A Different Kind of Guard: Agent Watches NFL Draft With Eye on Protecting Players

Like millions of Americans, Timothy Radcliffe will be glued to the NFL Draft the next couple days.

Radcliffe’s interest in the draft isn’t predicated on which quarterback goes off the board first or whether the Pittsburgh Steelers, his childhood favorite team, fill in the right pieces for the upcoming season. Rather, Radcliffe will be consumed with pressing questions of another kind.

How soon can he shore up an auto policy for the draftee who just got selected by a team 2,000 miles from where he lives?

What is the excess liability range for the player who is about to receive an eight-figure signing bonus?

Which carrier will offer the best high-coverage umbrella policy for the client who wants a main residence in Arizona and a second home in Ohio?

Radcliffe knows that insurance is probably the last thing on the mind of these overnight millionaires as they receive the call that will forever change the direction of their professional and personal lives. That’s where his agency, Private Client Insurance (PCI) comes in.

The Melbourne, Florida-based company Radcliffe and co-founder Adam Skarbek started 16 years ago exists to serve highly successful professionals, from violinists to physicians to football players. But of the approximately 700 families that PCI represents, it’s the gridiron gladiators who often pose the most fun for Radcliffe and his team.

“The draft is our favorite time of the year to watch the young guys coming in,” says Radcliffe. “They’ll call like, ‘Hey Tim, I had $167 in my checking account yesterday and, man, there’s $11 million here today after tax. What do I need to do?’ Well, you need to get your umbrellas.”

Radcliffe, a former banker, didn’t expect to one day be working with pro athletes. He opened PCI in 2006 after struggling for years to find an insurance agent who could meet the needs of his bank’s high net worth clients.

“The transition from banking to insurance was very simple, very similar risk strategies,” says Radcliffe. “In a bank, all you’re doing is assessing risk. So it was good fit for us.”

After about four years of managing private equity clients from Bermuda to London, Skarbek proposed expanding PCI’s services to athletes. As Radcliffe and Skarbek started developing relationships with athletes across football, basketball, hockey, and baseball, they found the need among football players “was just glaring,” says Radcliffe.

“When we first got in the business, everybody wanted to do the disability because it’s an enormous premium. And we felt like P/C was such a disaster that we just stuck to it.”

PCI services players’ homes, boats, cars, jet skis and also writes their underlying coverage and excess liability. A young professional athlete will usually receive $1-5 million in underlying and up to $5 million in excess coverage.

PCI’s carrier partners include ACE Group, AIG, Chubb, and Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE).

“They kind of understand that this carrier, yes they might lose $5 million, but you’ve got $11 million in your brokerage account,” says Radcliffe. “You’re not getting a $20 million umbrella for a 19 year old.”

Radcliffe says PCI seeks out its clients selectively. The top criteria are whether a player is good at communicating and whether he has a cooperating agent and financial advisor.

“Those are the best relationships because there’s three or more of us trying to work and make sure we protect the players and their families and that we’re there for them,” says Radcliffe. “If there’s any kind of change, all three of us are able to communicate with each other with or without the player sometimes.”

Around The Clock Job

Radcliffe admits PCI’s agents sometimes forget how cool their job is. They get a front row seat to the lives of players who most people will only glimpse for a few hours each Sunday.

“We’re really part of those families,” he says. “No matter where they go, we go with them.”

Tim Radcliff, President of Private Client Insurance

Among the NFL athletes PCI represents are Cody Whitehair of the Chicago Bears, Jaylinn Hawkins of the Atlanta Falcons, Byron Jones of the Miami Dolphins and Justin Strnad of the Denver Broncos. Additionally, several coaches are PCI clients, including Zak Kromer, assistant for the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

Getting to work with NFL clients doesn’t come without a compromise. Radcliffe typically works noon to 10:00, but the needs of players means he must regularly be on call.

“A lot of our players are like a marine,” says Radcliffe. “We got to get stuff taken care of right then. They may be gone for three months, maybe six months and they pop back up, ‘Hey, here’s what need.’”

One time a player wanted to meet the same day that New England played a Thursday night season-opener. Radcliffe came over to the player’s house late morning and the two went over the entire insurance policy.

“‘It’ll take my mind off the game,’” the player told Radcliffe. “Sometimes people think they’re doing all this other stuff, but he wanted a break.”

In another instance, a player was heading to the 2019 AFC Championship game in Kansas City when he slid on ice and hit another car. The player called Radcliffe and told him he’d been involved in an accident. Radcliffe promptly gave an officer the player’s insurance policy. A patrol car was able to get the player to the game in time.

“I think sometimes the fans put these guys on a pedestal and don’t realize they’re just normal people like us,” says Radcliffe.

More Than an Athlete

When PCI expanded to the athlete side in 2010, Radcliffe expected the company would get hit with a lot more claims. The opposite turned out to be true.

By educating insureds at a young age on topics like subsequent permitted users on auto policies or how to mitigate risk, PCI has demonstrated to carriers that players don’t have to be seen as a liability.

“We get our share of clients approved based on those loss ratios,” says Radcliffe. “Other carriers say, ‘We don’t want to specialize in writing a whole bunch of this, but we’ll do it for your guys as long as our loss ratios continue to run globally below 17%.’”

The risk management consultation process begins as soon as a player is drafted. In the months leading up to the draft, a player is often living wherever their agent puts them up. They may or may not have a car, and they may soon become the first in their family to ever own a home.

Because athletes often grow up or go attend college in one state and work professionally in another, it can be tricky for less experienced agents to stay on top of a player’s policy, says Radcliffe. Many of the players who come to PCI have policies that would have never paid out due to their insurance not reflecting their new state of residency.

Radcliffe says P/C insurance for pro athletes remains fragmented. An independent agent who works with one or two players may become starstruck. He recalls meeting a future client whose best friend’s father was a broker for a national captive. The agent used his personal home address to insure the client. The agent never updated the client’s policy once the player got drafted and moved out of state.

“This agent wrote a policy where they were a fan,” says Radcliffe. “They wanted to do right by him, they wanted to take care of him, but in the end they really didn’t.”

One of the lessons Radcliffe and his staff learned early on is to view players as just another insured, not the pro athlete people see on television.

“It’s made football a completely different experience for us,” says Radcliffe. “We take great pleasure in knowing we play a small part behind the scenes keeping these guys out there and protecting the money they’re working so hard to earn. It’s very rewarding.”


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