Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce
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Local ties: North Risk Partners McKinneyOlson Insurance

When your firm carries the distinction of being a founding member of the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, you’re not going to pair up with a business that doesn’t share your values.

“Chamber membership and community connections was one of the things that was very important to (us) when we were looking at potential partners to partner up with,” said Amy Olson-Miller, former co-owner of McKinneyOlson Insurance and now risk advisor and partner-president of North Risk Partners’ West Division.

The “us” Olson-Miller referred to includes former McKinneyOlson partner, Steve Tripp, who now also is a partner, risk advisor and vice president of sales for North Risk. The firm will be known as North Risk Partners McKinneyOlson Insurance for a couple of years before transitioning solely to the new name.

North Risk is headquartered in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth, Minnesota. It has about 475 employees in more than 30 offices in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and now South Dakota. The Sioux Falls office has 29 employees, its largest number ever, Olson-Miller said.

McKinneyOlson began in 2008 when McKinney & Allen and The Olson Group joined forces. Olson-Miller’s father, James Olson, had opened his insurance agency in Sioux Falls in 1980, while McKinney & Allen was founded in Sioux Falls in the late 1800s.

Olson-Miller joined The Olson Group in 1993. When she merged with McKinney & Allen 16 years ago, it combined two agencies with common cultures and goals.

“We were both very community-oriented agencies with locations that go back in Sioux Falls for quite a while,” she said. “At the time it was planning for the future. While we were very similar in culture, we had very different books of business. On the Olson side it was heavy construction and restaurants. McKinney & Allen was more nonprofits and schools and general insurance. Overall, it was a good balance to spread the risk and the type of exposures we had.”

McKinneyOlson acquired The Insurance Connection in 2019 and also has an office in Brandon. North Risk, one of the largest independent insurance brokers and risk advisory firms in the Midwest, previously had an office in Sioux Falls that consolidated into the McKinneyOlson office on South Lyncrest Place when the acquisition was announced in March.

Insurance agencies are in the business of protecting people and their assets and lives, Olson-Miller said. About 60 percent of McKinneyOlson’s clients were business with 40 percent personal. An employee-benefits division offers personal health and life insurance as well as group health and life.

With changes in technology and the accompanying risks, the insurance world is changing rapidly. Mergers and acquisitions take place almost daily, and Olson-Miller and Tripp were being approached by large national carriers interested in adding McKinneyOlson to their portfolio. The partners made the decision they wanted to remain as local as possible, knowing it would be a better fit.

This is the best of both worlds. We still have the local feel, but we have the resources of a larger agency.

“Our whole reason for actually looking to even join a larger firm was strictly for our clients and as far as additional resources we could offer like loss-control services, safety-control services and more access to a larger market,” Olson-Miller said. “This is the best of both worlds. We still have the local feel, but we have the resources of a larger agency.”

Days after the acquisition, McKinneyOlson’s staff joined North Risk employees in a week of service in late April. It encouraged staff to volunteer across the region. The firm also allows up to 24 hours of volunteer time off annually.

“They encourage everyone to utilize every hour of that plus more,” Olson-Miller said.

With McKinneyOlson’s decades-long ties to the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, it was essential that it partner up with a firm that understood the community values it supports and its volunteer efforts.

“We’ve got a lot of our risk advisors that are involved in different associations like the Home Builders Association and the contractors association,” Olson-Miller said. “A number of our risk advisors serve on boards of directors for various organizations around Sioux Falls.

Each North Risk office has an annual budget set aside to support community activities. Individual offices, such as those in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, will decide where to spend the dollars, Olson-Miller said.

But offices in North Risk’s footprint offer chambers of commerce dedicated support.

“When I got my breakdown of potential expenses, there’s a chart of expenses and categories,” Olson-Miller said. “One of the categories is specifically chambers of commerce. I’ve got to believe if one of the 10 categories is the Chamber, then everybody’s utilizing it.”

Businesses becoming bigger while maintaining local connections