shutterstock_1858742101_Ilya Lukichev
6 March 2024Analysis

A future informed by the past

From humble roots in 1935, Hylant is now one of the go-to firms for cutting-edge consultancy and expertise around captives. But, as the firm’s Anne Marie Towle explains, its next step is taking this expertise to a global audience.

"We have succeeded in developing relationships and delivering new solutions for clients." Anne Marie Towle

As this publication reflects on and celebrates the past 20 years, a period of rapid innovation, globalisation and economic transformation, some companies have the luxury of looking much further into the past when they look in the rearview mirror.

One of these is Hylant, one of the leading brokers and consultancies in the captives space for many years. But, like so many firms with long histories, it started in a very different place with a very different offering.

Hylant was founded in 1935 in Ohio by Edward Hylant, whose vision was to create an insurance agency based on relationships and trust. Much has changed since then, but those early ethics have not. Today, Hylant continues to grow and is among the largest privately held, full-service insurance brokerages in the US, offering insurance, employee benefits and risk management consulting services—and it has an impressive footprint in the captive insurance space.

It is worth noting that in 2004 and the years that followed, Hylant, partly on the back of acquisitions and expansion, was already gaining a lot of traction, winning a range of accolades, including in the Best Places to Work in Insurance.

Anne Marie Towle, chief executive officer of Hylant Global Risk and Captive Solutions, joined Hylant almost five years ago. Her focus was to build up the firm’s global captive solutions team and practice. She has done a good job of that—but it was certainly made easier being in a company with such a long history and pedigree in the industry.

“Hylant had been involved in captives for some time, but it was not doing what I would call strategic consulting, which allows you to drive growth,” Towle recalls. “Since I joined, that’s been our primary focus, along with growing our team, the depth and breadth of thought leadership we have, and the range of services we can offer clients.

“That has certainly been easy with the strong story we can tell. We are able to tap into our almost 90-year history and use that as the genesis of a discussion with clients. It has gone very well. We have succeeded in developing relationships and delivering new solutions for clients.”

A wider evolution

Towle says the development of Hylant’s offering has dovetailed with a rapid evolution within the captive insurance space itself, as clients have become more sophisticated and the solutions more nuanced. Her team now spends a lot more time doing things such as feasibility studies for new structures and strategic reviews for existing captive owners, looking to expand their remit.

“Developing that offering has been my primary focus, but that has gone hand in hand with other developments,” she explains.

Last year, Towle took responsibility for the firm’s global risk management team, which offers broader risk management, risk consulting and captive solutions. “We now encompass all of that,” she adds.

“We are the go-to resource for our middle market and large complex clients, many of which either have a captive or are exploring forming a captive. I’m leading a team that crosses over both realms, evaluating client needs and helping our clients understand their total cost of risk, finance it and transfer it in the most efficient way possible.”

That job has become increasingly complex, especially where clients are operating in multiple countries and must manage multifaceted, complex risks.

“Our aim is to ease some of that insurance burden for our clients, and that can often involve a captive vehicle. But each solution is bespoke to the client, taking into account the complexities,” she says.

Great demands

While companies and the desired solutions are becoming more complex, so too are the decision makers Towle is working with—another thing that has changed rapidly in recent years. She says that those responsible for captives, from treasurers and CFOs to risk managers, are now much more sophisticated in their understanding of captives—and what they want from them.

This is partly due to education and partly due to better tools being available, offering the ability to better analyse data. “That is much easier than it was even five or 10 years ago, never mind 20 years ago,” she says.

“From that perspective, if we’re thinking about the last 20 years, the change has been extraordinary. We have tools such as artificial intelligence now that can help us drive decisions. All those things help guide clients to make decisions, and mean a higher expectation of what they want from consultants and the plethora of options that are available.

“That expectation is key because if you’re looking to grow a captive, or establishing one, it’s not only about the thought leadership behind it, but also the execution of the strategy. Risk managers are much more selective now in wanting to make sure that they’re with the right partner and they’re going to execute on the strategy—not only initially, but on an ongoing basis,” Towle explains.

With this in mind she feels Hylant, drawing on the depth of expertise developed in the team, is well placed to continue to grow; she is also keen to expand its reach overseas. She notes that COVID-19 was instrumental in destroying barriers around being able to work for anyone, from anywhere.

“As long as you’re accountable and professional, there are no barriers now,” she says. “The Hylant story is now almost 90 years old. We’re a family-owned, family-run business, with over 1,000 employees. The natural next step would be to go international.

“We don’t need a physical location in every single country—we can still do a lot. We have great partners through our Hylant Global Alliance and the Worldwide Broker Network, which we helped found. It means we can touch pretty much every country in the world, without having a physical presence. So maybe that is what the next 20 years looks like,” she concludes.

Anne Marie Towle is chief executive officer of Hylant Global Risk and Captive Solutions. She can be contacted at: