Customer Testimonial: Growing Through M&A
Kim Grathwohl: Hello, I am Kim Grathwohl with Oak Street Funding, and I'm here today with Richard Braun, who is the President and CEO of Choice Financial Group. Tell us a little bit about your experience and your background.
Richard Braun: Yeah absolutely, Kim. I have been in the insurance industry since 1995. I started off, like a lot of agency principals did, literally one policy at a time. Kitchen table stuff, and have done everything in the agency from selling and servicing, marketing, bookkeeping, everything. Early on in my career, I was really fortunate, I was able to do a couple of acquisitions early on in my career to get a little bit of scale and some size. And in 2018, I was in a really unique position I was in. I had the opportunity to bring together some amazing agencies in the Nationwide Exclusive Agency System. And, some agencies that had some really fantastic people and longevity in their communities. And at that time, that's when I really reached out to Oak Street. What I needed was cash, and, and that's obviously where we started our relationship, and where Oak Street was so valuable to our growth.
Kim Grathwohl: What was the difference in your strategy to be the one who secures these acquisitions, again, because everybody is looking for the same type of agency to acquire?
Richard Braun: Yeah, well that's a great question. I guess I'd start off by saying," Why is this happening? And, why are we seeing such unprecedented levels of consolidation in our business?" And. Let's face it. I think that for agencies to compete now in the future, we really need to implement the latest technology, we need to recruit talented team members, and we need to access a deep and competitive stable of characters. We need to be able to leverage those relationships, to get the most we can from our carrier relationships. And, size matters. Size matters when it comes to attracting great people, representing the carriers that we want to represent, and leveraging those relationships, and affording and implementing the best technology that's out there, and that's changing all the time. And, one path for principles to achieve scale instantly and the benefits that come with that, is to partner with the right strategic partner. Choice has been a great success story. We've partnered with other agency principals and we've evolved from a single office in Southeast Virginia to offices throughout the entire Eastern half of the United States, but we're really just beginning. And I think that our story is resonated with other principals because they want to join our group. We've assembled an amazing team, and for the right agency partners, we're literally a ground floor opportunity that these agency principals that are partnering with us can achieve massive growth. And I think that that's been what's so attractive to the partners that are joining our group. To be honest, without Oak Street, we would not be in the position we are right now for growth. We went through a lot of growth in a very short timeframe. Oak Street was instrumental to that. We're at the ground floor of our next stage of growth, but we would not be in this position to bring on new partners and where we're at. We're going to be... We have joined the space of the fastest- growing brokers in the country, and we could not have positioned Choice for that current growth without Oak Street.