EYE ON BUSINESS: Pandemic speeds up timetable for insurance company owner to embrace new technology.
For years, Robert Wentzell had kept an eye on Lakewood Ranch, hoping the time would come when he would have an office for his Bradenton Insurance company there.
Now he goes to work every day in Lakewood Ranch, but not the way he expected.
Wentzell is working out of his Lakewood National home to run his Guided Insurance Solutions (Bradenton Insurance became Guided Insurance Solutions May 4), which he owns with his dad, Bob Wentzell, and Baldwin Risk Partners.
In a COVID-19 pandemic world, the Wentzells and their 11 employees have worked remotely since March 17, but they had unknowingly been preparing for it for five years.
"We've been working hard the last five years to embrace new technology," Robert Wentzell said. "If you think of hurricane planning, we wanted to be in position to best help our clients. We have been looking at better ways t9 reach our clients. Guided Insurance was developed to modernize the way we do business."
Robert Wentzell said all the Bradenton Insurance clients should know "it's the same team, the same people."
Bradenton Insurance was founded in 1954 offering personal and commercial insurance. In 2017, The Wentzells partnered with Baldwin Risk Partners to offer their clients "more resources."
Robert Wentzell said the evolution his business will enable it to invest in technology-driven tools and synchronize with partner firms."
He said his clients will need every tool necessary to emerge from the pandemic.
"We have a lot of small businesses, such as the restaurants we eat at every day, as clients," Robert Wentzell said. "They have been hit hard. And our normal will be different than before. We all will change the way we do business. Things right now are so up in the air."
Robert Wentzell, who lives in Lakewood National with his wife Brittany, said businesses weren't filing claims for COVID-19 damage.
"Insurance policies are not designed for COVID-19," he said.
He has been trying to help his clients by familiarizing them with possible benefits.
"Fortunately over the last two months, many companies have issued policy discounts," he said. "For auto insurance, there are less people driving, so there is less risk. Companies are offering flexible billing and due dates. Some have suspended cancellation for nonpayment.
"Cash flow is a big issue for everyone. Businesses have seen a change in sales and payroll, but that could mean a change in risk exposure (which could lead to a discount). We are having that conversation a lot."
He said he enjoys the part of the business where he gets to consult with and advise his clients. He said insurance is something many of them don't know much about.
A Manatee High School graduate, the 33-year-old Wentzall said he grew up on Palma Sola Boulevard in Bradenton, a place where "everyone wants to retire." His father has been with the company for 35 years but they decided to rebrand their company because they began to have more clients in places like Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota who didn't necessarily identify with Bradenton Insurance. They decided to take a new path with Guided Insurance Solutions.
As the area recovers from the pandemic's influence, he said he will begin exploring his options for a Lakewood Ranch office.
"It would make a lot of sense," he said. "There is no better place to rebound from this than here."