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Front Page - Friday, April 20, 2012

IPSCO continues to serve lawyers under new ownership

For more than a decade, Insurance Planning and Service Company has been the exclusive insurance provider for the Chattanooga Bar Association. Now under new ownership, IPSCO, as the company is commonly known, is continuing its tradition of service to the members of the group while also expanding the options available to its clients.

Chris Scoggins and Jeffrey Smith bought IPSCO in January of this year from Con Knox, owner of the company since the early ’70s. Both men are seasoned insurance veterans who liked the idea of taking over a company that worked closely with professional associations.

“Working with associations differentiates us from the competition,” says Scoggins. “When you call on an attorney, and their association is recommending you, and they have recommended you for years, it makes it easier to step through the door than if you come out of nowhere.”

IPSCO has more than the blessing of the Bar behind them. They also have products no other insurance company in Tennessee can offer.

“We have unique professional liability products for attorneys. We also have a unique workers’ compensation program our clients can get only through us. And we have a unique disability plan geared toward attorneys and other professionals,” Scoggins says.

Smith, who’s also serving as the IPSCO’s chief financial officer, brings more than two decades of highly regarded work with the company to the table. Scoggins adds his experience as owner of Cornerstone Insurance Group, through which IPSCO has gained the ability to offer insurance policies to individuals, such as automobile and health insurance.

IPSCO’s bread and butter, however, remains its work with professionals, including the policies it writes for firms and individual attorneys.

“We can do health insurance for a firm or write a professional liability insurance policy for an attorney. Our niche is professionals and their insurance needs,” Smith says.

IPSCO has been planning, developing and implementing risk management and insurance programs for businesses and individuals in the Southeast since 1956. But the goals of the professionals at the company are to be more than agents; they want to be valued advisors.

The IPSCO team begins by identifying a client’s business or personal needs. The group then develops a comprehensive plan of protection. Because IPSCO is a locally owned and independent agency representing many companies, they’re able to offer numerous options. Smith says their goal is to provide “superior solutions.”

“We don’t want to be just the company that sells you your insurance, but the company that can also provide solutions to your problems. We work for you, not an insurance company.”

Scoggins mentions another goal of the company – selling value. “If I can’t improve on what you have, then I’m not going to ask you to change your insurance. In fact, I would recommend you stay where you are,” he says.

As new owners, Scoggins and Smith face a number of challenges. However, Scoggins says the biggest challenges most businesses face is not a factor at IPSCO – finding good people with whom to work.

“Your people are the most important part of your business. And we couldn’t live without half of the people who are here. Those are the kind of people we want.”

The average tenure of the 30 or so people who work at IPSCO is 18 years, which Scoggins says is unusual. He speculates many of them stay for the benefits, which are the same ones IPSCO offers its clients.

“We have a good retirement plan. We might be a small company, but when it comes to benefits, we offer close to what you could get with a Fortune 500 company. We reward our people.”

Smith says IPSCO’s approach to employee benefits sends a powerful message to their clients.

“We offer what we sell to our clients to our people. And we pay for part of it. That way, when we’re with our clients, they can see we believe in what we’re selling.”

“It’s easy to sell something when you’re a customer, too,” Scoggins adds.

Clients can also see the two men are dedicated members of the community in which they live. Both Scoggins and Smith are life-long Chattanoogans and graduates of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s business school. Outside of work, Scoggins has taken on the daunting task of coaching a Little League baseball team consisting of 5- and 6-year-olds, while Smith is a deacon at Silverdale Baptist Church and high school basketball referee. Both enjoy golf, but have little time for it. Instead, they devote the bulk of their waking hours to work and home.

More than anything else, Scoggins and Smith hope their commitment to their employees, community and families serves as a testament to the quality of service and product their clients can expect. Whether someone needs protection for their life, health or business, they want people to know they can count on IPSCO.

More at www.IPSCOlawyers.com and www.IPSCOagency.com.