The latest deal by the community bank consortium that has been buying up insurance agencies across Virginia will probably be its last for a while.
Gibson Agency in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Va., will give the 67 banks in the consortium critical mass in insurance, said Bruce T. Whitehurst, the deputy executive vice president of the Virginia Bankers Association. VBA Management Services Inc., a subsidiary of the trade group, manages the consortium, Bankers Insurance LLC.
Bankers Insurance had been seeking an agency in the Washington area because that is a key market, Mr. Whitehurst said. The group is not actively seeking more acquisitions, he said.
"This is a good place to be, in terms of the initial objective for growth and supporting the banks."
The Gibson agency would be the sixth acquired by the two-year-old consortium. The deal, announced July 9, is expected to close in October. The price was not disclosed.
Gibson is a full-service agency offering property and casualty, life, and health insurance. Buying it would give Bankers Insurance a total of 13 offices in Virginia and one in North Carolina.
The five agencies that Bankers Insurance already owns are Blue Ridge Insurance Group in Wytheville; Insurance Partners of Virginia in Staunton; Welton, Duke & Hawks in Portsmouth; Valley Insurance in Lexington; and Washington, Chichester & Clark in Fredericksburg.
Bankers Insurance, which changed its name from Virginia Bankers Insurance Center in late November, was formed in 1999 to acquire insurance agencies on behalf of its 67 owner banks. The agencies help the banks sell insurance to their customers.
Each of the consortium's member banks has one agent assigned to work with the bank's loan officers and sell commercial property-casualty insurance to small-business clients. If other opportunities are identified - such as a need for group health - that main agent will bring in other specialists, Mr. Whitehurst said.
The consortium also plans to expand its efforts outside of the small-business channel. It has hired a marketing manager for personal lines who will spend the rest of this year analyzing ways the banks could market insurance to individuals, Mr. Whitehurst said.
James Campbell, a senior vice president of Atlanta-based Reagan Consulting Inc. who has worked with Bankers Insurance on its acquisitions, said the consortium's decision to start with commercial lines was smart. "It's the best way to leverage acquired agencies," he said, because "the typical independent insurance agency is predominately oriented toward commercial lines."
He said there is a natural transition from selling commercial insurance to small businesses to selling personal lines insurance to the owners of those businesses.
Carmen Effron, the president of C.F. Effron, the Westport, Conn., bank-insurance consulting firm, said a consortium such as the Virginia one provides a great opportunity for small banks, especially those too small to buy an agency on their own.
However, she said, the consortium needs to make sure it is buying agencies that are flexible enough to work with a variety of banks.
Each bank may have a slightly different customer base, and need or want a slightly different sales approach, she said, and so the agents that work for the consortium must be astute enough to recognize and work with these differences.