Merchants Insurance Group
||This article may contain promotional material and other spam. (August 2011)|
|Type||Mutual Insurance Company|
|Founded||1918, Buffalo, NY|
|Headquarters||250 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
|Number of locations||675 agents
5 regional offices
|Area served||Northeast and N. Central U.S.|
|Key people||Robert M. Zak, President & CEO|
|Products||Personal and Commercial Insurance|
Merchants Insurance Group, a regional property and casualty insurance company headquartered in Buffalo, New York, has been offering financial protection to individuals and businessowners since 1918. The company provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance throughout the Northeast and North Central United States. The company has regional offices in Hauppauge, New York; Manchester, New Hampshire; Moorestown, New Jersey and Dublin, Ohio.
Merchants Insurance Group comprises three companies: Merchants Mutual Insurance Company, Merchants Preferred Insurance Company, and Merchants National Insurance Company. Merchants Preferred commenced business in 2007 to rebuild and expand its preferred-risk business after the sale of a like subsidiary, and Merchants National commenced business in 2009. Each of the Merchants companies are rated “A-” (Excellent) by the A.M. Best Company.
Merchants employs 323 insurance professionals throughout its operating territories, and works with more than 675 independent insurance agents. The company offers insurance in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Merchants Insurance Group was founded on March 5, 1918, the day Merchants Mutual Liability Company opened for business with Urban F. Jehle as President. Mr. Jehle, owner and operator of a grocery store in Buffalo, returned from a grocers’ convention with the idea of bringing merchants together for the mutual protection of their delivery vehicles. J.R. Young, a local insurance man, Owen B. Augspurger, a Buffalo lawyer, and C.W. Brown, a civil engineer, joined with him.
In February 1957, Merchants began to offer both casualty insurance and property insurance and changed its name to Merchants Mutual Insurance Company to reflect this development. In the 1960s the company moved into its current headquarters, a five-story office building located on Main Street in Buffalo.
Merchants Insurance Group supports a variety of charitable causes for organizations in the communities in which it does business, most notably The United Way, American Cancer Society, National MS Society, and Hospice. The company’s employees are constantly active with community initiatives and give many hundreds of hours of volunteer time every year.
In addition to Merchants' direct financial support to many charitable organizations, Merchants also sponsors an employee-based committee known as Colleagues in Action (CIA). Colleagues in Action allows Merchants employees to participate in a variety of activities, raffles, auctions, and casual days, the proceeds from which are donated to charitable groups. In 2008, both Merchants and the CIA donated more than $100,000 to different charities in the communities in which the company operates.
Merchants offers a broad line of products for commercial and personal insurance. The commercial lines products accommodate large and small retail operations as well as artisan contractors.
Merchants' insurance products are split into two broad segments:
- Commercial Lines — Business Owners Insurance, Auto Repair/Collision Repair Insurance, Contractors and Handyman Insurance, Commercial Package Insurance, Golf Course Insurance, Restaurant Insurance, Commercial Auto Insurance, Commercial Umbrella Insurance, and Workers Compensation Insurance.
Customer Service 
In an industry where true product innovation is difficult and uncommon, Merchants has differentiated itself from its competitors primarily on the basis of service and automation. Merchants recently reorientated its service model around independent agents’ perspectives whereby service is tailored and delivered according to the agents’ needs (“customer focused”). This approach to service is referred to as “outside in”, as opposed to more typical “inside out” company orientations to customer service. The concept of "outside-in" was borrowed from the software industry, where "outside-in software development" has enjoyed broad and growing popularity.
In support of the “outside in” service model, Merchants also restructured its back office processes and computer systems to provide its agents with accurate and immediate “real time” information about their mutual clients (policyholders and claimants). The "outside-in" approach to agent service has been an important factor in Merchants' revenue and profit growth over the past five years, as it has been for other organizations outside of the insurance industry.
- Hartley, Thomas, Business First of Buffalo, "Merchants Group sold for $70.8M", November 1, 2006, (http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/2006/10/30/daily30.html)
- Staff reporters,Insurance Journal, "Merchants Insurance Group's New E&S Subsidiary OK'd in 10 States", February 13, 2009 (http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2009/02/13/97908.htm)
- Merchants Insurance Group Celebrates 90 Years in Buffalo, Continues Growth, March 4, 2008 (http://www.merchantsgroup.com/90th-anniversary.pdf)
- Staff reporters, Business First of Buffalo, "Awards & Achievements", April 10, 1998 (http://pacific.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/1998/04/13/smallb4.html)
- Staff reporters, Business First of Buffalo, "Variety Club Sets Up Foundation", December 8, 1998 (http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/1998/12/07/daily3.html)
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- Kotler, Philip, Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets, Free Press, 1st ed., 1999, ISBN 0-684-85033-8