Sky Financial Strengthens Insurance Arm

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By Mark E. Ruquet

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NU Online News Service, July 8, 3:43 p.m. EDT -Sky Financial Group Inc. said it has strengthened its insurancelines with an eye to increasing its professional liabilityofferings by acquiring Insurance Buyers' Service Agency Inc.

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Jerry Batt, president and chief executive officer of SkyInsurance, the group's subsidiary, said that the acquisition of theBoardman, Ohio-based agency was in line with the financialservices' firm's strategic strategy. The company's plans includegeographic growth and the strengthening of certain lines ofbusiness, in this case professional liability, which is 70 percentof the acquired agency's business.

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Mr. Batt said that IBS, with about $2 million in revenue, alsosells personal and commercial insurance. Under terms of theagreement, the $12.5 billion Bowling Green, Ohio-based diversifiedfinancial holding company agreed to a 100 percent common stocktrade in IBS. Sky Financial said it anticipates the agency wouldremain in Boardman and all employees would be retained.

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Mr. Batt said that the group's strategy is to regionally developbanking and insurance services alongside one another. He said thegroup's geographic concentration is Ohio and WesternPennsylvania.

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In the five years since Sky Financial stepped into the insurancebusiness, it has grown to $500 million in premium volume, selling abroad range of services from employee benefits, property-casualty,professional liability, life insurance and financial services toboth commercial and personal lines customers.

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He said there is a "tremendous relationship" between the bankingand insurance services, with programs in place that have allowedfor significant referral growth between both the bank andinsurance. He added that Sky Insurance has doubled in growth everyyear since its inception.

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When it comes to acquisitions, Mr. Batt said that Sky Financiallooks for well-managed, profitable agencies. The geographiclocation and vendor mix are also important factors in its decisionmaking. He said some of the geographic target areas aremetropolitan Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio.

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Mr. Batt also credited the group's success to good judgment byits Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Marty Adams,saying, "He let's the insurance run itself and does not meddle init."

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