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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 3 years ago

Move on up

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An alum of an insurance stalwart went solo during the recession. The move looks prescient.
by: Anita Todd Contributing Writer

Insurance executive Ryan Clegg took a big gamble in 2010: He ditched a good job at insurance giant Brown & Brown to launch his own firm — even with the economy mired in uncertainty.

Turns out that was the best time for Clegg to make the move.

The company, Clearwater-based Clegg Insurance Group, has experienced consistent growth, posting a 45% increase in net income this year; the firm doesn't release specific annual sales figures. To accommodate the growth, the company is finalizing the purchase of a nearly 4,000-square-foot building in the Morton Plant district of downtown Clearwater for a new headquarters.

“The new location will give us much needed exposure. Thousands of cars pass by every day,” Clegg says. “It's a major thoroughfare. Where we are now is tucked away.”

But being tucked in an office tower hasn't hindered growth.

The six-employee firm — it plans to expand the payroll in the next few months — has mostly specialized in property and casualty insurance. But before the end of the year, the company plans to add life and health insurance to the offerings. “Those two haven't been our focus. But because I get so many calls for them, I hired a specialist to get them up and going,” Clegg says.

The company has also grown through acquisitions. In 2013, Clegg Insurance acquired Florida Insurance Partners in Safety Harbor and in 2014 it acquired Hopf & Hopf, a Tampa-based firm. Clegg says beyond the basics of solid core values and business practices, he looks for low loss ratios and good contacts with carriers in an acquisition target. The past two purchases added 2,500 policies to the firm's portfolio, he adds.

The relatively stable state of the property insurance industry has also been a boost. Property and casualty rates are down, for one, and policies are being written for up to 65% lower than last year. That's created even more competition than usual between insurance carriers. And since Florida hasn't had a major natural disaster since summer 2004, companies have become more profitable. Clegg Insurance Group works with more than 100 carriers, including 20 recently added to the portfolio.

“I expect our growth to continue — 30-40% for the next year,” Clegg says. “A lot of people who had insurance with the bigger agencies have moved and are moving their policies to smaller ones.”

The company is scheduled to close on the new building in December and will begin renovations with plans to move in by July. “This is a 1980s medical offices building. The renovations are extensive,” Clegg says. “We plan on making it into a modern, nice place to work together as a team and do business.”

An Ohio University graduate, Clegg was an assistant property broker for a Brown & Brown subsidiary that focuses on wholesale property insurance before he launched Clegg Insurance Group. He also worked for a commercial real estate developer after college. “I learned the business from a big business and built a nice foundation,” Clegg says. “I knew it was going to be difficult, but I also knew I would be successful because of my knowledge of the insurance business and strong work ethic.”

Clegg is excited about what the future holds for the firm.

“We have a clean book of business with very few claims,” Clegg says. “The carriers want to do business with us.”

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