A story of smart and sustainable growth
Founded in 1887, Shoff Darby Insurance Agency is a part of history in the state of Connecticut, where the business began over 130 years ago.
“We started out with our home base in the Norwalk area, and over the years our course has been one of smart, sustainable growth,” explains Bill Pierz, President of Shoff Darby. “We’ve grown both organically and through acquisitions, but it’s always been important to us to maintain a sense of unity and stay close to the community at every turn.”
With offices in Norwalk, Stamford, Fairfield, Trumbull, North Haven, Milford and Wilton, the agency has an impressive footprint throughout the Constitution State, with a reach that extends much further. Shoff Darby’s agents are licensed in all 48 of the contiguous US states, allowing them to serve their clients with coverage options and outstanding service throughout the country.
For an agency with such a long tenure, the last few decades have been a time of exceptional growth. In his 31 years at Shoff Darby, Bill has seen the agency grow from a team of 12 dedicated employees into a flourishing business with over $100 million in premium volume.
While the agency started out offering life and disability insurance, Shoff Darby now offers a full slate of Life & Health benefits, as well as Personal and Commercial insurance. The agency also has a specialty focus in serving businesses in the Entertainment and Technology sectors.
“We generate most of our business through referrals from our customers,” says Bill, who explains that the agency also brings new producers and agencies on board often to broaden its reach. “First and foremost, we look for a culture fit in each opportunity,” he explains. “We also tend to keep offices open when we bring on a new agency, and expand rather than consolidate our presence.” As the team has grown, this approach has allowed them to scale their capabilities, but keep a close-knit, community-first feel.
Stability, consistency and problem-solving
Above all, the team at Shoff Darby considers themselves problem-solvers. A deep understanding of the insurance coverages they offer comes first and foremost. The team’s corporate officers have nearly 200 years of combined industry experience. For new employees, a focus on continuing education is key to delivering deep expertise and consistent value to clients. In fact, 90% of team members at Shoff Darby are licensed insurance agents. “We want our team to talk to our clients from a fountain of knowledge,” explains Bill.
Teresa Goncalves, Shoff Darby’s Vice President, High Net Worth Department, has been with the firm for more than 16 years and has witnessed firsthand how this approach makes for a difference. “I love working in personal insurance. I have done so for my entire career,” explains Teresa, who is a self-proclaimed ‘insurance aficionado.’
“Working at Shoff Darby, and working with successful clients, I always feel engaged, because it is a space that’s always challenging and always changing,” Teresa describes.
Shoff Darby’s personal insurance clients tend to have sophisticated exposures, such as high-value primary homes, out-of-state or international secondary residences and fine art and jewelry collections. Advising individuals and families with complex portfolios like these is one of Teresa’s favorite parts of the job.
“The more complicated an account is, the more excited I get,” she explains. “It feels a lot like finishing a puzzle. When I think about the solution, I want to figure out something that works seamlessly for the client.”
Teresa’s enthusiasm is something her clients have come to appreciate time and time again. “It’s important that when you are selling an insurance product that the client can feel how excited you are about that solution,” she adds.
A tale of two providers
One thing that Teresa and her colleagues at Shoff Darby help clients understand is the importance of selecting a provider who is suited to their needs and offers a depth of coverage and service that they can count on at the time of a covered claim.
Teresa recalls one case where a different provider choice yielded two very different outcomes for a client who experienced two similar damage events.
“In the first instance, the client held a policy from a higher-end provider. When the sump pump in his basement broke down in a covered event, the water caused significant damage to his possessions. His provider swiftly covered his losses, minus the deductible, of course,” she recalls.
When it came time to renew the policy, however, the client found cost savings in switching to a different carrier.
“Disaster struck again when heavier-than-normal rainfall flooded his basement for a second time, causing a second covered claim,” explains Teresa. “But this time around, the client was asked for exhaustive photos and receipts that he had trouble producing. The claims process was much more difficult, and not surprisingly, he soon returned to the original provider.”
Teresa explains that while there are many factors that go into selecting the right insurance carrier, an investment in dependability and service is often a wise choice.
Bill agrees, “We show clients the value add of choosing a particular insurance solution, and help them choose the best fit for them. After all, the product really shows up at the time of a claim.”
When asked about Shoff Darby’s culture, Bill explains that the firm’s philosophy is simple. “We care about our staff, and we care about our clients,” he says proudly.
This familiar, family-like atmosphere is one reason why many team members have chosen careers at Shoff Darby that last 10, 20 or 30+ years. “There’s a lot that we do together as a team, both in and out of the office,” Bill adds.
Shoff Darby is also heavily involved in community outreach and philanthropic initiatives. For instance, every October, the team rallies together and wears pink once per week to show support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Bill is also Chairman of the Board for Kids in Crisis, an outreach program that Shoff Darby has been involved with for more than a decade. The program provides much-needed housing, medical, educational and therapeutic support services to underserved and underprivileged children.
On weekends, team members have also become a fixture at local road races and cycling rides. Shoff Darby’s Facebook page displays an active team participating frequently in races such as Project Purple, the Vicki Soto Memorial 5k, and Closer to Free, a cycling ride with 10 to 100 mile courses that winds along the Connecticut shoreline, raising money for cancer research and patient care.
A new relationship
When it comes to carrier partnerships, Shoff Darby strives to work with providers whose high-touch service mirrors the firm’s own culture of placing policyholders first.
“We treat our clients and our carriers alike, and we value the work we do together,” explains Bill. “It’s all about the relationship.”
With this approach to partnerships, it’s no surprise that when Berkley One, a Berkley Company and new personal insurance provider, introduced coverage in Connecticut, Shoff Darby was one of their very first agents in the state.
Though their relationship is new, both organizations bring familiarity and respect to the partnership. Bill has strong relationships within Berkley One’s leadership team, as well as with the senior management team at W. R. Berkley Corporation, as Shoff Darby also works with several Berkley member companies who specialize in the commercial space.
“There really is no ‘getting-to-know-you’ period with Berkley One, because Berkley is already a trusted name in commercial coverage,” Teresa adds.
Now that Berkley One is open for business in Connecticut, both teams are looking forward to a new year together. Adds Bill, “I’ve been waiting for Berkley One to launch in personal insurance for a long time.”
Shoff Darby Insurance Agency offers Personal Insurance, Business Insurance, Life & Health Insurance, Entertainment Insurance and Transportation Insurance. The agency is based in Norwalk, CT, and has offices in Stamford, CT, Fairfield, CT, Trumbull, CT, North Haven, CT, Milford, CT and Wilton, CT.