Tell me about Berndt and Murfin. What drives your agency?
Berndt and Murfin was founded in 1921 in Portsmouth, Ohio. I came into the agency in 2000 and purchased the office in 2006. We’ve grown to ten employees since then. We’re very proud of the history of the agency and want to advance it into the next century.
Behind every good organization are great employees. We have a wonderful staff – that makes it a great place to work. We like to solve problems and earn business. Whether it’s adding lines to an existing customer or competing with another carrier, we work to earn that business. We feel we’ve got the resources and the people available to make that happen.
To what do you attribute your success over the years?
We treat our customers how we want to be treated and focus on prompt, courteous attention. When a customer or prospect calls for a quote or “x” date, we get back to them right away. So often we hear, “I can’t believe you called that fast!” We’re here to help people. We’re here to solve problems. We’re here to place coverage when it needs to be placed. It’s the simple, but important, things that make a difference.
How have you seen the Partner XE agency management system evolve over the years?
I’ve seen the system grow from the old SEMCI Partner into what is now Partner XE. It just keeps getting better—especially with commercial lines. The system is light years ahead of where it used to be with commercial lines and policy downloading. Some of the queries you can run now are amazing, too. I learn something new just about daily.
It’s neat the way the system has grown and what it has become. And, the updates come right from the agencies. That’s one thing I appreciate most – the team at SIS get it. They listen to what agents say. They’re always working towards making Partner XE better, and that makes us better.
What are some of the most notable capability updates?
Overall, the system continues to get more efficient with each update. I saw that first in the accounting plug-in. We used to do everything on paper—with a ledger and all. We were wasting a lot of time, and SIS saw the need to integrate accounting into the system. It’s been one of the biggest time savers. The next big time saver is carrier integration. With one click, you’re on the carrier website, eliminating multiple steps.
What features do you use most often and why?
With multiple locations, the accounting plug-in is a must. I’ve had people call and say they’re switching to Partner XE but without the accounting. I don’t understand why. The financial reports I can produce (with the accounting plug-in) are second to none. It’s a piece of cake to do seemingly complex reports. I can look at multiple entities, compare balance sheets, combine entities, and all sorts of other iterations. I had my accountant call yesterday and ask for my first six months. It was a matter of two or three clicks to get the report and email it off to him. It’s just so easy.
How has Partner XE served individual workflows in your agency?
As agency principal, I appreciate the ability to switch easily from one location to the next. That in and of itself has helped me tremendously. And the workflows are easy to understand. If I want to compare John Doe’s lines and premiums, I just hit that drop down and go from location to location. To sit in one site and pull up information on different locations, for me, is priceless.
I know our CSRs are constantly looking up and sending information, and they love the streamlined processes. They’re constantly handling ID cards. In Partner XE they can print all the cards they need with one click—no more fumbling around. It’s the little things like that have made the system what it is today.
How have SIS and Partner XE supported your goals towards profit and growth?
First and foremost we want to make money for the companies we represent. We also have a growth goal. We want to grow 5% with every carrier we represent. As we’ve grown through the years, that 5% gets harder to reach. But, it’s still something we measure ourselves by, and we try to hit.
To reach those goals, we need to take care of our customers. We can’t take our eye off that ball. A big part of that is getting customers what they need when they need it. Especially with commercial lines, we process a lot of certificates of insurance. With SEMCI Partner it was a little difficult. We had to enter a lot of information manually and print it. Now that it’s grown to Partner XE, we can pull it up, capture it, and email it to our customer in a matter of minutes. Those types of improvements allow us to be there right when our customer needs us. Ultimately, that makes the growth piece easier.
How many agencies have you acquired? Did all of those agencies required a transfer to Partner XE?
I bought Berndt and Murfin in 2006 and since then acquired six agencies. A couple of these agencies rolled into our current Portsmouth, OH location, so we’ve now got three physical locations.
Every agency came with a transition. Switching from one management system to another is a daunting task. It’s the fear of the unknown that causes the most anxiety. There will always be a learning curve, but each time the (SIS) folks sat down with us and worked through our questions and concerns.
I’m very hands-on and I like learning the system that way—with somebody showing you how, but you’re doing the driving. It’s always a little shaky at first, but we get through it because of the SIS staff. They are always onsite to help us out, and that’s key.
Did each agency you acquired have a similar experience with the management system transition?
Each has its own story, but I’d say yes. Each was hesitant at first, but ultimately happy we switched. I remember when we first switched to Partner XE (from SEMCI Partner), the lady who does my accounting went to a meeting in Columbus. She came back in tears saying, “I can’t do this – it’s too difficult,” and it concerned me. But, the SIS folks came out to walk us through it. The other day, she said, “I can’t believe I was worried.”
The agency I bought in October 2015 had more tenured employees, so I was concerned it would be a rougher transition. We took over November 1 and did the transition early February. If you walked in there right now, six months later, you wouldn’t even know anything happened. That’s about the timeline. It’s four to six months of adjusting, and then you’re pretty much back to normal… And it’s better than normal. I wouldn’t switch if I didn’t think it was better.
How do SIS and Partner XE compare to the systems those agencies were using?
One of the first differences I noticed is the price. I’ve seen a number of different systems with comparable technology, but at a much higher price. For me, that makes Partner XE an easy choice.
Another is the ease of use. When I bought the first agency, many of the staff members were scared to death of switching. Just last week I asked what they think of the system. They love it. They think it’s easier to use than the old system. “Please don’t change it!” they keep telling me. Also, I heard from the accounting person at our latest acquisition that (Partner XE) is night and day different from their old system. There were so many steps just to draft a check in their old system, but now it’s just a few clicks, and you’re done. They’re so pleased over there that we switched.
What would you say to someone who is looking at Partner XE?
I’ve had quite a few people call me and ask me about Partner XE. As I said, it has a competitive price. I think the price charged for the product offered is more than fair. When I’ve bought agencies, I had to run on other systems for six, eight, twelve months until we got that system converted over. I’ve seen the alternatives. I have the first-hand experience. Partner XE has the price and the functionality. It’s where you need to go.
I’ve acquired agencies using some of the big name systems. What I noticed about SIS and Partner XE is the ability to handle each agency and the complexity that comes with them. I like to say, “Work smarter, not harder,” and Partner XE has enabled us to do that. We control around 6,000 customers. I can’t imagine handling that volume without a system like Partner XE.
On top of that, it’s a great system that continues to evolve. I had lunch with one of your staff members a couple of months ago, and he asked me what SIS could do to make this product better. I don’t think other providers would send somebody out to do that. It means a lot to me.
What are the top things you’d say about SIS and Partner XE?
The people are first and foremost the number one thing. Not only the customer support but the whole staff. I’ve developed relationships with the SIS staff, using them as a sounding block, and giving and receiving advice and feedback.
The workflows and reporting functionality stand out, too. The way you can sort clients, run queries and establish what you want to see in a few clicks is terrific. From a marketing standpoint, (reporting) has made us more efficient. Like I said, we have to work smarter, and that’s why we chose Partner XE and why we do business with (SIS).
I think Partner XE and SIS are the best out there. I haven’t seen anybody close to what SIS and Partner XE offer. This is a relationship I’ll take to the day I retire.