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Friday, Jun 14, 2024

Poms & Associates Acquires Long-time Valley Firm

Poms & Associates Insurance Brokers Inc., one of the Valley’s largest independent insurance brokerages, acquired Woodland Hills-based Stone, Harris & Stone, luring the 87-year-old Valley firm back from a national, publicly-traded brokerage. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. For Poms, a Woodland Hills-based firm with 120 employees, the deal marks the second acquisition in the history of the firm, said President David Poms. “It’s atypical for our company to do this,” he said. “We grow better organically. But we are always looking for opportunities. This one was around the corner, which made it easy.” For Vikki Stone, principal of Stone, Harris & Stone, the acquisition is a bit like coming home again. Though her firm never left the Valley, she sold her business in May 2008 to publicly-traded Brown & Brown based in Daytona, Fla. Stone said there were differences in how she and Brown & Brown management viewed operational issues but said they parted on amicable terms. Poms said the two companies may not have been the best fit for each other. “Vikki is very entrepreneurial, and she didn’t have a lot of latitude,” Poms said. “She will now have her independence back. We won’t be micromanaging her.” Poms, with $450 million in premiums last year, has grown in recent years despite the bad economy by expanding into risk management and loss control services, which now accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the firm’s revenues. The division serves mostly large clients, namely 400 public school districts in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The firm conducts safety inspections and employee training on behalf of the school districts. It also publishes safety manuals and teaches employers how to hire and fire employees without incurring lawsuits. The firm also has a product liability division that caters to vitamin and supplement manufacturers in the region. “We’re not your run-of-the-mill insurance brokerage,” Poms said. The services have helped Poms grow at a tough time for the insurance brokerage business. According to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, a trade association, the soft insurance market, combined with a steep decline in commercial lines, hit agencies hard. The decline in revenues was worse in commercial lines than personal lines and hurt agencies that depend on commercial business. In 2010, there were about 37,500 independent agencies across the country, a number that was starting to stabilize after big declines in the previous decade, according to the group. As the client base of most small- to mid-sized firms decreased in the recession, Poms said his business grew 20 percent a year in each of the last five years thanks to these specialized services. It’s one reason Stone, Harris & Stone decided to join the firm. “They are doing things at a level of service in the agency arena that I’ve never seen anyone do,” Stone said. “This should raise the bar on how I deliver services.” Stone plans to offer risk management and loss control services to her clients, which are mostly small to mid-sized manufacturing firms. “It’s an extra opportunity,” she said. At the same time, Stone’s business fills an important gap for Poms. The firm does not have many clients in manufacturing, Poms said. “We were a little light on that market segment. Stone, Harris filled a little bit of a gap for us.” Stone will move her 13 employees into the Poms offices in Woodland Hills after an expansion of the Poms headquarters in April.

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