– Staying focused on the client
It’s unusual that any given issue of the Harvester covers both a producer member and a trade associate member that have as deep roots in the Florida landscape as the two in this month’s issue. Producer member William G. Roe & Sons and Lykes Insurance both were formed in the 1920s and are going strong 90 years later.
Lykes Insurance was founded in 1925 by Lykes Bros. Inc., a 100-year-old privately held, Florida-based company. Over the years, Lykes Bros. has had interests in citrus, cattle, meat-packing, banking, natural gas and shipping.
The Lykes insurance organization has an interesting history, said Chris Tritt, vice president and leader of its food and agribusiness practice. “Lykes got into the insurance business originally only to protect the assets of Lykes Bros.,” he said. “They did that out of a growing frustration, because they found that insurance agents simply wouldn’t take the time to truly comprehend our business operations. There definitely was a gap in understanding agriculture. So, for the first 30-plus years, all Lykes insurance did was service Lykes Bros.”
That changed in the early 1960s, when the insurance organization decided to go into the retail sector. “That’s when we shifted the business and focused on helping outside clients in various industries. But our DNA and our heritage has always been in food and agribusiness, and obviously that’s not changing,” Tritt said.
Lykes Insurance remains wholly owned by Lykes Bros., providing commercial risk insurance, private risk insurance, employee benefits and surety bonds from its four Florida locations.
One of the most pressing challenges Lykes Insurance faces with its food and agribusiness clients is food safety risk. “Whether you’re a grower or a shipper, processor, packer, whoever you are in the supply chain, you’ve got a much broader and greater regulatory burden than in years past,” Tritt said. “While we were already providing consulting services in that regard, when the Food Safety Modernization Act came into practice back in 2010, we understood that we needed to take it up a notch and build out competency and expertise in that space. We spend a tremendous amount of time offering counsel in that regard,” he said.
Tritt explained why helping clients with food safety risk planning* is more challenging than delivering many other insurance products. “If you take a line of insurance such as general liability, for example, most of the carriers that write the coverage use a standardized policy form. So as an advisor, or as an agent, they‘re just managing exceptions. All the language, all the interpretations are the same. In food safety each insurance carrier does something different. They all have a different team of attorneys and a different team of risk managers, so there’s a lot to be left to interpretation.
“It’s not like an emerging market. It’s more like the wild, wild west. I can’t underscore that enough, because things are moving so quickly – it changes almost every week,” Tritt said. “It’s an absolute necessity that we stay on top of developments for our clients.”
Another way Lykes Insurance takes care of its clients is through its team of adjusters. “They focus on two things: eliminating waste inside of claims and holding carriers accountable for the disbursement of claims dollars,” Tritt said. “It’s very easy to spend someone else’s money, and insurance companies can be very good at that. Our people work with the carriers and, very importantly, with our clients to stop any fraud and eliminate that waste.”
Lykes Insurance also works with its clients on workforce issues. “One of our big problems continues to be labor. Whatever anybody’s opinion of the H-2A program is, at least for the foreseeable future, it’s the only solution we have for employing a legal and stable workforce in agriculture. Labor has always been a challenge, and our focus has been on helping our clients track, retain and develop their labor – their talent – on a year-to-year basis.”
Another effort the entire Lykes organization is proud of, and the insurance company is no exception, is its commitment to giving back to the communities it serves. Read about this work and see the long list of worthy causes Lykes supports here.
But its main focus remains its clients. And focus is the key word. “We emphasize to all of our advisors to not try to be a jack of all trades. They specialize in certain areas. For example, I spend 95 percent of my time in agriculture. I don’t know how I’d do it any other way,” Tritt added. “You just can’t be all things to all people anymore. You’ve got to focus on one thing and understand it and do it well. That’s our overarching philosophy.
“Years from now, we want to be there with the right solutions that will drive results both for us and for our clients,” Tritt said.
* Link to Lykes’ food safety practice may not be operable yet. Please try again later.