Regions Leads Insurance Market, Stephens Makes Gains

Regions Insurance Inc. - formerly Rebsamen Insurance - was still Arkansas' largest insurance agency by far in 2008.

But No. 2 Stephens Insurance, a sleepy little afterthought in the Stephens financial empire until Marty Rhodes was hired to run it almost five years ago, is closing the gap.

(To view the list of the largest insurance agencies in Arkansas, click here for a PDF or here for the spreadsheet version. To view a list of property and casualty insurance companies, click here for a PDF or here for the spreadsheet.)

Arkansas Business' third annual list of the state's largest insurance agencies ranks 15 agencies around the state based on self-reported premium written in 2008.

Regions Insurance, a subsidiary of Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., reported a decrease in total premium written last year of more than $36 million - but that's only about 4 percent for a company that in 2007 wrote $930 million in premium. More interesting is the split Regions reported between life and health premium and its property and casualty business.

The life and health portion dropped from $300 million in 2007 to $188.7 million in 2008, while the P&C book of business increased from $630 million to $705 million.

Stephens Insurance reported total premium last year of $321 million, an increase of more than 32 percent from 2007. Virtually all of the increase came in P&C lines - up from $26.4 million in 2007 to $104 million in 2008, while life and health was basically flat at $217 million.

Rounding out the list's "big three" agencies in the state is Ramsey Krug Farrell & Lensing, a division of BancorpSouth Insurance Services Inc., which in turn is owned by BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Miss. Its 2008 premium total was $222 million, up a respectable 3 percent from 2007.

Three of last year's top 15 - Cornerstone Insurance Group and Hagan Newkirk Financial Group, both of Little Rock, and Harold Campbell Co. of Camden - declined to participate or failed to respond to survey requests.

That created room for three Little Rock agencies: No. 12 Risk Services of Arkansas LLC, No. 14 McGhee Insurance Agency and No. 15 The Grace Group Inc.

If Risk Services of Arkansas sounds unfamiliar, that might be because it's new.

"In early 2009 this office split off from the First Arkansas Insurance Group," President Steven Russell said in an e-mail that made clear that it was "a friendly split."

Although it wasn't a separate company at the time, Risk Services reported its 2008 book of business as $26.85 million - all of it property and casualty. First Arkansas Insurance is one of the state's largest agencies, but after taking out Risk Services' business, it fell to No. 6 from No. 4 on last year's list.

That allowed Brown-Hiller-Clark & Associates of Fort Smith and Brown & Brown of Arkansas Inc. to move into the fourth and fifth positions. Each reported solid sales gains last year.

The largest 15 agencies that responded to our survey this year reported a total of almost $1.87 billion in premium written in 2008. That compares with $1.835 billion by last year's top 15, but the 1.7 percent increase is not exact because different agencies chose to participate.


P&C List

This year's list of the largest property and casualty insurance companies ranked by total premium written in Arkansas in 2008 looks similar to last year's list.

State Farm Insurance of Bloomington, Ill., continues to be the dominant player in the state. It increased its Arkansas premium by 3.1 percent to $513.5 million in 2008. State Farm also expanded its market share from 7.41 percent in 2007 to 7.52 percent in 2008.

In 2008, the overall premium collected by property and casualty insurance companies in Arkansas was $6.8 billion, a rise of 1.54 percent over 2007.

New on this year's list is Assurant Inc. of New York, which is No. 31 with $22 million in Arkansas premium.

Also new to the list is Auto-Owners Insurance Group of Lansing, Mich. It had $18.6 million in premium in 2008, good enough for No. 34 on Arkansas Business' ranking.

Off the list is American Modern Insurance Group of Amelia, Ohio. Also removed from the list is Safeco Insurance Co. of America, which is based in Seattle.

Liberty Mutual Group of Boston bought Safeco in 2008 in a transaction valued at nearly $6.2 billion. The acquisition helped Liberty Mutual jump from No. 12 on the list in 2007 with $89.5 million in premium to No. 9 this year with $129.2 million in premium.