The Brothers Jubinville Cover All the Bases for Their Customers
Cary, left, and David Jubinville say integrity in the insurance industry and respect for a committed staff set their insurance group apart from the competition.
As he awaited the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc in many Northeast and Midwest states but was a relative non-event in Western Mass., Cary Jubinville couldn’t help but think back to 2011 and the weather calamities that didn’t miss the area.
“It was terrible … horrible,” said Cary, president of Jubinville Insurance Group in South Hadley, referring to everything from the June 1 tornado to the freak October snowstorm. “I don’t think we’ve ever had clients so adversely affected; it was an unbelievable year.”
While he can smile now, ruefully, about those events, Cary and his brother David, vice president and treasurer of the firm, said 2011 was a test of the firm’s abilities and patience, one they believe it passed easily — and, while doing so, gained confidence that will serve it well in the years and decades to come.
“Of course, we’re weather-dependent, but hopefully it reaffirmed that we provide a tremendous value to our clients,” said Cary.
While most of the firm’s clients, many centered in the South Hadley area, didn’t feel the brunt of the tornado (a few Monson clients did lose their homes to the June 1 twister), or any damage from a later earthquake, many experienced the ice-dam issues at the start of 2011. But it was the power outages in October that put almost all clients — and the company — in a deep freeze.
“We had no power, like everyone else, and on Sunday morning we knew we had to do something because the calls were already coming in and Chicopee was the only town with partial power,” explained David. “So we went to a hotel in Chicopee and set up our laptops, had the office phones forwarded to my cell phone, and we were up and running by Monday. But, ultimately, that’s why we’re here.”
And the Jubinville brothers have been there for their clients since joining their father, Bill, in the business in 1976. Starting in 1954, Bill, now retired, worked for two decades in what was then Allen S. White Insurance Agency, founded in 1937. In 1975, he had first right of refusal to purchase the business, which he did, and was joined less than a year later by Cary and David.
More than three decades later, the team has survived 2011, Sandy, and typical daily claims that are the real measure of the company’s strong record for customer service.
For this focus on the insurance industry, BusinessWest talked at length with the Jubinville brothers about everything from their self-described strongest asset — their staff of 15, many of whom have been with the company for more than a decade — to the many ways they give back to the community.
Growth — at a Premium
Like many small independent insurance firms, the Jubinville company has grown and evolved the years, changing as the industry and technology have changed.
The Jubinville Insurance Group is made up of two separate corporations: White-Jubinville Insurance Agency (the name change from Allen S. White occurred in 1979), and Baerman-Jubinville Insurance Agency (Henry Baerman Agency was a local Granby agency purchased by Bill Jubinville in 1977).
Both companies were branded as the Jubinville Insurance Group over the past 10 years as more of a change of letterhead and phone greeting, said Cary.
The principal focus of consumer products the group offers is general property and casualty insurance (individual auto, home, and all the items that go with personal lines), and life insurance. For business owners large and small, products include all the aspects of business insurance: property and liability, workers’ comp, commercial auto, and excess liability.
Proving the age-old theory that it’s good to sell more products to the customers who already trust you, the brothers now have a wide range of group products (such as health, life, and short- and long-term disability plans) to offer.
“Group products have been more of a focus for us over the past five years,” said Cary. “We wanted to offer more to our existing clients, and given the way the economy has been and with the deregulation of Massachusetts auto insurance and the way the commercial-insurance marketplace has been, up until this year, it’s been a boon for insurance buyers, who have seen their costs go down fairly substantially over the past five years.”
As dramatic changes in the insurance industry have altered not only the rates for buyers — which, in the case of Massachusetts car owners, are now lower — they have also affected the profitability and thresholds that smaller agencies need to make when dealing with large insurance companies. As with any industry, strength comes through volume.
“We’re in what I’ll call an expanded joint venture with other locally owned insurance-agency partners,” Cary told BusinessWest. About eight years ago, he explained, Jubinville Insurance Group joined five agencies, which soon after joined with another group of five agencies to become 10. The ten agencies, of varying sizes, are equal partners under a limited-liability company called Alliance Main Street LLC.
The LLC allows Jubinville and the other agencies, from the Springfield area to the Berkshires and Worcester, to manage multiple polices under one name, thus giving more clout to the LLC.
Both brothers say this trend is becoming more common in the insurance industry and is a way for give smaller firms, by virtue of more entities, the ability to collectively support relationships with more insurance companies than they would have been able to do if Jubinville was just operating as a single entity.
“Insurance is the law of large numbers, and the bigger the pool is, the more predictable the results are,” explained Cary. “Our results, by being a member of a bigger pool, are heightened. What it ultimately means for our clients is more choices.”
When asked how Jubinville Insurance Group is unique, Cary did not hesitate.
“We’re different because of our professional staff and our continuing focus on insurance education, and the corresponding high standards of insurance professionalism,” he told BusinessWest.
In fact, that very day, the staff had just celebrated the bookkeeper’s 17th year with a bouquet of flowers and a gift certificate.
“We have a staff that has a lot of longevity working here,” Cary added, as David good-naturedly knocked on wood.
“I think the minimum amount of years here for our employees is 10 years,” added David, before questioning his own math. He paused to go find the ‘anniversary chart’ that the two have created to keep track of each employee’s tenure. The chart proved 10 was indeed the minimum; outside of the brothers, just over 25 was the longest tenure among the staff of 15.
Dorothy Dykes, the commercial lines manager, has been with the firm since 1978, taking a break for a few years to start a family, and then returning to work part-time before advancing to full-time as her children grew. She said that, over her 24 years with the firm, it was Cary and David’s understanding of family that made her stay.
“I’ve also gone through having elderly parents who were ill and having to say at times, ‘I have to go,’” she explained. “There was no, ‘are you making up that time?’ It was just ‘go.’
“Also, from a business perspective,” Dykes added, “you see all kinds of things that happen in this industry, and for me, it’s the integrity of the work that we do that makes this place the right place for me.”
Cary added that the company has an attractive compensation program for staff to reward them for professional development, insurance degree programs, certifications, and other efforts aimed at increasing their skills.
In all, everybody wins: the firm benefits because the clients benefit, David added.
The company’s staff, and especially the Jubinville brothers, are also active in the community. Cary officiates for the Mass. Golf Association (MGA), which administers amateur golf (400 member clubs and 90,000 to 100,000 individuals) in the Commonwealth, and the USGA. The MGA conducts 10 statewide championships, runs qualifying competitions, and oversees 70 annual events. Jubinville has served as president for two terms.
The younger Jubinville is the current president (serving his third term) of the Pioneer Valley USO, headquartered at Westover Air Reserve Base, a tour of duty inspired in many ways by the death in 2006 of his best friend from high school, then a lieutenant colonel in the Army.
“I didn’t serve my country during the Vietnam conflict, and a friend who just happened to be the president of the USO at the time called and asked if I’d consider joining the board,” David recalled. “It seemed like the right thing to do, sort of in memory of my friend, but also to give thanks for all those who have in the past and now continue to pay the ultimate sacrifice that allows us a life of freedom.”
On Nov. 12, David and the USO board will host a Veterans Day breakfast at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, a 2nd annual event to remember and thank those who have served.
The Bottom Line
As the brothers Jubinville look to the future, new clients are the obvious goal, but referrals from clients who already trust the group are key.
“Referrals are great because someone’s been nice enough to say, ‘gee, these guys really helped me out,’ explained Cary. “That’s all we really want: an opportunity to have a second opinion, to think thoughtfully about someone’s program and to see if we can do it better.”
That approach has served the company well for nearly 40 years, and it remains the blueprint for the future.
Elizabeth Taras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org