Clark Insurance is an independently owned and locally operated insurance agency located on Lewis Street in downtown Hartford. Founded in May 2014 by father and son Tom and Dan Clark, and a group of area businessmen, the startup provides a full range of coverage for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals throughout Greater Hartford.
Clark Insurance is a member of the Acorn Insurance Alliance, a group of 14 local, well-established agencies, giving the firm access to more than 50 insurance carriers and a large selection of insurance products to meet the varied needs of its clients.
Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with Dan and Tom Clark about their unique startup and their commitment to staying in Hartford.
IDH: Give us a little bit of background. Why did you decide to start an insurance company in Hartford?
TOM CLARK: Over the years Dan and I often talked about working together. A few years ago we decided to start an agency because we felt that there’s a real market opportunity here in Hartford. So, we put a team together and started Clark Agency LLC (we do business as Clark Insurance).
Part of our team is a group of strategic investors—nine local, well-established businessmen who are very active in the community, many whom we’ve known for dozens of years. Having them involved has been a great way to jumpstart the business.
DAN CLARK: It’s enabled us to hire great people and build out an experienced staff and round out the team. The timeframe for doing this has been much quicker for us.
TC: Dan is a fully licensed property and casualty agent. He’s been in the insurance business for over a decade. He’s also fully licensed to provide life, disability, health insurance, and employee benefits to individuals and commercial clients.
My background has been more in investments. I have over 30 years of experience running small businesses as an owner and investor. I worked on Wall Street before co-founding a municipal bond firm here on Lewis Street. We sold the company in the mid-1990s and I’ve been active in small business ever since, running businesses and getting involved in various ways.
IDH: Why Hartford?
DC: My dad has been in this office on 15 Lewis Street for over 30 years, so that was a natural place to start our business. Also, Harford is the insurance capital of the world, but there aren’t a lot of independent agencies in downtown Hartford. I think we’re actually the only one. Most of the other insurance companies are larger operations that aren’t focused on small business, so it’s been a nice niche for us to be working with small- and medium-size businesses right in the Greater Hartford area, especially downtown. We’re unique that way.
IDH: So you’re not competing with the big insurance companies?
DC: That’s correct. They’re more interested in the larger corporations, which is a different market than our focus at Clark Insurance.
IDH: Tell us a little bit about your startup and its evolution.
DC: Clark Insurance was fortunate to become a member of the Acorn Insurance Alliance. This is a group of 14 agencies that have all partnered together. We’re all independent but we pool resources and provide support for each other.
Typically, a newer agency has very limited carrier access. You have to satisfy certain quotas with each carrier and you don’t have that many to choose from. The Acorn membership has enabled to have access to more than 50 carriers, so that’s been beneficial for us out right of the gates.
For example, as we work with businesses or individuals, we aren’t restricted to one insurance carrier or product. We can find the right fit and determine the best coverage for the client. We can determine exactly what they need, find the best carrier with the strongest appetite for that type of coverage, and place the business with them. This is a major advantage to our clients. It also helps on cost. Because we have a number of carriers competing for the business, we’re able to do a much better job of managing the cost of insurance.
Another benefit of being part of Acorn is that we can offer unbiased advice to clients. We’re not placing insurance for only one insurance provider. We don’t have the same pressures to satisfy sales quotas because we’re part of a larger, highly successful group. So if our agency places a client with one carrier that’s fine. As a group, we have strong relationships with all the different underwriters and generally receive very favorable treatment from the carriers.
Because of these advantages and the fact that we have an experienced team at our agency, we’re not a typical startup. We’re a relatively new business in downtown Hartford, but we’re really well positioned to provide great service to our clients.
IDH: Do you have clients that are startups or small businesses?
DC: Yes, we have good number of them and it’s been a nice because we know what they’re going through. Not only do we know the appropriate coverages for them, but we know what business issues they’re facing.
TC: When we’re dealing with businesses we have the unique perspective of knowing the insurance side but also understanding small business. So we really have a different approach to working with these startups. As Dan said, we’ve really seen it from both sides.
IDH: You recently became a MetroHartford Alliance Regional Investor.
TC: We’re really thrilled to be part of the MetroHartford Alliance. It’s a great group that’s doing tremendous work. They’ve already been very supportive to us. We want to help that cause and work together to grow our firm and help bring economic development to the Greater Hartford area. We’re committed to being here in Hartford and we intend to stay here forever.
For more information about Clark Insurance, visit www.clarkinsagency.com.