A Letter From the President – February 2022

I wanted to share the lyrics from a song my mother used to share with us titled, I Hope You Dance, by Lee Ann Womack.


My Mom’s name is Diane Z. Smith. The Z, for Zaino, her maiden name. She was born to Guiseppe Zaino (whom I am named after) and Maria Zaino in 1937. My Mom passed away on Feb 12.

As you may have experienced, working though the post death of a loved one (my Mom was a widow), my siblings and I went through the range of emotions. We cried, we laughed, we thought a lot. One of Mom’s favorite definitions of a good day was from Jim Valvano’s ESPY’s speech where he said, “To me, there are three things we all should do every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” ~Jim Valvano

My Mom was an artist, and she drew Christmas cards for over 40 years. I recall them from when I was a six year old and we have them all today. She always included a quote or poem or song lyrics with her cards and her fine drawings. So beautiful, spiritual, and so “her”. One she drew was with lyrics to the song I Hope You Dance. This was advice she gave us and her unconditional love – the greatest gift a parent can give to their child – was a foundation for us we could always go back to – no matter how we did or what we did.

I wanted to recognize her as she had a great dance throughout her life and impacted us in so many ways. She also was there for my Dad when he co-founded Smith Brothers – the company my sister and I steward today. She encouraged him to dance and was always there for him during the toughest times of a company’s cycle – the founding. We celebrated our 50th year in business in 2021. Much of the quiet support of my Mom and her advice to “wander” and “wonder” and “take a chance” existed in the founding and through my sister Kim and my stewardship. I also love that she would send us one liners from this song – not to fear and to be humble. I hope you can share this with someone and encourage them to “dance”.

Joe

I Hope You Dance
Lee Ann Womack, Sons of the Desert

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance…
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’,
Don’t let some Hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.)
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
Dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,

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A Letter From the President – January 2022

Inflation is on everyone’s mind nowadays. Inflation has a lot of businesses worried. Warren Buffett compares inflation to a tapeworm on the host.

 “Inflation acts as a gigantic corporate tapeworm. That tapeworm preemptively consumes its requisite daily diet of investment dollars regardless of the health of the host organism… The tapeworm of inflation simply cleans the plate.” ~Warren Buffett

Inflation creates higher cost of claims – materials – medical bills – elevated court case verdicts (social inflation), etc. Below is a chart showing the anticipated effects on P&C insurance rates – this chart shows large ranges. We ask you to consult with our Risk Advisors as we understand the marketplace trends you have control of versus those you don’t. We advise you on the trends, so you are aware, yet we consult on what you do have control of to be on the lower end of cost of risk, regardless of what economic market we are in. Our proprietary Risk Profile process allows us to lower your cost of risk relative to your competitors gaining you real marketplace advantages. Using Warren Buffett’s analogy – we make the host better and stronger so the tapeworm can’t do it’s damage.

Going into 2022, economic experts predicted rising inflation will continue to be a pressing concern. While it’s currently making the most significant impact on the property and auto insurance markets, such prolonged inflation will likely begin to affect additional segments over time, such as the workers’ compensation and liability insurance. This means insurance carriers will face challenges as it pertains to maintaining insurance pricing to keep up with more volatile loss trends. To prevent unanticipated loss costs and increased loss ratios due to rising inflation concerns, carriers may need to increase premium expenses and make other coverage adjustments. Nevertheless, it’s important to note the insurance industry as a whole is better positioned to incur losses to its reserves when compared to previous periods of prolonged inflation in U.S. history (i.e., the 1980s).

Premium forecasts are expected to rise; its magnitude, of course, is dependent on a multitude of factors. The forecasts by nature should be viewed as general information and are subject to change

 If you would like a more comprehensive look at trends influencing the commercial insurance space and how these trends may impact policyholders, click here. Our Risk Advisors can help you navigate this variable business cost and work with you on other risk mitigation strategies to be sure you are well positioned in this economic environment to come out the other end stronger.

Be Sure

Joe

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Oxford Insurance Agency joins Smith Brothers Insurance



Glastonbury, CT – Effective November 1, 2021, Smith Brothers Insurance has acquired Oxford Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency located in Oxford, Massachusetts. The acquisition expands Smith Brothers Insurance footprint in Massachusetts and allows Oxford Insurance to maintain local presence, while leveraging the resources of Smith Brothers Insurance, one of the nation’s Top 100 independent brokers.

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News and Views – August 2021

A Letter From the President
Joseph B. Smith, President & CEO

A lot has been going on with vaccines discussion and more recently, booster shots. The data and evidence show the initial vaccines are working. Despite break through cases and some data to show longevity (effectiveness waning), it is truly amazing as a country we faced a pandemic and within a year it has been essentially slowed by vaccines (and other safety awareness) which allowed us to get back out of total shelter in environments and avoid more significant economic head winds. Remember – the Unites States Government dumped so much money into our economy to get us out of shelter in economic disaster – but it/we can’t afford another shelter in environment or the economic fallout.

At a Harvard Business School session I attended, I was taught about effective decision making in uncertain times – to always – collect data – check its credibility – listen to all sides of the decision – reassess and then, after you are sure you have as best credible data as you can, make your judgement call.

In terms of those deciding on whether to get a vaccine or not – look at the data that we know about and can trust – please not social media or far left or right media. Infectious disease experts – hospitals and appointed public health officials is what we have as our best (not perfect) set of data. The ICU units and deaths data are largely from unvaccinated, and significant immune deficient vaccinated are the slight balance. It is also the unvaccinated in fast spreading communities that increase the probability of breed new variants.

I am committed to not allow politics to come into this message – there is no definite right or wrong here as we all have limited information and time in a health pandemic. Fear, uncertainty, and lack of trust is truly present amongst many of us in the US – this is factual. So, in times of uncertainty, mistrust, and fear – do your homework with data and facts – try to remove emotions or pre-established options and study it hard. Then use your judgment/intuition.

We want our society to stay back together – our families – our churches – our teams – our companies – and social gatherings. We want our economy to not go south into depression – and we want to reduce or eliminate the fear that goes with a pandemic whose virus has killed millions of people around the world and over 650k in the US.

Attached is an article I saw on boosters. It is getting more clear from the data we will need boosters somewhere between 5-8 months after initial vaccines. The article discusses some questions to ask about boosters. The rollout which appears to be planned for end of September. Stay on top of the new data and information – it is fluid which – and stay away from the politics and extremists.

Six Important Questions About Booster Shots Answered

Be Well
Joe

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News and Views – June 2021

This month, I am sharing an article on leadership adapted from a LinkedIn Live Discussion with Anjali Sud, the CEO of Vimeo. In this discussion, Anjali shares her top 9 tips for those that want to be leaders. These are also good tips for anyone currently in a leadership role as we are all always developing.

Here at Smith Brothers, we believe everyone is a leader. Leadership as a skill set is becoming more and more valuable for all of us in all our roles. As the world gets more digital and robotic – the world will need more collaboration and leadership from humans – thus value in the market. I coach my kids to study leadership – read about it – pick brains of leaders – and practice it in their lives and roles. It is a priceless skill set and the world needs more great leaders!

https://ideas.ted.com/want-to-be-a-leader-someday-leadership-advice-from-vimeo-ceo-anjali-sud/

Be Sure

Joe

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A Letter From the President

A Message from Joe B. Smith President & CEO, Smith Brothers Insurance This month, I’m sharing an article on the subject of misinformation and how one can get manipulated with news and social media outlets – 7 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Misinformation Superspreader At the end of the year, I wrote a State of the Company report for our stakeholders and spoke about social media as being a powerful double edge sword. An incredible outlet for data and connectivity, yet it also makes us all very vulnerable to misinformation. This misinformation could also lead to significant attitude and behavioral changes causing much of a divide in the country. This article addresses ways to value truth and accuracy over spreading misinformation. I have found that being empathetic, listening before talking, and making sure you hear multiple sources and sides of the information flow will help balance your thoughts. Balanced thoughts lead to a less emotional and more thoughtful way to expressing oneself and forming your belief system. “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” – Edward R. Murrow Be Sure. Joe
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2021 – A Time For Opportunity

As we find our way heading deeper into 2021, I wanted to share some highlights of our 2020 year and look forward – bigger picture – to 2021 here at Smith Brothers. As a company with a Conscious Capitalism philosophy, where we drive to optimize all stakeholders, not one at the expense of another.

The year 2020 was filled with uncertainty, both in the health pandemic and the economic fallout. As a company we fared well through it – a testament to all our people and stakeholders. Here are a few highlights.

  1. We went remote on March 16, 2020 and were able to keep our people safe and be responsive to our clients – and in 2020 – our clients needed us more than ever.
  2. We realized how important the remote work infrastructure we started over a decade ago, and enhanced each year, was so important to our survival and ability to serve all stakeholders.
  3. We stressed tested our company financials to what could have been an economic disaster. For some industries it was and remains extremely hard. Our financial wellbeing is strong, and we ended the year with slight growth, low debt, and healthy financials.
  4. We affirmed our strategy of ballast. Diverse revenue streams matter. We saw this with ourselves and our clients.
  5. We set up a Survive and Advance model that was internal and external. We communicated and advised our clients and helped them from PPP loan advice, new regulations, risk transfer, payments deferrals, and coverage advice.
  6. We started the year with a wellbeing theme of Power of the Brain intended to educate and discuss how important understanding how the mind controls our thoughts and thus behaviors or responses to triggers. In early 2020 as shelter in place happened and fear set in, we enhanced our program and offered several mental health resources and discussions, so our team members had an outlet to rely on.
  7. We acquired a great firm- Shank & Falvey out of the Albany area, which helped us expand our New York Region and brought a great group of people to join us.
  8. We invested in people and technology. We think long term, so even as we had to focus short run on survive and advance – we also stayed discipline on long-term investing for our sustainability well into the future.

We look at 2021 as a year of opportunity. We are not through the pandemic yet, and economic conditions seem fragile. For sure, we know there is more friction and uncertainty ahead. We also see opportunity. Here are some of our themes for 2021.

  1. Stay flexible – financially and operationally. We will all need to adjust and be great at managing change.
  2. Seek opportunity for new products or services, be entrepreneurial, be creative, and aim to grow – not stand still. We will invest in creating better solutions for our clients.
  3. Don’t overextend and do not under invest. Be smart on overhead and debt and invest wisely with calculated risk. Keep our financials healthy and strong.
  4. Stay in what we know – and do it better.
  5. Process improvements through the client lens. This helps us improve client service while scaling our operations and will be key in the near term and long term. This is hard work and we won’t stray from it.
  6. Acquire where we pick up great people and leadership – this really matters.
  7. Invest in R&D and smart tech investments that help our client experience and our operational efficiency. We are all over this.
  8. Focus on people and their total wellbeing. We will continue to add resources for mental health and helping people manage with the stress and anxiety that the world delivers. We want to be helpful in having our team members become better at how they respond to toxic triggers and work towards a life of fulfillment and joy.
  9. We will dig deeper into our cultural foundation to make sure we are inclusive and more proactive on equal opportunity for all.
  10. Our plan is to continue to grow and remain in the top quartile financially of our peers – allowing us to reinvest and take care of all stakeholders.

We appreciate your interest in Smith Brothers and our wellbeing.

Be Well.
Joe B. Smith
President & CEO

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A Letter From the President

This website – http://info.trendwatching.com/21-trends-for-2021 – with it’s easy to read layout of trends for 2021 is new to me. It caught my eye as I see each new year as a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what we can create for ourselves and our companies. Reflecting on 2020 – it was for sure unique – yet, amongst all the friction and uncertainty, opportunities arise. The site shares 21 trend driven innovation opportunities for 2021. I am not endorsing the ideas, simply reading about them and sharing as possible ideas and thought starters.

Data, digital, mental health, equal opportunity for all, and caring about “green” stick out. Whether you see some ideas for personal goals, or how your company can align, it is always worthy to look ahead and see if you can bring some good to the world using your creativity and leveraging opportunities ahead.

Be Sure.
Joe

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A Letter From the President

One of the many lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that, despite our differences, we are all interdependent – truly globally connected. Whether it be relying on our neighbors to maintain six feet at the grocery store, or imploring our kids to pick up after themselves, this public health crisis has illuminated the extent to which our successes, our comfort, and our health all depend on the goodwill and respect of each other. We have all spent a lot of thought on trying to stay focused on the health experts versus the media messages, and balance the primary public health issue versus the psychological and economic impacts of being sheltered in. Here at Smith Brothers, our main purpose – the one that guides all that we do – is helping others. It dictates everything from the way we serve our clients, to our commitment to giving back to our community and each other. As our society gradually begins to reopen and we look to return to our normal routines, all of us at Smith Brothers recognize that even an act as small as washing your hands, or respecting the various concerns others may have towards the process, now counts as helping others. For all of the immense challenges this pandemic has presented us with, it has also provided us with a unique opportunity. It’s granted us with a new perspective on the innumerable ways, both big and small, we can make a positive impact on each other. While we all hope that the majority of the effects of COVID-19 eventually are solved by treatments that keep us all safe, it is also our hope that we learn that despite our personal viewpoints, or fears, we respect each other. We are truly interdependent – so we need to take this journey together. A Smith Brothers team member passed along an episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast, featuring Jim Dethmer, titled “How to Shift from Victim Consciousness, Reduce Drama, Practice Candor, Be Fully Alive and More.” In the episode, Dethmer, an author, speaker, and founder of The Conscious Leadership Group, shares best practices on how we can work through our negative thoughts to become the most engaged, present version of ourselves at work, at home, and in our communities. These skills are especially important in times like these, so we can act out of strength rather than fear. I look forward to listening. Let’s use our differences as a strength to get us collectively to a better place. This requires respect for each other and being united in our empathy for one another. This will help reduce the uncertainty and fear, and focus on hope and unity that makes us all better in the long run. As we come out the other end of COVID-19 – knowing full well another challenge will come our way – we can gain confidence that as a free society, we used our freedoms to be “united” and make it through stronger as a collective group. Other less free societies may be able to dictate how their citizens behave. We, as a free society, rely on our “togetherness.” Be Sure. Joe
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A Letter From the President

I love this article – https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/new-harvard-research-to-be-successful-chase-your-purpose-not-your-passion.html – because it concludes through research that Purpose beats Passion in the pursuit of happiness in your career. The subtle but powerful additive of the why is that Purpose brings resilience. Resilience will get you through the hurdles and challenges career building will most definitely bring. One thing the article doesn’t mention about career choices is the importance of the quality of the business you choose. I had the opportunity to be part of a panel on career building with a team of student athletes. This very topic came up during our discussions, and I thought it worthy of mention. While it is more of a business model filter than an emotional one, like passion versus purpose, it is often not thought of by people when choosing an industry to start a business, or joining an existing company – and yet a very important consideration. One of my closest friends is a very successful entrepreneur and investor who sat on the panel with me. When a college student athlete stated: “I want to start a business I have a “passion” for…” my friend responded “this is exactly what you DON’T want to do.” His point was – first make sure the business you start or join has characteristics of a solid business model like low capital expenses, high cash flows, and repetitive income versus a business you have a passion for that sucks cash flows and has low margins. My advice to my kids will be: start or find a business with great business model characteristics AND find one you care about where the services and products it delivers to its customers has meaning – has a Purpose you care about and align with. Our Big Purpose at Smith Brothers is to Help Others. The very products and services we deliver to clients helps them plan for risk and indemnify them at a time of need. Everything we do at Smith Brothers with all our stakeholders is “how can we help.” Be Sure Joe