Expected experts and old-school advocates

An agency spotlight on Henderson Brothers

Henderson Brothers has been in business since 1893, and though they didn’t start out in insurance work, they quickly adopted it. In fact, they have one of the most unique stories in the industry. The company began in the barge business for cargo transport, where they were known as the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line. Their work shifted when Captain James Henderson got an idea to insure the cargo being transported on his barges. Captain Henderson’s idea proved to be an astute and popular one, and soon other companies wanted to insure their cargo as well. This new area of the business developed rapidly, proving to be so lucrative that the company sold their physical barges and began working exclusively to insure cargo. In a move quite unique in the industry, an insurance agency was born.

Since this early pivot to fill a business need, Henderson Brothers has continued to adapt their practices to best serve clients. It’s an approach that has earned the Pittsburgh-based agency the trust of clients for over 125 years. Today, Henderson Brothers offers a full suite of insurance products, including commercial insurance, personal insurance, employee benefits, and retirement and wealth management consulting services. As they’ve developed expertise in each of these areas, the company has also developed and dedicated itself to its famous tag line, “Expect an Expert.”


A business that feels like family


One crucial value that has stayed with Henderson Brothers throughout their long history is to keep a family business feel with a traditional, “old-school” service mentality. “The owners are in the office every day personally interacting with employees and clients, and nothing goes to voicemail,” Operations Manager Peter Valotta says firmly. Henderson Brothers began as a family business, and it’s important to them that clients feel like family, too. That means that from the moment a client comes on board, their insurance team at Henderson works with them as allies, whether that’s helping them secure the best coverage, manage complex family risks, or get things resolved quickly when they have a claim. In fact, claims service stays open 24 hours a day, working weekend and overnight shifts so clients always have an agent to call.

At Henderson Brothers, the team feels like family.

This personal commitment makes a big difference. In fact, Henderson Brothers was just recognized as a 2019 Family Business Award winner by the Pittsburgh Times. “Just like having a good financial planner, having a really good insurance consultant is extremely important to a household,” Peter explains. Many employees have worked at Henderson for a long time, building close and meaningful client bonds. “We’ve had several instances where our associates have even attended clients’ weddings,” he adds with pride.


Defining expertise


Another driver of Henderson’s service-first mentality is good, old-fashioned expertise. In every relationship, the team looks not only to advise clients, but also to educate them. At Henderson, explains Peter, there is no “typical” client—insureds have profiles that include many lines of business, residences in multiple states, multigenerational families and successful businesses. Sports devotees appreciate that professional hockey, baseball, and football athletes trust Henderson as their insurance advisors, too.

To serve a diverse clientele, Henderson’s team of 160+ associates are trained to understand insurance from the inside out and think comprehensively about coverage. “If we want to do everything right by our clients, it begins with educating our people,” says Peter. That means investing in continuing education, providing student loan and tuition reimbursement, developing webinars and transferring knowledge through one-on-one training. The mission to be a source of leadership and know-how permeates through every person and every part of the company. “When I log into my computer every day, it says, ‘Be the Expert,’” says Peter. “It’s been our motto for over a century.”


Mind the gap


Henderson’s deep knowledge pays off when reviewing clients’ coverage. The agency provides a comprehensive insurance review for clients that looks at their insurance holistically. “We looks for gaps and work with clients to maximize their insurance coverages to provide peak performance,” Peter says.

Take homeowners insurance. “Pittsburgh is a unique market,” he elaborates. “Often the cost to rebuild or restore a home that is damaged—especially one with high-end features—is higher than the price it might sell for on the market. We find that many clients come to us underinsured, with gaps they may not even know they have. We can help counsel them.”

Another area of focus is liability. Peter explains that it’s not uncommon for families with college-aged drivers to unknowingly have a coverage gap after young drivers obtain their own auto insurance, yet still live in the household. While the parents may have broad auto coverage, if their children purchase only state minimum limits, or worse, don’t maintain these minimums, there can be a gap where the family’s excess liability coverage does not cover them in the event of a large claim. Henderson’s Experts can help families understand their coverage, so insurance gaps don’t turn into a serious problem later. “We share examples, run reports, and publish blog posts on things clients need to know,” adds Peter. “We want to educate people however we can.”


Creating connections


With this focus on outreach and education, it’s no surprise that from their Pennsylvania headquarters, Henderson brings their old-school advocacy to both national and global stages through their strong partnerships.

The agency is part of Assurex Global, the world’s largest privately held personal insurance, commercial insurance, and employee benefits brokerage group. With almost 50 independent agent partners across North America, Assurex encompasses a strong global network in which Henderson is an active and prominent contributor. That network, in turn, enables Henderson to serve clients with compound international risks, access local market knowledge to assist clients in diverse geographies, and multiply the resources they share when it comes to thought leadership and education.

Another key is maximizing relationships with the insurance providers whose products and services Henderson brings to clients. “Our clients have high standards for service and so do we.” explains Peter. “When I look at bringing on a new provider, I ask, ‘How will it solve a problem for our clients?’” So when Henderson learned that Berkley One, a new insurance provider for modern, successful individuals and families, was launching in Pennsylvania, the agency wanted to find out more. “We appreciated how Berkley One combines multiple lines of business, including an annual travel product,” explained Peter, “And we liked how their approach is flexible and creative.” That simplified approach, coupled with new coverages like travel, offered their clients options that weren’t available before in Pennsylvania, he explains. Problem solved. Expert to Expert.

We’re excited to feature Henderson Brothers as a valued partner with Berkley One, and for our relationship to grow so that more clients in Western Pennsylvania and beyond have the Experts and insurance advocates they need.

Henderson Brothers offers commercial insurance, personal insurance, employee benefits, and retirement and wealth management consulting services. The agency is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.