An Interview with Dick Coffey, Chairman of Consortio Group, and Recipient of the 2017 Better Business Bureau Integrity Award
By Sam Bittner and Zunair Malik, Creighton University MBA Students
The insurance industry has some unique challenges when it comes to business ethics. Customers often don’t fully understand the coverages or legal wording in their insurance contract, and in turn it is difficult for insurance companies to verify that the information they are getting from their customers is completely accurate. We sat down with Dick Coffey of Consortio Group to discuss his thoughts on business ethics in the insurance industry as well as the culture he and his son have created at Consortio Group. Consortio is a Latin word meaning partnership, and Consortio Group has sought to generate value for its clients by building strong long-term relationships based on honest open communication and excellent customer service. Consortio Group does more than obtain quotes for their customers, they take on the role of a trusted advisor for their clients and create customized cost-effective insurance solutions with optimal terms, conditions, and coverages.
Childhood, Education, and Early Work Experience
During his early childhood, Coffey had his own paper route. This was his first exposure to the world of business. He learned to manage his own inventory and build relationships with his customers. For the most part this was a positive experience but he occasionally had to deal with dishonest customers who didn’t follow through on their promise to pay. As a result, he had to discontinue service to these customers because they couldn’t be trusted. This was a lesson for Dick Coffey on the importance of integrity, honesty, and reputation in business. He stated in our interview that reputation is very critical to success in business. If you are dishonest, people will remember that and won’t want to do business with you.
Coffey graduated from Creighton University with majors in Marketing and Economics. Upon graduating from Creighton, He started his first position with CNA Insurance as an underwriter. The type of work assigned to Coffey was challenging. The expectations for completing these assignments were very high and employees were afforded little to no margin for error. If you completed the work successfully you were promoted and if not, you might be fired. This was before google had been invented, so Coffey had to do some digging to find the appropriate information. He found the independence and challenge of this opportunity to be exciting. The lack of resources and high-pressure business environment forced him to be resourceful and solve problems creatively.
After a successful career at Alexander & Alexander, Coffey would later work at the insurance broker AON Risk Services. During that time, the company focused on quality initiatives and improving business processes. These quality initiatives were designed to reduce errors and improve efficiency. One thing Coffey took from this is a commitment to continuous improvement. In our interview, he stated business ethics is a mindset, and something that should be worked on every day rather than thought of as a one-time event. Ultimately, Dick retired from AON group and later start Consortio Group with his son John Coffey.
Consortio Group Ethics
The Consortio Group LLC was founded in 2009 when the Coffey’s, Dick and his son John, acquired two agencies (McGowan Insurance and Dempsey & Associates) and rebranded the new entity with the name Consortio. John and Dick recognized that trust and integrity are both perceived issues in the insurance industry and believed there was an opportunity for an independent insurance agent to become a trusted advisor for the insurance needs of businesses in Omaha. Many businesses view insurance as a commodity, with price being the only distinguishing quality among competing insurance companies. John and Dick wanted to shift the focus from a strictly price-based purchasing decision to a complete value proposition tailored to each of its clients’ individual needs.
As their name would suggest, Consortio Group strives to create a partnership with their clients. Coffey stated he has high standards for his customers and values those who take an interest in loss control. He said that he doesn’t want to represent clients who expect insurance to cover claims for their poor management or lack of safety standards. Coffey has a lot of experience in the industry and in addition to his technical expertise he and his team can provide advice on employee handbooks, safety manuals, OSHA regulations, disaster plans, and more. Consortio Group makes sure they understand their customer’s business and can communicate all of the services that they can offer. Coffey knows his clients want a high level of service and expect him to be timely, consistent, and reliable.
Consortio Group also strives to create a partnership with the insurance carriers they work with based on trust and open communication. Consortio employees conduct themselves with utmost good faith. In the insurance industry, you often don’t get the opportunity to touch or feel the thing you are insuring, and because of this trust is key. An agent’s desire to get their client the cheapest quote at all costs can lead to unethical behavior. Agents will sometimes not furnish the most recent loss runs or provide as little information as possible with the fear that disclosing too much will lead to a higher price. Consortio does not place an emphasis on volume quoting. They take the time to get to know their client and do their best to convey all of the relevant information to the insurance carrier. They are looking for the policy that is the right fit for their client and having a good relationship with their insurance carriers is integral to this process.
Making Tough Choices
Ethics is ingrained in the culture of Consortio, and this is reflected in the decisions they make every day. Dick Coffey described a situation where he had to balance the interests of his client and an insurance company. When this particular client’s insurance policy came up for renewal, Dick Coffey learned some information about the customer’s business that was dramatically different than what had been conveyed to the underwriter on the application. He knew this information would cause the insurance company to reject the account or charge an exorbitant premium. Believing strongly in his obligation to both his client and the insurance company who wrote the policy, Coffey sought to find a resolution in the best interest of both parties. He disclosed the newly discovered information to the Insurance company, which subsequently declined to write the client. Consortio was able to place coverage elsewhere. Consortio was able to affirm its commitment to maintaining honest and open communication.
Better Business Bureau Integrity Award and Involvement in the Business Ethics Alliance
Dick believes strongly in the mission of organizations like the Business Ethics Alliance and Better Business Bureau and their role in promoting ethical business practices in Omaha. He began his involvement with the Better Business Bureau in 2010 when he was asked to advise them on their insurance program, and he became a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance Association the same year. He enjoys attending Business Ethics Alliance events like the breakfast meetings or luncheons as it gives local business leaders a chance to sit down and talk about issues important to the community. These events also often have speakers who offer interesting insights into business ethics concerns outside of Omaha. The Better Business Bureau, the Business Ethics Alliance, and the Chamber of Commerce offer an opportunity to promote ethical Omaha values and recognize businesses who operate according to those values.
In 2017, Consortio Group became the first insurance agency in Omaha to be awarded the Omaha Better Business Bureau Integrity Award. Per the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award guidelines this prestigious award is given to businesses that set exceptionally high standards of behavior and “‘go above and beyond’ in serving their customers, employees, suppliers, and communities. According to Dick Coffey, Consortio Group is pleased with this recognition because integrity is absent in some insurance organizations. The Better Business Bureau Integrity award is proof that integrity, honesty, and open communication can be hallmarks of a successful client/insurance agent relationship. It gives the employees of Consortio Group a sense of validation to be recognized for creating and maintaining such high ethical standards.
Consortio group is a great example of a successful business with a strong ethical culture. Throughout his career Dick Coffey has taken care to operate in a manner that is fair to his employees, clients, and business partners. He has always tried make the right decision, even when it wasn’t easy. He has sought to build relationships based on open and honest communication. Receiving the 2017 Better Business Bureau Integrity Award is proof of the Coffey’s commitment to creating value for his clients through high ethical standards.
This interview originally appeared on the Business Ethics Alliance site, and is used by kind permission of the Business Ethics Alliance.