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Top 100 2012: Financial firms set their sights on excellence

By , - Last modified: August 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Companies in the financial sector face a formidable mix of challenges: An intensely competitive environment, a tough economy, rapidly changing technology and a thicket of regulations that seems to grow more tangled every year.

The midstate's companies meet those challenges with a mix of innovation, determination and high standards of service, their leaders said.

"We have to be very good at what we do," said Steven Kusic, president and CEO of NRA Group, a Swatara Township-based collections firm that does business as National Recovery Agency.

Arthur J. Glatfelter Agency Inc., the York County insurance conglomerate, once again topped the Business Journal's list of privately held financial firms, posting revenues of $259.6 million in 2011, a slight increase over 2010. The company did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

NRA Group repeated in the No. 2 spot, with revenues of $55.3 million. The company just expanded its Mechanicsburg office by 13,000 square feet and hopes to add 130 to 140 jobs there, Kusic said.

Formed in 1997, the Insurance Alliance of Central PA Inc., with revenues of

$24.1 million, has grown to become one of the 100 largest independent agency groups in the U.S., President and CEO Jane Koppenheffer said.

NRA Group
Steven Kusic, president and CEO
Swatara Township, Dauphin County

How do you prepare to face the competition?

Our clients aren't just looking for dollars collected. They're also looking for compliance with applicable laws. We invest heavily in technology on the compliance front, which is changing all the time. If a state changes its laws, we modify our systems accordingly.

Also, as we continue to grow, we have to upscale our size — our computer systems and phone systems. They have to be able to handle hundreds of users.

We have to be able to offer the best technology to our clients, so we can give them the most efficient and competitive prices for the same amount of work versus our competitors.

What's your training strategy/approach?

We require our employees to take the Fair Collection Practices Act exam twice a year. So we constantly have training, all the way up from the lowest level to the highest, including myself. It's what makes our employees not only good at what they do but also compliant at what they do.

We have three full-time training managers, and we bring in external trainers for the higher level managers. Training plays a huge part in what we do.

What does success look like for your team?

We're seeing new clients. It's our job to help them maintain their profitability. To keep your clients, you have to be compliant. If you don't have clients, you don't have growth. Everything's contingent on everything else.

Last year, we acquired a company called American Agencies based out in Los Angeles. We relocated their operations to the Central Pennsylvania region. They offer collection services as well; it's just structured differently. That operation has taken off pretty well.

In the last three years, I think we've had something like a 130 percent growth rate. That isn't too shabby.

The Insurance Alliance of Central PA Inc.
Jane Koppenheffer, president and CEO
Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County

How do you prepare to face the competition?

I think it's very important to know the competition. In insurance, we try to understand the different policies and coverage options that our competition offers, as well as the pricing. But I think even more important than knowing your competition is knowing yourself. We spend a lot of time to identify what makes us different from the competition. To create what you might call a value proposition, define why people might want to work with us.

What's your training strategy/approach?

Insurance is an interesting industry. You need a great deal of what we might call technical skills. People have to learn the intricacies of the insurance products. But beyond that, they have to learn the people skills needed to communicate these complicated products to customers. So our training really is two-pronged: the technical side and the people-skills side.

When we hire people, we typically hire for the people skills. If they have the capacity to learn the technical side, we can teach that, whereas the people skills are more of a challenge. As for how we teach, we use a mix of formal classroom training and informal mentoring.

What does success look like for your team?

Success looks like growth, being able to help more customers. It looks like profit, making money. I think it also means making a difference, meaning we're solving customers' problems and helping to create value for them.

We're an independent agency group. We represent over 40 insurance companies. We're trying to grow with the relationships that we have with those companies, and write more accounts with them. Profit means that we're being efficient and effective in our operations while putting a high premium on customer service.

Adding value, that really means we're putting together the best insurance program for them that we can, which is a balance between coverage, price and service. For different people, the best value might involve putting emphasis on one of those elements rather than the others. It's about finding the right balance for the customer.

Top banking and finance companies

Arthur J. Glatfelter Agency Inc.: $259.63 million

NRA Group LLC: $555.27 million

Insurance Alliance of Central PA Inc.: $24.1 million

The Benecon Group Inc.: $21.02 million

Centric Financial Corp.: $10.75 million

Gunn Mowery LLC: $6.6 million

Sonrise Tags and Tax LLC: $1.4 million

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