In a rapidly consolidating industry, the largest insurance brokerage firm in the Tri-Counties found a way to invest in its future, grow its product offerings and increase its capital base while retaining its regional identity.
Tolman & Wiker, based in Ventura, was acquired by Florida-based firm AssuredPartners for an undisclosed amount in a deal that took effect Feb. 1.
The merger positions the 96-year-old, private tri-county insurance company, which brings in annual revenue of $33 million, within the national network of a $1.1 billion national insurance broker.
CEO Greg Van Ness said the decision to sell the company was a thoughtful process — not based on necessity but rather “to maintain and improve our competitive position and resource delivery that we provide to our clients.”
Van Ness will retain his current role, along with all of the firm’s leadership, and Tolman & Wiker will keep its branding, signage and autonomy.
All 21 partners have equity in the new brokerage, and the selection of AssuredPartners for the acquisition was a unanimous decision among Tolman’s leadership, said Steve Carter, former chairman and a member of the executive leadership team.
“You have to be looking ahead, otherwise you can miss what’s really going to happen,” Carter said of the leadership’s vision to sell the company. “The insurance business hasn’t really, compared to other industries, been impacted as much by technology. It’s coming though — right on the precipice.”
Partnering with AssuredPartners is a way for Tolman & Wiker to tap into industry insight and expertise, broaden its markets and networks, grow its capital and use new resources as technology continues to grow and rapidly shift the boundaries of what the insurance field looks like, said both men in a joint interview with the Business Times.
“The pace of technology is going to accelerate,” Carter said.
Added Van Ness: “And the investment required to keep pace — especially with the best in class.”
Through a merger with AssuredPartners, the Tolman & Wiker leadership team realized it could capitalize on the larger firm’s investments in keeping pace with technology, versus recreating those same gains internally.
The firm, which has 160 licensed agents in the Tri-Counties, offers property, casualty, risk management and alternative risk financing, workers’ compensation, surety bonding, employee benefits and personal insurance. Its core clientele lies in agribusiness, construction, technology, manufacturing, social services and nonprofit sectors from small businesses to large firms.
The new partnership will improve services for existing clients as well as enable the firm to pursue larger and more complex risk assessments and services, said Van Ness.
Throughout the six-month process, the company vetted numerous proposals from national firms, narrowing the candidates down to 12 and then to a few finalists before selecting AssuredPartners.
“The criteria that was super important to us was to improve ourselves and not to lose the things that have made Tolman & Wiker great,” Van Ness said. “We wanted that integration to be with a light touch — minimal friction and maximum platform autonomy, and that’s what we’ve been able to achieve in this process.”
Ultimately, Van Ness said, the people at AssuredPartners have both the expertise and strong character the firm was searching for. From senior-level executives to regional level employees, “they were all the right kind of people,” he said.
Tolman & Wiker’s team will report to Mike Paschke, regional president at AssuredPartners and a Santa Barbara resident.
The acquisition gives the larger firm a foothold in the Southern California marketplace, and Van Ness said Tolman & Wiker selected AssuredPartners for its interest in expanding in the region as opposed to a company buyout and shrinkage.
“We feel that Tolman & Wiker is a great partner for us within a great region,” Tom Riley, AssuredPartners president and COO, said in a news release. “We are looking forward to working with their marvelous team and we extend an earnest welcome to their team members and their clientele.”
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