with its second agency acquisition deal in five months.
On Thursday the banking company announced a deal for Clearwater, Fla.-based Roger Bouchard Insurance Co., one of the largest agencies in the state. The companies are to swap an undisclosed amount of stock in a tax-free pooling of interests.
With 60 employees and 1998 gross commissions of more than $6 million, Bouchard would be the largest Florida agency ever acquired by a banking company, according to industry experts. The deal is expected to close by yearend.
"It's substantially larger than anything Barnett did," said Robert L. Nellson, a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., managing director at DeHayes Consulting Group, who ran the insurance operation at the former Barnett Banks Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla.
FNB made its first move into insurance in June when it announced the acquisition of Gelvin, Jackson & Starr, an agency in Meadville, Pa. This agency anchors FNB's operations in the North just as Bouchard is to do in the South, said Stephen J. Gurgovits, FNB vice chairman.
Mr. Gurgovits said he sought an outstanding agency to anchor FNB's ambitions in the region.
Bouchard "is a premium agency that has superior financial results and the same commitment to customer service that FNB has," he said.
The agency was founded by Roger Bouchard in 1948 and is now run by his sons, Rick, Tim, and Ray. Many agencies bought by banks have older owners who retire when they sell or shortly afterward. But in this deal youth was a factor, Mr. Gurgovits said.
"This company is 52 years old, started by their dad, and these three people are young and excited to build the business," Mr. Gurgovits said.
At 45, Rick Bouchard is the oldest sibling. He said his family saw the opportunity when FNB came knocking. "They have 80,000 FNB customers that are prospects for us," Mr. Bouchard said. FNB, meanwhile, should get some business from Bouchard's 3,500 customers, Mr. Gurgovits said.
But Mr. Gurgovits declined to discuss penetration targets. "I'm more interested in creating a referral program that works than in hitting some target," he said.
The agency has a long history of success, said John M. Wepler, a principal at Concord, Ohio-based Marsh Berry Co., a management consulting firm. "It's probably one of the best agencies I've ever dealt with," said Mr. Wepler, who brokered the deal.
About 70% of Bouchard's revenues come from commercial lines of business; personal lines account for the rest. Mr. Gurgovits said banks' close ties to commercial customers can lead to insurance sales. And Gelvin Jackson is already doing better than expected, largely on referrals of commercial customers, he said.