Kapnick Insurance Group and Ufer & Co. merged three years ago, but it wasn't until they took an 18,000 square-foot concrete eyesore that once showcased a La-Z-Boy furniture store and turned it into a beautiful office building in Ann Arbor, Mich., that the two teams really became one.
The two firms came together when the Kapnick group wanted to "have a bigger presence" in the Ann Arbor area, and Kapnick approached brothers Tom and David Ufer, then co-owners of Ufer & Co.
Even though both organizations were family-oriented and teamwork-based, "every organization operates a little bit differently," said Jim Kapnick, president of Kapnick Insurance Group, a member of the Assurex Global group of insurance brokerages.
"Until we brought everybody together, it was very, very difficult to bring the organization together.
"It changed for the positive," he said, when employees in the two offices moved into the new building about one year ago. That enabled the two organizations to create a joint culture.
"Before," said Tom Ufer, senior vice president at Kapnick, "we couldn't really blend."
Although the new facility displays large logos of the Kapnick Insurance Group at the entrances, it is prominently named the "Ufer Building."
Ufer -- a name well-known in the area and to the University of Michigan football fans, in particular -- refers to Bob Ufer, founder of Ufer & Co., and broadcaster of 362 consecutive Michigan football games, from 1945 until his death in 1981 .
Known as "the voice of 'Meechigan' football," Ufer is in the university's Athletic Hall of Fame, a bronze casting of his likeness adorns the college football stadium, and his distinctive voice and exuberant, openly rooting ways even resulted in the creation of a bobble-head doll and cell-phone ringtones.
Ufer was so well known, his son Tom said, that he was called upon by the White House in 1976 to kick off the re-election campaign of President Gerald Ford, himself a former University of Michigan football player.
Thus, it was important, Kapnick said, that the merged organization highlight the Ufer legacy -- as well as maximize the positive community connections that the Ufer agency had developed since the founding of the boutique operation in 1947. The new facility enhances those connections by opening the large conference room in its new facility for local groups.
A Holistic Approach
The Kapnick Insurance Group is a little unique, Kapnick said, in that 90 percent of its revenue is derived from corporate clients -- split equally between property/casualty and employee benefits. "We use that to leverage ourselves by offering our clients a truly holistic approach," he said.
Most firms Kapnick's size -- it has a total of about 130 employees in Ann Arbor; the "mother base" in Adrian; and in Southfield, a Detroit suburb -- are about 60 percent to 70 percent commercial P/C, Kapnick said.
One example of its holistic approach, he said, is to not only target health management initiatives as a way to reduce health costs for insureds, but by further linking wellness to occupational injury control.
"All of our employee benefit clients that have our health management consulting, have our occupational consulting as well," he said. Wellness initiatives can help reduce workplace injuries, disabilities and even absenteeism, he said, which can have a significant positive impact on workers' comp rates.
"Often," Ufer said, "our benefit team acts as an extension of our client's HR departments." Most of the businesses they target are midmarket, privately held companies, but overall client size can range from about 50 employees to a few thousand employees.
"In the insurance business," he said, "relationships and trust and credibility is huge. ... It's not really selling to the clients as much as educating them about what they didn't have before."
"They are squeezed pretty thin," Kapnick said, "so they need a strong trusted resource and we can do that for them.
"They want centers of excellence on both sides [P/C and employee benefits]," he said. "Our goal is, we want to be best in class on the employee benefits side and we want to be best in class in the property/casualty side. One side is not trumping the other side -- and that's what the client wants."
Moving to the Next Level
While Kapnick said his organization is more apt to grow organically than through acquisition, it opted to pursue the "very strategic" merger with the Ufer agency because Ann Arbor "is a great place to do business, and Tom and David Ufer and their group have a wonderful reputation in the area. That's what really brought us all together.
"That's what we needed to take our firm to the next level and use Ann Arbor as the springboard to do that," he said. "We have been writing a substantial amount of business in that area, just by bringing us together."
The third-generation, family-owned Kapnick agency was named one of the top 100 brokers of U.S. business in 2012 based on revenues generated by U.S.-based clients as well as one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States for the past two years.
"Merging with Kapnick," Ufer said, "has given us access to more markets for commercial and personal lines, in addition to expanding the services we can provide through our benefits department. ... The value add we now bring to our clients in Southeastern Michigan has been incredible.
"It was us times 12," he said, noting that Ufer & Co. had about 10 employees at the time, while Kapnick had about 120.
Kapnick said that most mergers fail. "This was one of the minority that was a huge success," he said. "I don't think we lost anybody. Nobody quit or ran out. Everybody is here and charged up ... and it made both organizations better because of it."
"It was a home run for all parties concerned," Ufer said. "We think the future is unlimited."
ANNE FREEDMAN is senior editor of Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 15, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications