Gregory & Appel Insurance, a fiercely independent insurance agency based in downtown Indianapolis, recently announced that Dan Appel would retire as chairman and CEO at the end of 2019 after 41 years of leading the firm. He has been succeeded by his son, Andrew Appel (pictured above), marking the fifth generation of family leadership since the agency’s founding in 1884.
Dan Appel (pictured below) joined Gregory & Appel in 1978. What followed was four decades of innovation and growth, all underpinned by his staunch commitment to independence and internal perpetuation. Under his watch, the property and casualty insurance agency boomed from 25 employees to over 140 team members, while also being consistently recognized as one of the best places to work in Indiana.
The retired CEO, who will continue to serve the firm as non-executive board chair, initiated a strategic succession plan during his tenure as leader that would allow Gregory & Appel to remain independent in an industry rife with insurance distribution mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He did this by offering stock ownership to employees, which has resulted in shareholder population in the firm growing from him alone to 32 employee shareholders.
“In an industry where most agencies are sold during times of leadership transition, my father had the strategic foresight to develop a perpetuation plan that would not only maintain family ownership, but extend shareholder opportunity to our Gregory & Appel colleagues,” said Andrew Appel, president and CEO, Gregory & Appel.
“His vision made our independent ownership possible. Needless to say, in 41 years of leadership, he had many opportunities to financially exit the business at a multiple that would have been greater than internal perpetuation would support. However, he firmly believes that wasn’t in the best interest of our business, our clients, our colleagues, or our community. That commitment to independence is something he brought in and cultivated at Gregory & Appel.”
Remaining fiercely independent has had a number of key impacts on the agency, according to Andrew Appel. It has enabled the organization to make longer-term investments, and has given them more breathing room to strategize without the short-term financial pressures that often come with corporate ownership. It has also allowed the agency to attract and retain different types of talent.
Dan Appel explained: “Many people say their people are their best asset. We believe that by remaining fiercely independent, and being vocal about that independence, we’re able to attract a different type of person. We’re very fortunate to have attracted a number of people over the years who are tremendous technicians and absolutely passionate about serving their clients. They have exited organizations where they did not get the same level of support, freedom and recognition of the day to day pressures that a locally-operated independent organization can provide.”
Despite having over 140 team members handling approximately $25 million in annual premium between them, Gregory & Appel has only one office location in downtown Indianapolis. Again, this links to the firm’s staunch independence and its commitment to remaining corporate citizens within the metropolitan Indianapolis area.
Under Andrew Appel’s leadership this will not change. He said he looks forward to continuing Dan Appel’s legacy of independence and internal perpetuation, while also driving further innovation within the firm. At present, Gregory & Appel’s book of business can be broken down into roughly 60% commercial property and casualty, 10% personal insurance, and 30% employee benefits. As the new leader, Andrew Appel plans to guide the agency through a long-term plan to diversify revenue streams and develop more of an even balance between commercial insurance, personal insurance and employee benefits. He added: “I will also continue my father’s legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship so that we can continue to grow and best serve our clients’ needs.”