Huntington Insights: Cleveland | Business Spotlight | Spring 2018

Supporting MarshBerry’s conversion to an employee stock ownership plan

The secret to MarshBerry’s success is simple: Attain growth by helping clients succeed

MarshBerry employees at work.
By Erik Cassano

The idea behind business success is simple: Figure out what you do better than anyone else, and do that to the best of your ability. Implementing it is something else entirely.

MarshBerry has figured it out and built its business around that idea for nearly 40 years. For much of its history since its 1981 founding, the Woodmere, Ohio-based firm has zeroed in on a well-defined niche, providing data-driven solutions to companies in the insurance and insurance distribution spaces.

By building out its presence in that area and discovering new ways to leverage gained expertise to provide ancillary services, MarshBerry has grown to nearly 100 employees, who now own the company via an ESOP sale in 2016.

"With data and analytics at our core, our mission is to help our clients learn, improve and realize their value,” says Mike Metz, MarshBerry’s CFO. “Because we’re so tightly focused on the insurance space, our people have the opportunity to get to know our clients, get to know the industry and develop a very thorough knowledge about what it takes to optimally run an insurance business.”

Mike Metz, CFO MarshBerry
(Photography by Cody York)

From knowledge to action

Developing a thorough knowledge about your clients and their industry is one thing; turning that knowledge into action that produces results can be more difficult. And the former means nothing without the latter. Developing actionable, customized solutions around data and analytics is the real key to creating the healthy, robust client relationships that will sustain MarshBerry’s long-term success.

Whether it’s ownership perpetuation planning in the casualty and property vertical, strategic-planning services in the specialty insurance vertical, or a host of other services, MarshBerry’s team is keenly aware that one size does not fit all.

"In this space, and at our size, we know we can’t just sell prefabricated products to our clients,” Metz says. “We need to customize our solutions. We need to go out to our clients, sit down with them and work with their leaders to develop the best possible plan for their business, and the situation their business is in.”

When an outsider hears terms like “data and analytics,” the mental image might go straight to spreadsheets and pie charts. But that’s not the sum total of the services that MarshBerry provides. The firm’s representatives realize there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, so it provides opportunities for client managers and executives to learn from each other.

"We can find a lot of answers for our clients, but we are smart enough to know that we don’t have all the answers, we don’t have all the best practices and all the useful tips,” Metz says. “That’s why we facilitate peer-to-peer exchange among noncompeting companies. We organize events, usually twice a year, where client representatives will meet with us and with each other, in person.”

During those events, MarshBerry’s people sit alongside their clients, learning more about the verticals they serve, creating a mutual benefit for everyone in attendance. "

They’re not just learning from us, they’re learning from each other, and we’re learning from them,” Metz says. “The more time we spend with our clients, the deeper our expertise will become and the better the solutions we’ll be able to provide.”

“With data and analytics at our core, our mission is to help our clients learn, improve and realize their value.”– Mike Metz, CFO, MarshBerry

Future plans

All of MarshBerry’s growth plans have centered on adding value for its clients in its existing verticals, and Metz sees a future in which the firm will continue to build upon those value-adds, further strengthening its already-strong presence in the insurance and insurance distribution spaces.

"We want to extend our leadership position in the areas we have developed, and continue to bring more value to our clients,” he says. “Five years from now, we want to be in a place where we’re expanding our services and adding more value to every aspect of our clients’ businesses. We have a good reputation in our industry, and we want to continue to leverage that for future expansion.”

Ultimately, MarshBerry wants to be known as a partner to its clients, not simply a vendor.

“It’s a mindset that I think has really taken root since we became employee-owned,” Metz says. “Everyone has a stake in the company, and everyone comes in and wants to take pride in what we do, take pride in the services we provide to our clients. When they succeed, we succeed, and we collectively embrace the challenge to always improve, always get better.”

For more information, visit www.marshberry.com.

Huntington assists in ESOP transition

In 2016, MarshBerry was seeking a new ownership structure. Having long allowed interested employees to invest in the company, leadership decided to convert MarshBerry to an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.

“An ESOP resonated best with what we wanted to be,” says Mike Metz, MarshBerry’s CFO. “It really fit our DNA as a company.” MarshBerry’s leadership team began searching for banks to help provide liquidity for the ESOP sale. That’s when they found Huntington.

“At the time, we didn’t have a relationship with Huntington,” Metz says. “But they won us over. We heard different pitches from different banks, but Huntington stood out. They really wanted to get to know our business. They wanted to meet with us face to face.”

That, combined with the financial terms offered, made Huntington the clear choice.

“Huntington did for us what we try to do for our clients,” Metz says. “They wanted to be more than just a vendor. They wanted to customize a solution that worked for us.”


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