working with a wholesale broker

What is a Wholesale Broker?

A wholesale insurance broker  is a licensed broker providing specialized insurance products to retail insurance agents and brokers ("retail agents"), and supporting those products with specialized expertise. 

The term “wholesale” distinguishes a wholesale broker, which provides services to retail agents and brokers, from the retail agent or broker, which provides services directly to the insured.  A wholesale broker will utilize specialty insurers (also called "markets") who can consider accounts that the retail agent cannot place competitively with their standard markets. These insurers underwrite specialized or hard to place insurance.  Tennant Risk Services is a wholesaler broker placing both admitted and surplus lines professional liability insurance.

As a retail agent, you should expect the wholesale broker to provide proposals for insurance and expertise for these specialized accounts, and a share of the commissions received by the wholesale broker from their specialty markets. At Tennant Risk Services we provide both expertise and access to a wide range of specialty markets for our professional liability placements.

Why utilize this structure? 

The simple answer is specialization.  Wholesale brokers specialize in placing unique or more difficult accounts with markets that specialize in writing these same accounts.  The product and market expertise developed from specialization drives the specialty lines market.  Wholesale brokers operate in the Specialty Lines Market, which is composed of both admitted (or licensed) insurers and surplus lines insurers. "Surplus lines" is short for excess and surplus lines, or E&S, and is also referred to as non-admitted. The surplus lines market is critically important to wholesale brokers, which benefits your clients through availability and customization of specialty insurance.

The Placing Process

The process of placing business with a wholesale broker is very similar to the process you would use to place business with your standard markets. While no two placements are exactly alike, the process works as follows:

  • The account is submitted to the wholesale broker with the appropriate application and supplementary information.
  • The wholesale broker will utilize its expertise to review the submission information, analyze the risk and any addition information needs, and identify potential markets.
  • An account presentation will be made in writing to each market for underwriting consideration.
  • Each underwriter will respond with a proposal, request for additional information, or a declination.  For each account it is not unusual for a number of markets to decline and a number of markets to provide proposals. Any negotiation regarding terms and conditions can take place at this point.
  • The wholesale broker will present the proposals to you, and you can then work with the wholesale broker and your client to understand the proposals, make changes and determine which option to bind.
  • When an order is provided, many wholesale brokers, including Tennant Risk Services, have very specific expectations for paperwork, surplus lines compliance and payment which will be communicated to you.

The timing for this process can be short or long depending on the type of account, the underwriter and the quality of the submission.  Often this all occurs in a day or two, but complex accounts can take much longer.  Working with a wholesale broker should be an easy process, but sometimes the difficulties presented by the exposures of a particular account make the process more complicated.  The underwriter may require additional information in order to more fully understand the exposures presented, but the benefits of specialized coverage for non-standard accounts and coverages outweigh any additional complexities.

Online Quoting

A few of our markets offer online quoting systems, some of which we can make available to you in a password protected environment.  While these systems require a short learning curve and information entered, they can speed up the process for you.  These systems are only applicable to simple accounts in a few segments of the professional liability business.

Markets (“Insurers”)

Wholesale brokers utilize a set of specialty lines insurance companies (“markets”) to place their business.  These markets include specialty-only insurers, specialty divisions of larger mulit-line insurers and international insurers such as Lloyds of London.  Many of these insurers have limited distribution or wholesale-only distribution models, and are organized to work with specialty wholesale brokers.

An account may need to be placed in the surplus lines market in order to take advantage of the flexibility in pricing and coverage the market provides.  The surplus lines market is critically important to wholesale brokers, and most wholesaler brokers write more business in the surplus lines market (with surplus lines insurers) than in the admitted market (with admitted insurers). The surplus lines market is somewhat more complicated to utilize than the admitted market due to the regulatory requirements, but is easily handled if the wholesale broker provides a clear understanding of what is required.


Because the specialty lines market is designed to write risks that do not easily fit into the underwriting and rating "boxes" of standard companies, underwriting is designed to be flexible. Typically, each risk is underwritten and rated on its own merits, and the underwriter's own experience, expertise and perspective, along with the quality of the submission, heavily impact the resulting terms and conditions. The underwriter will apply rates he or she thinks are appropriate, and may provide tailored coverage as well. This can lead to variations in the terms and conditions quoted by various insurers for the same account that might not occur in the standard market. 

Each underwriter will have his or her own requirements for information, and specialized applications to assist in the underwriting and rating decision process.  (See Why Specialty Applications.)  Standard ACORD forms will not be acceptable for professional liability accounts, but Tennant Risk Services can provide the appropriate applications for these coverages.  Each insurer may require its own application in order to bind coverage. In order to ease the burden on clients during the quote process, underwriters will review and quote from other applications and require their own application if coverage is bound.

Working with a wholesale broker should be a rewarding experience for both you and your client. Both you and your client will benefit from the expertise, quality service and market alternatives provided by your wholesale broker. At Tennant Risk Services we look forward to filling that need for you for your professional liability, directors and officers and employment practices accounts.

For additional information or to contact us please go to our Contact Us page.

Note to insureds: Tennant Risk Services is a wholesale insurance broker and underwriting manager. As such, we do business with retail brokers (insurance agents). Please have your insurance agent or broker contact us about your professional liability needs, or contact us for specific professional liability insurance questions and information about an agent or broker in your area.  Working with a retail agent or broker provides the best level of service, and does not impact the cost of the insurance.

Tennant Risk Services
124 LaSalle Road
West Hartford, CT 06107
Phone: (860) 969-5201
Fax: (860) 216-5845

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