It's debatable if the fiduciary standard is 'higher' than suitability. But the better question might be, who's holding the bar?
Nov. 14--NASHUA -- Art Bruinooge started with Sadler Insurance in Nashua in 1979, rising through the ranks to become a manager and ultimately the owner and president of the downtown insurance company started by Paul Sadler in 1924.
As his retirement date approached, Bruinooge reviewed his succession plans.
"I wrote it all down," he said, "that if I didn't have things figured out exactly how I was going to transition the ownership for the agency internally, and if I didn't have all the right people in place by age 62, that I would consider Option B."
Bruinooge will turn 62 in December, and Option B has been put into action, as the agency shuts down its Nashua operation as part of its sale to a New England regional powerhouse, Cross Insurance, with corporate headquarters in Bangor, Maine.
Friday is moving day, Bruinooge said, as the 21 full- and part-time employees of what was Sadler Insurance are moved to the Cross Financial Group with a pizza party in Cross offices at 1100 Elm St., Manchester. The Marzen group, a defense contractor with about 25 employees, will move into the Sadler building early next year.
Cross has been expanding aggressively since its founding in 1954, and now is the largest regional broker in the northeast, with 30 offices in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and 400 employees. A conversation that started a year ago between Bruinooge and Royce Cross, president and CEO of Cross Insurance, led to a closing on Sept. 1.
Sadler had always been family owned, and Bruinooge was attracted to the family ownership of the Cross company, started in 1954 by Woodrow Cross, Royce's father. Ownership of the Sadler agency passed from Paul Sadler to his son, George. Bruinooge began to acquire equity in the agency in 1986. He ended up owning all of it by 1997. Two of his daughters have been active in management of the agency, and one was a minority owner.
Like Sadler, Cross is an independent broker, providing personal insurance, business insurance and employee benefit programs from a variety of insurance carriers.
"They represent just about all of them," said Bruinooge.
The size of Cross, and its ability to deal with challenges facing the insurance industry, was important to Bruinooge.
"The landscape is changing and there is some opportunity, but there is also some risk out there, particularly for a smaller agency," he said. "We certainly don't have the resources that a Cross Financial Group can bring to bear, and you need to be able to draw on other people and expertise and develop some good solid plans moving forward."
Many of those plans will focus on adapting to the new rules and regulations for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act. "Did that play into the scenario? Yes." Bruinooge said. "Was it a driving factor? Absolutely not."
Cross, with 15 times as much business, is better positioned to deal with complexity in the insurance business across the board, health care included, he said.
Bruinooge will make the transition to Manchester along with his employees, although his exact role at Cross has yet to be defined. "I've got a background in technology-based manufacturing type of insurance accounts, and international business accounts, so I'll be bringing that background to the table," he said. "Once we're settled in there, I think the roles will be a lot better defined."
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Dave Solomon may be reached at [email protected].
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