Consolidation continues with Regions-Barksdale marriage

by Lynn Lofton

Published: March 10,2008

Through their merger, a venerable Mississippi company and the 26th-largest insurance broker in the country have joined forces to help both entities expand and offer more services. On January 1, Regions Insurance Group, a subsidiary of Regions Financial Corporation, acquired Barksdale Bonding and Insurance, a multi-line insurance agency with offices in Jackson, Nashville, Tenn., and Troy, Ala.

“There’s a huge amount of consolidation going on in the insurance industry,” says Charles Porter, president of Barksdale, “and we’ve had opportunities to consolidate. It had to be good for our clients and our employees. This opportunity meets both of those criteria so we thought we should take advantage of this offer.”

Headquartered in Jackson, Barksdale has 60 employees and is one of the largest insurance agencies in the state. It was founded in 1933 by Robert Barksdale and today offers services that include commercial property and casualty insurance, transportation, aviation, benefits, loss control and personal insurance. The company has been a specialist in transportation construction, manufacturing and employee benefits. The last Barksdale family member passed away approximately five years ago. Prior to the sale, the agency was owned by eight shareholders.

Regions Insurance Group (RIG) is a subsidiary of Regions Financial Corporation, which operates Regions Bank in Mississippi and other states. RIG offers a complete lineup of insurance products and has 650 associates in 33 offices.

“We’re excited to be associated with a company like Barksdale with the reputation they’ve had for years. It fits nicely,” says Ronnie Smith, Southwest Regional president for Regions Bank. “They’re focused on commercial customers, and our operation in Mississippi is significant in the commercial segment, private banking and business banking.”

He says that Porter and Barksdale vice president Gage Gibbs will continue to run Barksdale Bonding, and it will be added to the growing list of Regions Financial affiliates, including Regions Bank.

“We will be able to offer a higher level of service and products with the same dedicated employees in Jackson, Nashville and Troy,” Porter says. “We’ll be backed by a financial corporation that does in excess of $120 million a year and one of the top 10 banks in the country, and that will enable us to serve our clients better.”

He stressed that Barksdale Bonding will continue doing business as usual and that it will be seamless for clients. The transition will continue this year and will include a name change at some point, but there is no time line. The insurance company also hopes to open more offices in Mississippi and other states. RIG already has offices in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Indiana.

“We will have additional products and serve different types of industries such as hospitality, energy and medical,” Porter says. “We hope to hire more people as we expand. We’ve had a great relationship with customers and the community as well as carriers. Our merger with Regions gives us more carriers, and we’re excited about the future and new relationships.”

He added that the Barksdale company has always contributed to the community with time and funds. “We expect that to increase and look forward to the opportunities,” he says. “We participate in business groups, insurance and other trade organizations that include transportation, construction and employee benefits.”

Smith says the acquisition is part of Regions’ plan to diversify. “The line between financial services and banks is getting gray,” he says. “We call ourselves a financial service provider and hope to be a provider of financial services that our clients need. The more competitive we can be the better for our clients.”

Regions Bank will not sell insurance products, he stressed, but the bank will use its history of doing business with a wide array of companies to make introductions to the Barksdale Company.

“We will do that with the clients’ permission,” Smith says. “It’s a great combination for us. The goal was to benefit clients. At the end of the day, it’s about client satisfaction. Without clients, we don’t get to do what we do every day. Regions and Barksdale have the same philosophy about that.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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