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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With … Jordan Russell

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Since opening Pillar Insurance in July 2016, how has your business changed?
In that time frame, we’ve gone from just a couple employees to seven. We have a group health and benefit arm now. We opened a Lebanon office in the summer of 2017. With that, we’ve grown substantially from a revenue standpoint, at least 30 percent year-over-year. We specialize in commercial lines insurance. We work with all industries, but some specialties are manufacturing, aviation, real estate, and we do a lot of workers’ compensation and work with restaurants.

Why create a new insurance agency?
We want every single client to have an exemplary service experience. That’s kind of what you sell in insurance. A lot of people have the same product. Some of the things we’ve adopted are ways we can service people electronically, ways that people can fill out information digitally. We’ve come up with different software – even one of our own that we’ve developed – so we can gather information in a seamless process. We have an iPhone application where people can request cards, information, store their auto ID cards. I had some marketing and branding background [before Pillar] and wanted to focus on reaching other generations in our business, creating an experience that would reach younger generations as they became business owners.

Your brother, Pillar President John Russell, was appointed to serve on the Greene County Commission. He said he’ll remain in his role, but how will your responsibilities change?
The main change is going to be that day-to-day administration that is needed to run the office. John isn’t going to be as involved with those office tasks, obviously, because he’ll be very busy. That’s the transition we’ve been working toward. Our grandfather [John T. Russell] was in the Missouri House and Senate a combined 42 years. His life in public service inspired John to serve.

What are some of the trends you’re watching?
Cyber liability and cyber protection insurance has become a very important piece for businesses. You hear about those big companies that get breached, but it’s also those mom and pop shops. Everyone is vulnerable. When a business gets breached, they have to follow a process. A business is legally required to send notifications to the people who were potentially breached within a certain amount of time. When you have a cyber policy, what’s included in that policy is a dedicated team to help get those notifications out in a timely manner. Technology is disrupting not just insurance but every industry. From the way people get quotes to the way we prospect to the way we market to the way we service, technology is giving us a lot of different ways to disrupt the market.

What’s the climate of the industry, and what new regulations are you navigating?
The industry is strong as a whole and, like a lot of things, it relates to the economy being strong. That leads to people investing in their businesses, buying machines, investing in their people, and in real estate. Another thing that we’ve seen with automobile is a lot of carriers are starting to offer incentive programs to reduce distracted driving. Auto rates are going up on the commercial and personal side. You can download an app so that they can monitor your business’ driving or your own personal driving; you can actually control some of that premium.

Does low unemployment affect your industry?
From that side of it, you have more benefits. A lot of liability can be based on payroll, and so payroll is going up, which requires these companies to have a higher insurance liability. As more people are getting hired, it’s a great thing for the insurance world.

Jordan Russell can be reached at jrussell@pillar-insurance.com.

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