Christy Wolf has been involved with Innkeepers insurance for decades, co-founding the Wolf Innkeepers Insurance Program in 1988. The Wolf Innkeepers Insurance program offered insurance coverage to B&B's, Inns, Boutique Hotels and Resorts. She contributes articles to various Innkeepers trade journals/newsletters and has attended hundreds of Innkeepers conferences throughout the country where she has conducted seminars on Innkeepers insurance. The Wolf Innkeepers Insurance program was endorsed by local, state, regional and national associations and Christy has written insurance manuals for many of these associations. Christy is known as the authority on Innkeepers insurance.
Over the decades, the Wolf Innkeepers Insurance program grew to be the largest writer of Innkeepers Insurance in the nation offering the most complete coverage. In 2008, the Wolf's sold to CBIZ and Christy was retained to run the program. In 2017, CBIZ dropped the Wolf name. In 2018, Christy left CBIZ to open her own company: Innkeepers Insurance Review.
For over 30 years, when talking with Innkeepers, the same lament was heard: I don’t know what coverage I need, I don’t know if I am insured correctly, and…I don’t know how to compare the different proposals I have received. Christy saw a need and created Innkeepers Insurance Review.
It is not all business. Christy, with her husband and 2 children, operates a small farm in the foothills of Western Maryland. In addition to the farm animals (dairy goats, pigs, meat chickens, laying hens, turkeys, horses), Christy has an extensive garden and orchard that provide much of the family’s food; she cans and freezes vegetables, fruits, jellies, jams, butters, sauces, and relishes—she typically “puts up” over 220 ears of corn and 150 pints of beans every year.
She is very active in 4-H and is the leader of the Frederick County 4-H Goat Club and the Frederick County 4-H Equine Club. For the Great Frederick Fair, she is a 4-H Goat Superintendent and a 4-H Equine Superintendent. She is the coach of the Frederick County 4-H Horse Bowl team and coordinator for the Frederick County 4-H Horse Judging team; she is also involved in the 4-H Equine program at the State level. Christy is active at church and leads the Youth Group, Youth Choir, and Mission trips. She also coaches boys’ basketball and is the on-field statistician for the Linganore High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse team. She loves to act, choreograph and direct; her directing stints include: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Annie”, “Into the Woods”, “Wizard of Oz” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.
Christy enjoys primitive camping, boating, swimming, skiing, fishing, hunting, traveling, the ocean, gardening, reading, eating, sports, and being on the farm. Christy also loves to cook, bake and to entertain; it’s not uncommon to go to one of her parties where she has prepared a spread for over 100 people----the more the merrier is her creed as she loves to be surrounded by her family and friends.
If you would like a better understanding as to how Christy’s developed her expertise in Innkeeping insurance and her extensive affiliation with the Innkeeping industry, please continue reading about the Wolf Innkeepers Insurance program.
The Wolf Innkeepers Insurance Program
The Wolf Innkeepers Insurance Program was started by the father and daughter team of Jim and Christy Wolf; both of whom entered the “Program World” with well-established insurance roots. In 1962, Jim Wolf started his career with the Aetna Claims Department in Des Moines Iowa; in 1968 he was transferred to Baltimore to open the Aetna’s Bonding Department and eventually started his own insurance agency.
Having graduated from the University of Maryland in 1984 with 2 degrees (one in Marketing and one in Business Administration); Christy started her career with the Fidelity & Deposit Company as a surety, fidelity and judicial bond underwriter; she moved on to the independent agency arena working in the property and casualty division for both Marsh & McLennan and MIMS of Towson, MD. Christy completed the PIA Insurance program at Drake University in Des Moines IA and obtained her Certified Insurance Counselor designation; she also received the Jack R. Bagwell Fellowship for International Insurance.
In 1988 Jim purchased a book of business and brought Christy in to operate it---Jim showed no favoritism and put his daughter on a 100% commission basis. At that point in time, the agency was a 50/50 split between commercial and personal lines with an emphasis on contractors. If you were in the industry in the late 1980’s, you remember the soft market and the collapse of the construction industry—Jim and Christy were giving more money back at audit than they were taking in at renewal.
At that time, Jim was on the National Advisory Board for Transamerica Insurance Company and Transamerica was pushing program business. While Jim and Christy were interested in developing a program, every type of business they deemed “program worthy” was already being covered by a BOP (Business Owners Policy) product. The BOP had just recently been introduced and every company had a BOP with literally hundreds of acceptable classes.
And then serendipity struck: while a guest at a Bed and Breakfast, Jim was asked by the owner to offer a quote on their insurance. It only took a quick glance at the Innkeepers policy for Christy and Jim to know they had their program. Jim and Christy spent several months talking with Innkeepers, researching the demographics of the Innkeeping industry, and compiling loss information; they took their findings to Transamerica who was thrilled with the program idea. In order to put together a policy which would address all of the Innkeepers needs (homeowners, business, and the added coverage necessary for overnight guests), insurance forms were reviewed reaching well into the archives. Since there was no vehicle which contained all of the coverage Jim and Christy wanted for their program, they wrote an Innkeepers Endorsement and submitted it to all 50 Insurance Commissioners for approval.
In 1989, after all of the policy forms and premium rates were approved by all 50 Insurance Commissioners and Jim and Christy obtained their producer and surplus lines licenses in every state, they were ready to write their first policy. Their creed was as follows: Adjust the Loss Before it Occurs! Meaning: make sure the correct endorsements and coverage are on the policy. If an Innkeeper does want to purchase an available coverage, explain the ramifications of not having that coverage. Make the Innkeeper aware of the exclusions so there are no surprises in the event of a loss. If coverage for a particular exposure is not available, make sure the Innkeeper realizes no coverage exists…educate, educate, educate.
At first it was just Jim, Christy, and a receptionist. Every one wore multiple hats including rating by hand and policy typist (yes, on a typewriter, in quintuplicate). The Wolf Innkeepers Insurance program soon became the largest writer of Inns in the nation whose name was synonymous with excellent coverage, excellent service and THE authority on Innkeepers Insurance. Integrity was always the top priority.
The program was moved from Transamerica to Fireman’s Fund as Fireman’s Fund offered many things Transamerica was not including an automated rating and policy issuance system, mechanical breakdown coverage, and a $1,000,000 umbrella for $150.
Jim and Christy advertised in every possible publication as well as sponsoring and attending every Innkeepers Conference in every corner of the country. At the conferences they would be at their booth, in the vendor hall, from 6:00 in the morning until very late at night sponsoring everything from breakfasts, coffee breaks, cocktail hour and dinner. For the first 8 years of the program, they were on the road between 20 and 30 weeks every year meeting innkeepers and discussing their insurance needs.
During the conferences, Christy was usually asked to conduct a seminar on insurance; she was happy to do so as the better educated the Innkeeper, the more likely they would be to purchase the Wolf product.
The Wolf program was endorsed by the majority of the Associations and in most instances, Jim and Christy were asked to write insurance “manuals” for the Association handbooks. After formal proposals, in-depth interviews and stiff competition, the Innkeepers program received an exclusive endorsement from the Independent Innkeepers Association (now Select Registry), an American version of Relais & Chateaux.
In the mid-90’s, another family member joined the business: Scott Wolf. Scott was a summa cum laude economics graduate of Harvard. Along with Scott, Jim and Christy decided to go a step further and formed an Off-Shore Captive in the Caymans (at that time, only three states had On-Shore Captives). A Captive Manager was hired, a Front Company was procured, a Reinsurance Market was found and rates and coverage forms were filed in every state.
By the time the Captive was formed, Jim and Christy had sold their personal and commercial lines of business, purchased the B&B books of their two largest B&B competitors, and had a staff of 28. They also created an Innsitters Insurance Program as well as a D&O policy for the various local, state, regional, and national Inn associations.
The one thorn in the side was claims adjusting; the services of a national claims adjusting company were being utilized but the service was not up to the Wolf’s standards. The only tangible the Innkeeper was buying was claims servicing; therefore, the claims process had to be spot on. Not being satisfied with any claims adjusting service available on the market, the Wolf’s formed their own claims company, Claims Management international (CMI)….customer satisfaction increased significantly.
For some time, the Wolf’s knew more accounts would be sold if access to the program was granted to other agents. Time after time they were told by potential clients “I love your program but I want a local agent”. The reasons for wanting a local agent were many: the Innkeeper wanted to be face to face with their agent, they felt more comfortable with a local agent in the event of a claim, the local agent brought business to the Inn, they were related to or good friends of the local agent…etc., etc., etc. Therefore, a brokerage company, Old Line Insurance, was established allowing agents to have access to the Wolf Innkeepers Insurance Program.
Wanting to capture more business, the program was expanded to include coverage for resorts, spa services, event centers, Dude Ranches, and many other outdoor activities. During this time, Christy received the Jack R. Bagwell Fellowship for International Insurance.
And then the dark days came. In one day 7 Inns were lost to a wildfire; a few months later, another Inn was lost to fire and 2 guests were killed. The captive managers had not taken into consideration such catastrophic losses and there was not enough in reserves…to top it off, the reinsurance company and the front company were lost. The carriers were replaced with an insurance company with dramatically higher rates; because of the premium increases, existing business was non-renewing and no new business was being written. Instead of making money on new business and renewals to offset the catastrophic losses, accounts were being lost at an alarming rate.
The catastrophic losses made the Wolf’s take a hard look at the underwriting; in the early 2000’s new requirements were put into place for egress and a new system was implemented to better underwrite brush fire areas. Since the implementation of the stricter requirements, no guests have been killed in a fire nor have any Inns been lost to brush/wild fires.
Christy, Scott, and Jim decided they no longer wanted to be involved with a captive and engaged Great American as the program carrier. In 2006, seeking better rates and coverage, Lloyds of London and Tudor/Western World were engaged as the carriers. In 2008, the Wolf’s sold the agency and program to CBIZ; although CBIZ was now the agency, the Wolf’s continued to run the Innkeepers program and developed a Vacation Rental program. CBIZ still has an Innkeepers Insurance program and a Vacation Rental program; however, it is no longer called the “Wolf” program and none of the family members remain.
In 2018, Christy left CBIZ to open her own company: Innkeepers Insurance Review.