The market for property and casualty insurance in Arkansas rose again in 2012.
The market reached $4.123 billion in 2012, up 2.9 percent from 2011, according to figures from the Arkansas Insurance Department provided to Arkansas Business.
But the rate of growth is slowing. In 2011, the market was up 3.25 percent, and in 2010 it climbed 3.7 percent.
Most of the independent insurance agencies in Arkansas that write P&C and health insurance also reported increases in premium.
Arkansas Business’ list of the state’s largest insurance agencies is incomplete because it relies on the participation of the agencies.
This year’s list features 15 agencies ranging in total premium from $457.86 million to $9.4 million.
Stephens Insurance LLC of Little Rock wrestled the No. 1 spot away from Regions Insurance Inc. of Little Rock.
Stephens Insurance, a subsidiary of Stephens Inc., reported $457.86 million in total premium written in 2012, an increase of 14 percent over its 2011 numbers.
More than half of Stephens Insurance’s total premium, or $263.66 million, came from its P&C business.
Even though Regions Insurance saw its total premium written increase 2.3 percent to $445.6 million, it slipped to the No. 2 spot on the list. Still, Regions has the most employees in Arkansas with 170.
The other firms in the top five are: BancorpSouth Insurance Services of Little Rock at the No. 3 position with $272 million in total premium written, Brown-Hiller-Clark & Associates of Fort Smith is No. 4 with $90.5 million, and First Arkansas Insurance of Pine Bluff is in the No. 5 slot with $52.7 million.
First Arkansas wasn’t on last year’s list of the largest insurance agencies, but it should have been with more than $51 million in total premium written.
First Arkansas President Michael Carter told Arkansas Business last week that it looks like the beginning of a hard market for commercial lines, which means rates will rise.
“Different companies are trying to get rates, and depending on competition, that’s not always working for them,” Carter said.
Carter said First Arkansas’ growth during the past few years has come from its life and health side.
Most of the firm’s life and health premium written is for commercial employee benefits, voluntary benefits and life and health lines for commercial companies.
“We’re still sitting back waiting to see what Obamacare is going to do to that side of the business,” he said. “I’m not sure anyone really knows at this point.”
Carter said the company is focusing “on organic growth as opposed to purchasing another agency somewhere in the state.”
It has offices in Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, Dumas and Fayetteville.
Dropping off this year’s list is Town & Country Insurance Agency Inc. of Jonesboro. It was owned by Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro, the parent company of Liberty Bank of Arkansas. Last month, Home BancShares Inc. of Conway completed its purchase of Liberty.
“We came with the purchase,” said Floyd Morgan, who is now the agency manager for the firm, which now goes by Centennial Insurance.
He said being branded as Centennial Insurance “opens a lot of doors [for] a lot of opportunity for growth.”
He said it was too early to say what the growth opportunities might be for the company. Town & Country’s name changed on Oct. 24.
Centennial Insurance declined to release premium numbers to Arkansas Business.
Arkansas Business’ list of property and casualty companies ranks insurance firms with headquarters in and outside Arkansas by the amount of premium written in Arkansas in 2012 based on figures on file with the Arkansas Insurance Department.
Of the 35 companies on the list, only one, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas Inc., has its national headquarters in Arkansas.
The No. 1 firm was once again State Farm Insurance of Bloomington, Ill. State Farm and its subsidiaries reported an increase in Arkansas premium of 4.29 percent, to $586.73 million, more than the No. 2 and No. 3 carriers combined in 2012.
Farmers Insurance Co. Inc. of Los Angeles hung onto the No. 2 slot with $255.33 million in Arkansas premium, which was up from the $233.71 million it had in 2011.
Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas Inc. remained in the No. 3 position with $240.80 million in premium, up 3.9 percent from 2011.