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Brian Hester lives and works by a simple strategy: If you take care of people, they will take care of you. It may seem old-fashioned, but it has proven to work for the successful personal lines business at Old National Insurance’s Evansville, Ind., location. Hester is the regional manager of personal lines and small business for Old National Insurance in southern Indiana. The company, owned by Old National Bank, began as ONB Insurance in 1992 with several small agency acquisitions. In 2000, the company began purchasing four large agencies, including the Sycamore Agency, Terre Haute, Ind., the James L. Will Agency, Evansville, in 2003, and JWF Insurance Cos., Indianapolis, in 2005. The company was rebranded Old National Insurance in 2007. Hester has 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. He became a part of Old National when it purchased James L. Will Insurance, where he was a personal lines manager. In 2008, he added the title of small business unit manager when the company combined the two departments.fresh look at personal lines Overall, Old National Bank has a split of about 22 percent personal lines and 78 percent commercial lines, but the southern Indiana region is more evenly spread out with 45 percent personal lines and 55 percent commercial lines. The Evansville location has had a stronger emphasis on personal lines, but the company as a whole is slowly shifting toward a stronger focus on personal lines after seeing the revenue Hester’s location is able to secure, he said. “Personal lines and even small business can be a challenge to sell and service efficiently enough to make a profit,” Hester said. “But an overall view of the steady revenue that comes into your agency compared to the roller coaster ride that you sometimes take with commercial business, you have to see that it’s the personal lines revenue that pays the light bills.” Hester said if an agency can maintain a 90 percent retention level or higher along with writing new business in personal lines, it can provide the stability an agency needs during rough insurance cycles. But for him, working with personal lines isn’t all about the numbers. “I like the simple fact of working with people that you develop relationships with over the years,” Hester said. “To be able to help them at the time of a loss gives the staff a tremendous feeling of satisfaction knowing we were able to help put their lives together again.” Taking care of peopleHester’s personal lines team marks certain individuals VIP clients, not by revenue as might be expected, but by the sphere of influence in the community. This includes community leaders such as a mayor or sheriff. The agency gives VIPs a personal phone call each year to review information. Because the agency can’t make this effort with every client, it reaches other customers through newsletters, questionnaires and other marketing materials using Zywave, a company that provides property-casualty marketing solutions. The vendor’s marketing materials can be customized and sent to Old National’s mailing lists. The company watches the number of materials sent to prevent customers from being inundated with e-mails and other mailings.In a disaster situation, Hester has implemented a new program to visit the scene of the incident if necessary. Recently, an oak tree fell onto a small business. Hester contacted the claims representative, the agent and the claims adjuster–four people were at the location at 8 a.m. wearing orange vests and hard hats to give assistance. The agency has received positive responses from this effort. Though all the bells and whistles help retain and satisfy customers, Hester insists that simply using common sense is the most effective approach. “Some other locations really cater to VIP clients,” Hester said. “We like to write business with those individuals that have a few cars, a nice home, and work at the local factory. I was always taught that if you take care of those kinds of individuals, they will take care of you. Just do a good job for them.” On the cutting edgeFor new business, Hester and his team uses EZLynx, a Web-based portal that uses a single data entry to get up to 10 real-time quotes from insurance companies’ sites. They use Transact Now to remarket to existing business. Transact Now allows the agency to go into its management system, pull up a specific client, and find a new rate from another company. The agency moved to this system last year after its comparative raters became outdated. The new system helps the agency fine-tune its search for coverage evenly compared to price–not just the bottom-dollar policies. The agency uses AMS Sagitta for its automation system. To stay within budget while taking advantage of new technology, the company focuses updating something once a year. For 2009 Old National is focused on purchasing an imaging system to scan all paperwork, with the goal of becoming completely paperless. Looking aheadOld National was formed by the purchase of several agencies, and though there are no immediate mergers or acquisitions on the horizon, the agency has its sights set on expanding. “Anywhere we can strengthen our marketplace, we will probably do it,” he said. The company tries to line up new partnerships where an Old National Bank is located, and would like to place producers in area banks where they have no insurance presence. They also would like to continue to fill in around the bank’s footprint in Indiana, southern Illinois, and parts of western Kentucky, including Louisville. Old National makes an effort to look at the companies it has partnered with to facilitate strategic decisions as they move forward. “Through acquisitions, we accumulated many companies that we simply were not actively writing, or writing very little, which weakened our strength with others that we were very active with,” Hester said. Through the changing market and difficult economic times, Hester tries to keep the attitude of “it is what it is.” Although Old National is looking at marketing ideas to generate more opportunities through the bank’s customers, the best advice Hester can give during these tough times is what he has always fallen back on–being honest and straightforward. “My former boss, Jill Will, once told me to sell one policy a day, no matter what it was, and you will be successful in this business. I still operate by that today.” Hester said.

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