Natchez — It seems safe to say that Stephens & Hobdy Insurance Company, one of 240 independent insurance agencies in the state, knows the insurance business.
Each of the partners, Jack Stephens and Braxton Hobdy, has been in the business for 34 years. Prior to their merger in 1998, Stephens operated Stephens Insurance Company, a business in existence since 1920. Hobdy owned Hobdy & Company as the result of the purchase of an agency that had been around since 1945. They serve the insurance needs of more than 2,500 individuals and 500 business concerns in Southwest Mississippi and Concordia Parish, La. The partners feel that being an independent agency is their major strength.
“Being an independent agency allows us to better complete a client’s needs because we have access to more insurance companies with different appetites for business,” Hobdy said. “Most direct writers are excellent companies, but their agents are limited by the products their company provides.”
The Stephens & Hobdy agency represents over 20 companies by direct contracts and has access to hundreds through brokerage arrangement. That gives them unlimited access to domestic and international insurance markets, plus access to alternative markets such as offshore captive insurance.
“We do feel we can better serve our clients because of our ability to access more markets,” Hobdy said. “If the price of a small business account or homeowners and personal auto seems out of line, we have multiple markets to approach and hopefully improve our client’s cost.”
He said his agency will also approach other markets to improve coverage limits since not all insurance companies are alike.
“It’s a good business and our clients are ours. They don’t belong to insurance companies,” he added. “One of our advantages is we can offer anything and can tailor things to our clients. It’s not just plain vanilla.”
With 10 employees, Hobdy and Stephens offers personal and business coverage that includes homeowners, automobile, commercial property, universal life, mortgage life, commercial general, workers’ compensation, group and individual health policies, umbrella liability, boats and yachts and valuable property coverage. They provide financial planning that includes IRAs and pensions and profit sharing plans.
The agency is a member of the Mississippi Insurance Association and the Independent Agencies of Mississippi Association. Hobdy serves on the board of directors for the independent association, founded in 1899 and one of the country’s largest associations dedicated to the importance of independents to the insurance industry. Its founding predates the state’s Department of Insurance. Hobdy says the number of independent agencies has declined over the years he’s been in the business.
“We face the challenges that all small business face today,” he said. “Things like the cost of doing business and healthcare, taxes and the threat of lawsuits. All small businesses are facing problems.”
Hobdy thinks there is a severe healthcare problem. “Insurance costs have continued to rise, especially in the last several years, but it is not an insurance crisis,” he said. “Insurance companies are already starting to rebound from the losses incurred as a result of Sept. 11, 2001. There is still plenty of capacity for insurance companies to write insurance. It is a pricing issue at this point.”
Asked what advice he gives to customers, he replied that the best advice is to become familiar with what they have and ask questions about their insurance coverage and needs.
“Getting a price and coverage comparison, especially if you have concerns about your current insurance program, is always helpful,” he said.
Stephens & Hobdy offers to examine a customer’s existing insurance and give a complete analysis of insurance needs. That is followed by recommendations and cost comparisons submitted to the customer for review.
“We select the company or companies best suited to a customer’s situation and present them with a competitively priced proposal,” Hobdy said, “and we periodically review the adequacy of that program.”
He says the agency’s primary objectives are to be honest and fair in all dealings, to be interested in people and their problems and to treat the clients’ needs as though they are their own.
“We have a commitment to maintain a high standard of excellence in all that we do and to establish a firm relationship of mutual trust and service,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.