Spokane Journal of Business

Marsh taps Spokane as hub

Advantage America unit to add 75 employees here, oversee West

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Marsh Advantage America, a division of the insurance giant Marsh Inc., has put its West regional headquarterswith oversight responsibility for 11 states in Spokane and now plans to add as many as 75 people to its staff of about 100 here.

The operation here also is considering opening a third-party administration center in Spokane and is planning a major remodeling of its offices, at 601 W. Main downtown, says Jeff Gullickson, managing director of the Marsh division here.

He adds that the project likely will cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Spokane office, which formerly had operated as Sedgwick of Washington Inc., now houses both a regional headquarters and a retail operation of Marsh Advantage America. The regional operation includes administrators and staff members who oversee and help support the more than 15 field offices in Marsh Advantages 11-state West region.

The retail operation, meanwhile, is staffed mostly by consultants and salespeople who sell property and casualty insurance to employers, and custom-designed employee-benefits packages to help employers attract and retain key employees. The company also is looking to expand its offerings, Gullickson says.

Marsh Advantages specialty is to serve the insurance-buying sector of the market that Marsh Inc. hasnt pursued in the pastbasically, locally owned and operated companies and entrepreneurial ventures typically in the health-care, construction, and services industries. Marsh Inc. mostly has concentrated on big, international corporations.

About 85 percent of the number of businesses in the U.S. fall into our area, Gullickson says of Marsh Advantage. We want to grow Marshs market share in this area, and I think well see some pretty good growth.

The Spokane office currently employs about 100 people and plans to hire between five and 25 more workers within the next 18 months, Gullickson says. He says another 50 workers are expected to be hired here within the next three years.

A number of those new employees would work at a planned third-party administration center. Gullickson says that the company currently is studying the feasibility of opening such a center, which would be staffed by Marsh employees who would process claims for self-insured employers.

Gullickson says Marsh already operates such a center in the Midwest, but the company believes it also needs one for the West regionand hes hoping the company will open it here. He says some of the companys executives will visit Spokane next month to determine whether Spokane would be a viable location for the center and to search for space here for the facility.

The Spokane operation currently occupies a total of 21,000 square feet of floor space on the 13th and 14th floors of the Washington Mutual Financial Center downtown.

Gullickson says Marsh Advantage is working with ALSC Architects PS, of Spokane, to redesign that office space with a more modern look. He expects that renovation work, which will be performed by Spokane-based James W. Elmer Construction Co., will start within the next six weeks and should take up to five months to complete.

Long history here

The Spokane office of Marsh Advantage originally opened as McGovern Carroll about 80 years ago, says Vicki Kitley, the divisions chief operating officer. In 1970, the office here and an office in Seattle were bought by Chicago-based Fred S. James and operated under that name until 1986. At that time, Fred S. James was bought by London-based Sedgwick, and the Spokane operation operated as Sedgwick James until the James part of the name eventually was dropped in the late 1980s, Kitley says.

In November 1998, Sedgwick was bought by Marsh & McLennan Cos., and the Sedgwick offices began operating as Marsh Inc., the insurance brokerage arm of the big, New York-based financial and consulting services company.

In addition to buying Sedgwick, Marsh & McLennan Cos. also bought New York-based Johnson & Higgins and placed its offices under the Marsh Inc. umbrella. A year ago, some Marsh Inc., Sedgwick, and Johnson & Higgins offices were melded together to form the Marsh Advantage America division, which recently was restructured.

As part of the restructuring, the division, which had six major geographical areas, was redivided into three main regions, including the West, which encompasses 11 Western U.S. states and includes more than 15 offices in cities such as Seattle, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, and Boise. The other two divisions break the rest of the U.S. into a North and a South region.

Gullickson, a Spokane native who had been working for Marsh in Denver, says that during the restructuring process he was given a choice of where to base the West regional headquarters and chose Spokane because of the size of and expertise already at the operation here. The move became official last month.

Marsh has an incredible well of resources that we can tap, Gullickson says. Our challenge is to identify those resources and bring them to Spokane.

In addition to bringing in resources, the regional headquarters will be bringing in peopledrumming up business for local hotels and restaurants.

We already have over 100 salespeople scheduled to come to Spokane in October for a meeting, and we have a national meeting scheduled here next June, Gullickson says.

  • Lisa Harrell

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