2012 Best Insurance Broker: George Petersen Insurance Agency
Author: Julie Fadda
May, 2012 Issue
Robb Daer, a partner at George Petersen Insurance Agency in Santa Rosa, joined the company 18 years ago. “It was my first and only insurance job, right out of college,” he says. Founded in Eureka in 1935 (yes, by George Petersen, who’s since passed but still gets phone calls, according to Daer), the agency has since branched out to include seven offices throughout the North Coast as well as Auburn, Rancho Cordova and Redding. It also acquired NorthWest Insurance Agency in late 2010, which helped expand its services.
The company offers commercial and personal insurance, employee benefits packages, industry focus and specialty services such as workers’ compensation. So with all that under its belt, what else makes it stand out from the rest? “For sure, it’s the people,” says Daer. “That’s number one. Everyone has input, because there aren’t a lot of management layers. We truly care about people and their families, with a genuine concern for everyone’s well being.” And that positive attitude definitely gets clients’ notice. Another stand out is community involvement.
“We spend a lot of money and time contributing to our community,” says Daer. “We’ve always supported Challenger Little League [for special needs children], the food bank and Salvation Army, among others. We also encourage employee volunteerism.”
Clients also enjoy more services than are offered from competitors, due to the company’s larger size. “Some [clients] have been with us for more than 50 years,” says Daer. And they get a level of service that’s unsurpassed in the industry. “One client recently lost a house due to a fire. We heard about it at 8 a.m. and were there at 8:30. We want people to feel someone’s there when they need help. We feel it’s important to offer as many services as we can to our clients, in addition to just providing coverage,” he says.
“We also have an online portal that gives clients access to relevant topics to make their businesses and employees safer. Clients fear having a claim or having OSHA come in. We want to provide the best possible defense,” says Daer.
Having been around so long, the company has seen a lot of industry changes. “There’s been an emergence of new types of coverage,” says Daer. “Things like disability and wrongful termination used to be rare and expensive. Now they’re more common and affordable. Cyber-liability is also new. If your employee spreads a virus, the company is liable. Or if someone hacks into your secure data, you have to notify everyone who may be affected. If a laptop is stolen, it might hold valuable information. General liability used to cover that stuff, but as claim trends develop, stand-alone policies are created. Also medical costs have been a huge driver in medical and workers’ compensation situations.”
Within the company itself, the merger with NorthWest (which approached them with the idea) provided a hold in the marketplaces it didn’t have, so now the gaps between Sonoma County and Eureka, and even into Napa, have been filled. It also added a construction practice and packages specifically designed for wineries and their supporters. “We can design industry-specific programs for all sorts of industries,” adds Daer.
With about 170 employees (72 in the downtown Santa Rosa office), the company now plans to grow more organically. “We’ve spent a lot of resources, time and money to bring on new people and get them where we want them to be. Now we’re developing younger staff, so when others retire in a few years, we can fill those positions well,” says Daer. “We also support and pay for education for all employees. Our philosophy is all employees are licensed. They need to know what they’re talking about.”
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