Agency Information

  • Based in Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Founded in 1982
  • 95% commercial
  • 26 Employees
Max Van Wyk

Max Van Wyk

“What I often tell an agency owner is ‘If you want to be a number, stay where you are. If you want someone who will partner with you, you better be talking to SIS.”

Max Van Wyk founded Van Wyk Risk Solutions in 1982 with a vision to provide personalized service, built on trust and experience.

In 2014, Max received an email from an SIS sales executive and the intuitive design of the Partner XE system made him take a closer look. Once the conversation started, he saw in SIS the same focus on relationships, trust, and personal service found in his own agency.

We talked with Max and Alison Van Wyk, Executive Vice President, about their decision to switch to SIS and how the relationship has grown since.

Tell me a little bit about Van Wyk Risk Solutions. How do you want to be perceived by your clients? Carriers? Community?

Max: We call ourselves a boutique firm: We provide the resources and capabilities of a national broker and service minded accessibility of a hometown firm.

What is it you do as an agency that caused clients to see you as a “boutique firm?”

Max: In response to a survey we sent out as part of a re-branding initiative, our clients told us we have an uncanny ability to help them identify risks and develop excellent solutions. We liked that, and changed our name to “Van Wyk Risk Solutions.” We feel this new name reflects what we do: see our individual client’s needs and provide solutions.

So your customers saw you as anticipating and meeting their needs?

Max: Yes. We know that in this business price and service are a given. If you don’t have the right price and quality service, you won’t be successful. We focus on providing unique, real solutions for our client’s needs, freeing them to grow and expand.

What were some of the factors that influenced your decision to switch to SIS?

Max: We had been with one of the large, national providers for a while and the service wasn’t up to par. When we had a problem we’d create a ticket that they’d get to it maybe months later. We felt blown off.

We became aware of SIS from what I thought was a junk email from one of your sales executives. It was about your new agency management system. It must have been a slow day because I clicked it. My first impression was, “That’s not an agency management system. That just looks like Outlook.” But I looked a little further and when I saw how the format and was set up, I realized it was done that way intentionally because everyone knows how to use Outlook. I thought, “Well that’s a clever approach.” And I thought we ought to look a little bit more.

So we did.

Immediately we got the attention of your President, Michael (Doran). To be on a first name basis with your leadership team was a huge difference from our old provider. Your commitment to building a relationship reflected our philosophy to build relationships with our clients and carriers. We wanted a provider that would do that.  SIS fit the bill.

How would you describe Partner XE? What is the best part of the system?

Max: From a sales perspective, we’re thankful for the mobile app. It’s easy to use and keeps me connected when I’m outside the office. I used to have to call the office to get addresses or policy information but now it’s right there on my phone. I can get business done immediately, helping a client right in the moment.

Alison: The other thing I like is there aren’t workarounds. Our old system had a lot of those, making training difficult. Training with Partner XE is straightforward—it works like it’s supposed to. And if there’s something that doesn’t work, it’s refreshing to know it will actually be fixed. No more workarounds.

Max: We have a sense that SIS wants Partner XE to be the best and you’ll do everything you can to make it happen. We’ve seen your people listen, take accountability, and resolve issues. That’s refreshing compared to your competitors.

Alison: I also like all the “Quick” features like the QuickMenu and QuickSearch. They make it so much easier to find what you need. There is a real ease of doing business with the system that is so much better than anything else I’ve seen or worked with.

How would you describe SIS and its service in comparison to experiences you’ve had with other providers?

Max: SIS is ahead of the rest. Not only do you act like a team, you include us in the team. SIS has a true partnership with us. We’re on a first name basis with the whole team. We didn’t even know the names of the people at our old provider—we were just a number in the queue somewhere.

Also, our account manager is fantastic. He’s been out here to correct issues first hand, burning the midnight oil to solve it. He’s gone above and beyond like that in a number of instances.

Your agency was one of the beta testers for Partner XE 2016. What was that like for you?

Alison: It was great to see the system before everyone else. We helped work out the kinks and found the SIS team was highly responsive to addressing issues.

Max: At first, I wasn’t excited about being a beta tester but I trusted Alison. I was wary about subjecting our employees to a bunch of glitches, but on the whole we didn’t experience that. It was overall quite positive.

Alison, you are a Partner XE User Community Board member. What made you want to join?

Alison: I wanted to continue to build a relationship with SIS and the Partner XE community. It’s gratifying to have a say in updates and see our ideas come to fruition in the releases. With our old provider I would think, “Who tested this? Was an agency involved?” It’s the opposite with SIS. There is no doubt each new feature is client-driven and tested.

How has SIS addressed your agency’s needs?

Alison: The big one for us is working with certificates. Originally, Partner XE was geared more towards personal lines and our agency is almost fully commercial. We send out hundreds of thousands of certificates each day and needed a system that could handle that volume. We brought this to the SIS team and saw results. This latest release allows us to mass email and fax certificates. The SIS team was very responsive in working with us to make that happen.

How do you see your agency growing?

Max: Our plan is to double our business in five years. That’s about a 15% annual growth and we’re on track to make it happen. We know we need to be creative and on the cutting edge to achieve this goal, and SIS is the perfect partner. We switched to Partner XE knowing it would be the hub of our activity and are confident in building our agency around it.

What are the top things you would say about working with Partner XE and SIS?

Max: We’ve referred SIS and Partner XE many times. What I often tell an agency owner is “If you want to be a number, stay where you are. If you want someone who will partner with you, you better be talking to SIS.”

Alison: I think Partner XE and SIS are very similar to our agency. You have the capacity to effectively serve your clients yet you’re small enough to provide that hometown service. We still know people at SIS on a first name basis. We’re not going to file a ticket online and hear from you in a year or more. You do what you say you’ll do and do it right away.

Max: We paid a lot of money for our old system over a number of years and never met the people once. With SIS, I get a call from Michael (your president) to follow up on issues. It’s reassuring to know we’re on the radar up and down the ladder and that people are looking out for us.

Anything else you would like to add?

Max: SIS is in an evolutionary business. There will always be glitches and we know things will never be perfect, but if we work together to continually improve I’m happy. I see that happening with SIS.

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