PA Chamber’s insurance arm strikes first-ever deal

From left: Jewell Lester, COO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry; Gar Thomas of Washko and Thomas Agency LLC; and Gil Davis, COO of Pennsylvania Chamber Insurance. (photo/submitted)

The for-profit insurance subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is setting off on an expected growth spurt.

  • Pennsylvania Chamber Insurance said yesterday it has closed on a deal to buy a book of business from Gar Thomas, owner of Hazleton-based insurance and benefits brokerage Washko and Thomas Agency LLC
  • The agency provided group health benefits to small and medium-sized employers, said Jon Anzur, a chamber spokesperson.
  • Thomas is joining PCI as an independent contractor. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • “I’m excited about what the future holds as we continue working together to open new doors and help more clients find the benefits options that suit their business’s needs,” Thomas said in a statement.

Why is this happening: The chamber plans to expand its for-profit insurance subsidiary as part of its strategic direction under its new leader, Luke Bernstein, according to Anzur.

  • A former bank exec, Bernstein was named president and CEO of the statewide chamber in May 2022.
  • “We really are looking to grow and provide more of the value proposition to our members that we’re known for,” Anzur said.
  • The purchase of Washko and Thomas is a first for the chamber subsidiary — known as PCI —  but it won’t be the last, according to a statement from PCI COO Gil Davis. 
  • “We can’t wait to provide the excellent customer service we’re well known for to this new group of clients, and we look forward to what the future holds,” Davis said.
  • In addition to group health benefits, PCI offers benefits consulting, self-insurance expertise, HR consulting and specialty benefits such as dental, vision, life and disability.

The trend: Insurance agencies have been active in mergers and acquisitions over the last few years.

  • However, dealmaking slowed down in 2022 and even fell below pre-pandemic levels, according to research firm S&P Global.
  • Nonetheless, an insurance services company in the Harrisburg area — Keystone Agency Partners — was among the top acquirers last year in the capital region, according to an M&A report by Lancaster-based accounting and professional services firm RKL LLP


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