CORRECTED: Stephens Insurance Hires Bill Cobb, Associates

Stephens Insurance Services Inc., a subsidiary of The Stephens Group of Little Rock, announced Tuesday that it has hired Bill Cobb, formerly of Insurance Center Inc., and acquired his book of business in order to enter the property and casualty line of business. incorrectly reported that SIS had acquired Insurance Center and that it was owned by Bill Cobb. Cobb was one of nine partners there, and he is bringing three associates - John Harbour Jr., Carla Conners and Pansy Westrich - with him to Stephens.

"To start in the property and casualty business, I just thought (Cobb) would be great to start with and lay the foundation," SIS President and CEO Marty Rhodes said. Since its inception in 1987, SIS has sold only employee benefit plans and life and health insurance, but P&C was Rhodes' specialty before he joined SIS in January.

Cobb's business, like Stephens', has been entirely focused on commercial clients, not individuals.

"The cross-selling opportunities are just tremendous," Rhodes said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SIS has also hired Lu Ann Dwinell, a property and casualty agent with more than 17 years of experience. She and the former Insurance Center employees will work in the Stephens Building in downtown Little Rock, along with employees acquired in March, when SIS bought Tom Kane's The Kane Agency. The five newest employees mean SIS has doubled its number of employees to 30 since the beginning of the year, Rhodes said.

SIS has maintained the one-agent office in Fayetteville that Kane operated, and Rhodes said he intended to add additional staff there. SIS, formerly a sleepy division of Stephens Group, is considering other agency acquisitions and is interviewing to "add more depth in customer service reps and account managers," Rhodes said.

"With the relationships we have here, this thing could explode. But that's the challenge we have: It's not going to explode," he said.

Cobb declared himself "excited" by the opportunity of "getting in on the ground floor" of Stephens' newly aggressive insurance business. "They traditionally put their full resources behind things. They don't dabble, they dominate," he said.

Rhodes has been on the other side of consolidation in the insurance industry. His Rhodes & Associates Inc., RAI Inc. and RAI of Oklahoma Inc., all of Little Rock, were sold to Florida-based Brown & Brown Inc. in 2002. At the time, the three agencies had combined annual revenue of $2.7 million.