High Hopes - Exceeded

By Terry Miller

About Terry Miller Managing Director, Aviation:

Terry Miller joined Risk Strategies in the 2020 acquisition of the aviation-focused brokerage he founded, Transport Risk Management.

High Hopes - Exceeded

My history with aviation and risk management begins in the Marine Corps, serving as a signals intelligence operator on aircraft operating in the Aleutian Islands near Russia. After the Marines, I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the “Harvard of aviation,” in Prescott, AZ, majoring in aviation business administration and safety with a minor in accident investigation.

Hoping to become a pilot, I took a job running the charter operations of a Phoenix aviation company, where I also handled the insurance. The more I dealt with the intricacies and complexities of insurance and risk, the more interested I became. Facing a market with more pilots than jobs, I began chatting up our aviation broker about what a career in insurance might be like.

Eventually I secured an underwriting position in Scottsdale with a carrier expanding into the market. A couple years in, feeling I was better suited to consulting and selling, I moved to the broker side of the business where I gravitated to larger commercial accounts. When that brokerage sought a West Coast presence, they asked me to head up the effort. Based out of Santa Barbara, I spent weeks on end driving the West Cost, north-to-south and back, cold-calling at every airport I could find.

After moving to another brokerage and seeing the aviation insurance industry consolidate and change after September 11, I decided I had some good ideas about doing things a bit better. So, in 2003 I moved to Colorado and founded Transport Risk Management in partnership with the founder of Swift Transportation, the largest trucking company in the world.

Focusing on becoming not the biggest, but the best, I made some selective acquisitions, creating the foundation for our success. In 2008, as drones became more prevalent, we developed some unique capabilities and offerings including short term non-owned aviation insurance, which was a big hit for film production. In 2010, we expanded our capabilities further by acquiring a Dallas-based company with deep expertise in rotor-wing aircraft. Eventually, we developed three main lines of business: demand aviation, drone and unmanned aircraft, and non-owned aviation.

Our unique offerings, dedicated talent, focused expertise, strong market relationships, and 24/7 client service built a great reputation and growing success. Which slowly became a practical problem. As owner and principal I filled many roles. Terry Miller was IT. Terry Miller was Human Resources. Terry Miller was production. Terry Miller was office management. Also, a small agency requires “wedding planning” every three years - the arduous process of reviewing, renegotiating or changing the underlying systems keeping the business running. It was getting so that I didn’t want to be Terry Miller anymore. The writing was on the wall. To build volume and really thrive, Transport Risk needed to be part of something bigger.

The market was definitely interested. We were one of the last viable, stand-alone specialist aviation insurance and risk management brokers. But I wanted more than relief from operational overload. For myself, our extremely dedicated employees, and the clients who trusted us, I wanted a way to grow the business that preserved the unique character of what we’d built.

Transport Risk’s specialized market position gave us years of working insight into the people and operations of the brokerages interested in acquiring the business. We did extensive due diligence and took multiple meetings with a number of big players who were very interested in acquiring Transport Risk. We went with Risk Strategies for one key reason. They actually wanted the business - the people, the office, the operations, the culture, all of it.

In discussion with the other leading contenders, by contrast, it was apparent that they were focused on acquiring the client base. They pretty much wanted the password to the agency management system and that would be it. Transport Risk would disappear into an existing practice and everything I’d built would be gone. Our people would be left to find their way.

We had extensive insight into the Risk Strategies specialty focus, but they were by far the best professionals to deal with - every product line, every practice, every office, from Entertainment to Personal Lines. They also had a collaborative approach to the business – very team oriented. Mike Christian and the M&A team made it clear, our people and operations would become part of the company. Risk Strategies would be both a great cultural fit for Transport Risk and we’d be their first foray into aviation. Our name might go away over time, but what we built would be perfectly positioned to live on and grow.

The support the team at Risk Strategies provided for our team after the acquisition went well above anything that I would have ever expected. They definitely exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join Risk Strategies. It was the right decision at the right time for me, for our clients and for the TRM team.

I live in a town with 250 people. I drive by my office to get to the grocery store. Everybody in town knows our business. When I’m done, I want to know what I built will continue. By joining Risk Strategies, I know it will.