Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Insurance agency thrives in competitive atmosphere


Larry Koesters is the only partner without a historic connection with one of the three companies that make up Bokerman, Yackee, Koesters Insurance of Napoleon.

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NAPOLEON - When Bokerman, Yackee, Koesters Insurance agency was formed by the merger of two longtime competing agencies, and then purchased a 135-year-old agency, it mirrored industrywide trends.

Ohio has been losing insurance agencies for decades, according to the Professional Insurance Agents of Ohio, which is concerned about the increased mergers and consolidations as it promotes its field as a good way to earn a living.

Still, Bokerman, Yackee competes with seven other agencies in Napoleon (pop. 9,318) and about four in Wauseon (pop. 7,091), where it operates Grisier-Roos Insurance Agency, Inc.

“We have a very robust competitive marketplace,” said Joe Savarise, spokesman for the insurance agents group. There are 3,800 property and casualty agencies in Ohio.

Competition has increased for Bokerman, Yackee as insurance rates have jumped, stemming from the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the stock market slump, and weather disasters.

That can help the agency land new accounts, but it also could mean existing clients will leave. The agency has 4,000 to 4,500 customers.

For Bokerman, Yackee, 60 percent of its business is home, farm, auto, and boat policies with individuals. The rest are commercial accounts.

Ninety percent of its customers are in Henry and Fulton counties. That is the same area where arsonist Julius Burch was lighting fires in 2000 and 2001. Insurance firms had hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims from customers hit by his spree that torched 37 homes, businesses, and churches in northwest Ohio. Most of Bokerman, Yackee insurance claims, however, are on auto policies.

The firm is made up of what had been three family agencies and it still counts a member of each family among its 14 employees.

Partner Joel Bokerman is a great-nephew of William C. Bokerman, who formed the Bokerman Insurance Agency in 1910 in Napoleon. Joel's grandfather joined the business in 1932. Joel's father, Bill, had been an owner before retiring in 1999.

Partner Kevin Yackee is the son of Warren D. Yackee, who started the Yackee Insurance Agency in Napoleon in 1935. Kevin's brother, Lynn, worked in the business until his death in 1995.

At Grieser Roos, agent Mike Meuth is an in-law to the family of James Grieser, who started the agency in Fayette in 1868. Mr. Grieser's son Charles purchased the agency in 1891 and moved it to Wauseon. Charles' son Donald and son-in-law Harold Roos purchased it in 1944 and changed the name to Grieser-Roos.

The only one of the three partners without a family connection to the business is Larry Koesters. He joined the Yackee group in 1996 after moving to Henry County from Indianapolis, where he had operated an agency.

Bokerman, Yackee was formed in 1999 with the merger of the Bokerman and Yackee agencies, which had competing offices about a mile apart on Scott Street. The combined firm moved into the Bokerman office; the former Yackee office is now an eye doctor's office. The merged companies purchased Grieser-Roos in November.

In recent years, insurance companies have required agents to ask more questions, said Phyllis Knape, vice president of German Mutual Insurance, headquartered in Napoleon.

Agents' commissions have increased with rising rates. But the percentage rate they are paid has decreased, Mr. Koesters said. The typical commission today is 8 to 12 percent; five years ago, some companies paid 15 to 18 percent, he said.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.

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