Few independent insurance agencies today can state they’ve reached the 150-year milestone. The latest locally owned firm to join this elite club is Wallace & Turner, Inc., a full-service third-generation agency based in Springfield, Ohio.
Wallace & Turner traces its origin back to 1870, when Ira W. Wallace and L. B. Corry moved from Leroy, Ohio to Springfield to open a general insurance agency, known as Wallace & Corry. In 1985, that partnership dissolved, and Wallace founded Wallace & Company, which operated until 1961 when Harry M. Turner, founder of Turner Insurance Agency, purchased Wallace & Company (see below) and changed the agency name to Wallace & Turner, Inc. Since then, the agency has solidified itself as a hallmark business in Springfield, enjoying almost 60-years of community involvement and growth.
“Wallace & Turner is proud to reach the 150-year mark of service to our policyholders and be in a position to carry on Harry Turner’s motto of doing ‘good things for the community,’” said Patrick Field (pictured top), partner, and a “proud third-generation” Wallace & Turner employee. He said the agency had planned to mark the momentous anniversary with several in-person celebrations this summer, but given the current public health crisis, they will be donating the funds they’d planned to spend to several local non-profit organizations. In addition, the firm is also giving all of its employees $150 to donate to a charity of their choice.
“The agency has a long history of being very active and supportive in the local community, both in terms of dollars and in terms of time,” Field told Insurance Business. “I was raised on the theory that Wallace & Turner will only do as well as the community it works and does business in. Anything we can do to help the community certainly helps us as well. Most of our people currently sit on a local non-profit board or have sat on a non-profit board in the past, and we certainly encourage all employees to get involved in local community initiatives.”
Wallace & Turner’s community-centric culture has been critical in the agency’s long lifespan. As P.J. Miller (pictured below), partner, and second-generation Wallace & Turner employee explained: “A lot of our clients are good friends of ours, and a lot of them have been with us for 30, 40, 50, even 60-years. Just as Patrick and I are generationally involved with Wallace & Turner, so are a lot of our clients. It’s been really exciting to watch our local clients transition, like us, through time and generation.”
The Ohio agency’s 150th anniversary is even more impressive considering the huge uptick in agency consolidation over the past few years. Given the agency’s strong financial stability, consistency in service, range of products (the agency is approximately 50:50 for personal and commercial lines, with a separate life & health department), and its consistent clientele, it could be considered a prime target for acquisition. However, both Field and Miller said this is not on the cards.
“A friendly competitor of ours who had an agency not nearly as old as ours, but similar in style, sold to a regional broker a few years ago, who in turn sold to a national broker. Frankly, that has created a lot of opportunities for us,” said Field. “Springfield, Ohio, is not terribly small, but it’s certainly not a huge city – everyone knows everyone. As such, there is a very significant push in our community to do things locally with locally owned businesses. People want to do business with Wallace & Turner locally, they see what we do, they see how we support the community and how we interact with our clientele.
“Sometimes that interaction and that local servicing doesn’t exactly fit the big broker business model. As I tell my colleagues, our competitor’s model is a fantastic business model until you bring it to Springfield, Ohio, which is a bit of an anomaly because the city is so tight-knit and community-oriented. The people here expect local service, they expect camaraderie, and they expect friendship – all things we’ve been able to provide at Wallace & Turner. And so sometimes the big agency model doesn’t fit in so well here, and, conversely, our agency model probably wouldn’t fit so well in some big metropolitan cities because we’re so focused on services and relationships.”
The next steps for Wallace & Turner revolve around growth and perpetuation. In October 2019, the agency expanded its footprint with the opening of a second office in Urbana, Ohio – another very community-centered area. Perpetuation is more of a challenge, not only for Wallace & Turner but for the industry as a whole, according to Field.
“We’re working on this all the time,” he said. “We are constantly looking for people who we think would be the right fit to join us and help us build that long-term perpetuation. As we continue to grow, most of our growth is generated from the hiring of new parties and the relationships that they bring into the agency. Our second big growth tool is word of mouth. At the end of the day, our best advertising comes from our own clients.”