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Vol. 13, No. 48 Week of November 30, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

AK-WA Connection 2008: Stability in rough economic times

Parker, Smith & Feek: 71-year independent insurance brokerage remains committed to Alaska industry and business

Susan Braund

For the Alaska-Washington Connection

Demand for consulting services is closely tied to the health of the U.S. economy, according to Elizabeth Cornell, business analyst/writer for Hoover’s online business analysis resource. “The profitability of firms depends largely on the special expertise they provide to clients. Large firms can provide a variety of services.”

“Despite economic conditions, we’re still here!” says Parker, Smith & Feek Vice President and Director of Communications Steve Wolf. “After being in business for 71 years, we have a long tradition and trusted reputation. The company is bucking the trend in these tough economic times by taking on additional staff and adding to our customer base in both geography and industry.”

Parker, Smith & Feek provides commercial financial services throughout the western United States, including insurance brokerage, surety bonding, risk management, and consultation. The company specializes in surety bonds for the construction and real estate industries; other practice areas include health care, technology, life sciences, and hospitality. It offers employee benefits, life, property/casualty, liability, workers’ compensation, and other lines of coverage. The firm has offices in Anchorage, Alaska, and Bellevue, Washington.

Charles Parker founded the firm in 1937 as a one-man independent insurance brokerage in Seattle, according to Wolf. Several years later fraternity brother Graham Smith joined him and in the ‘50s Ed Feek completed the team. Parker, Smith & Feek has grown to become one of the 100 largest insurance brokerage firms in the United States. Based in Bellevue, Washington, the firm also has branch offices in Anchorage and Portland.

Wolf joined Parker, Smith & Feek in 1984, following several years in professional services marketing. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in English from Kansas State University and a master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. He manages Parker, Smith & Feek’‘s corporate communications program, including marketing presentations, sales proposals, advertising and public relations.

The independent insurance model

Independent brokers search for the best insurance coverage at the lowest cost for the client, according to the Dictionary of Insurance Terms. “Insurance brokers do not work for insurance companies but for the product buyers, and the broker is not restricted to placing business with any one company.”

“Being a privately owned, independent broker sets us apart from competition. Our customers are very happy with the privately-held model, because we can more flexibly meet their needs,” said Wolf. “Flexibility provides what they need, not what the corporation needs! Corporate firms have more guidelines and limits. Unlike corporate insurance, stock prices or quarterly earnings — especially in today’s economic climate — do not distract us. We are able to stay focused on client needs.”

The firm takes pride in client-focused consulting and long-term strategic planning to address specific needs and objectives.

“We want to provide clients the best information and help them secure the best insurance programs,”“ said Wolf. “Our mission is to help clients make informed risk management decisions and develop innovative insurance, safety and employee benefit solutions uniquely suited to their needs.”

All Parker, Smith & Feek employees are salaried; there exists no commission-based compensation. Employees are recruited for their technical expertise and ability to work as a team, according to company sources. Because the firm’s diverse team of seasoned professionals stays current in the competitive marketplace and trends, it is able to be both forward thinking and objective.

Keeping Pace

“Our hallmark is being proud of the past while always looking to the future,” said Wolf. “In fact, we have already identified our future leaders; the next generation of leaders in is place.”

Part of keeping pace is being technologically aware and innovative. In the last five years the company has received two Technology Achievement Awards for “creative use of technology as applied to insurance brokerage business.”

“Historically insurance is paper intensive, overwhelming to the customer and clogging the office. We have done a lot to streamline the system, making it easier to do business with us,” said Wolf. “We have invested heavily with people and technology to make it work in the customer’s favor”

DigitaLINK is a Parker, Smith & Feek exclusive technology providing real-time access to proprietary insurance portfolio information, an array of dynamic project tracking applications, and customized request resources.

“The proprietary program we developed is really a private client website that allows them to transact business on their personal Web site, check on outstanding claims, a loss report, or just read their policy,” explained Wolf. “It’s all there just for them, including a complete directory of contacts and emergency numbers. It is especially helpful out of standard business hours and on weekends. Client response has been enthusiastic!”

Construction and the Alaska commitment

Historically, Parker Smith & Feek/s business is strongest in all kinds of construction, according to Wolf. “Although we serve a broad spectrum of clients today, construction is still our largest practice today and it’s a big part of our ties to Alaska.”

A recent innovative offering is project-based insurance. “It provides inclusive insurance across a broad cross-section of construction projects, including infrastructure, buildings, industrial projects — the whole gamut,” said Wolf.

“Because of our long-term association and confidence in Alaska, we’re committed to the future of the state,” said Wolf. “For more than 30 years, 22 with an office in Anchorage, Alaska’s businesses have trusted us to provide professional insurance and bonding services. We have continued to grow as Alaska has grown.”

The Anchorage office serves contractors, manufacturers, Alaska Native Corporations social services agencies, retail stores, and a host of commercial businesses, offering a full array of insurance and risk management services including business insurance, marine insurance, surety bonds, group medical and dental plans, 401(k) plans, business succession planning, and life insurance.

Legendary service

After 71 years, Parker, Smith and Feek’s reputation for client service is legendary. The firm takes the term “full service broker” seriously. “Our intent is to develop a trusted-advisor relationship with every client and to be available to them,” said Wolf. “We invest in the technologies that give our clients access to us and to maximize our ability to communicate with them. We’re here!”



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