Standing out in the highly competitive field of insurance agencies takes a deft approach, and Paris-Kirwan Associates Inc. has made its mark in various ways.
One niche market the Henrietta firm has focused on is medical malpractice insurance. Paris-Kirwan also offers Safety and Loss Control services to smaller clients and writes lots of policies for retail clients and property developers. Paris-Kirwan is exploring other specialized coverage areas, like corporate airlines, said company CEO Lawrence Stanney.
The approach must be working. Paris-Kirwan’s roots date back more than 80 years.
“We have an in-house safety person. A lot of insurance companies don’t provide safety/loss control to smaller clients,” Stanney said. Being an independent agency has its advantages. “We offer a choice of insurance companies,” he said. “We quote 10 or 12 companies, and we tailor the policy to your needs.”
About three-quarters of Paris-Kirwan’s business deals with commercial clients, Stanney said. Home and auto policies and the like are “still very important” and make up the remaining 25 percent.
The genesis of the company began in 1926. Peter Paris later incorporated the business in 1963 as Paris, Bud, Long and Esse. Paris’ uncle formed the original company, but Stanney did not know the details.
Peter Paris bought out smaller insurance agencies over the years with an eye to the future and a succession plan.
“He would make the people who he bought out partners in the agency,” Stanney said. “That was a way to bring younger people in.”
The firm got its current name when it merged in 1989 with the former Kirwan Agency. If the name sounds familiar, it should: the Kirwan Agency was founded by former political bigwig Laurence Kirwan, a longtime Rochesterian who was chairman of the New York State Democratic Party from 1984 to 1989. Kirwan, who died in 2002, also had been head of the Monroe County Democratic Party.
Stanney started with Paris-Kirwan on a part-time basis in 1991 and became full-time the following year. He came to Rochester from Staten Island in 1996 and worked for Arthur Anderson, formerly one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, and then as finance director for the Rochester chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society before landing at Paris-Kirwan. He became CEO in 1998.
The insurance business has changed tremendously since then, Stanney said.
“There are a lot of insurance agents out there. Technology has made a big change. It’s helped to streamline operations and it affects how you get your clients. Now there’s a much larger technology investment.”
Paris-Kirwan’s medical malpractice offerings have helped the company gain a presence in New York City, Stanney said. The firm just opened a small office in Long Island less than a year ago.
Paris-Kirwan was named to the Democrat and Chronicle’s list of Top Workplaces earlier this year. Stanney called the recognition a great honor and explained how a key philosophy might have led to the honor.
“Your family is the most important thing,” he said. “When there’s a problem (within employees’ families), we let you work out the details. When you take care of those things, you come to work with a better attitude.”
Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
Founded: 1926 (incorporated in 1963)
Location: 1040 University Ave., Rochester
Executives: Lawrence Stanney, CEO; James Fay, treasurer; Louis Pleninger, vice president-secretary; Steven Smagala, vice president; Kevin Curley, vice president.
Top Workplaces 2014
Paris-Kirwan Associates ranked 18th among small companies in the 2014 list of Rochester’s Top Workplaces. To read more about the companies on the list, go to DemocratandChronicle.com/topworkplaces.