Better Together: MMA Fargo

Written by: Josiah Kopp
Ryan Hoffman, Vice President at Dawson Insurance (L) and Steve Swanson, Vice President at Vaaler Insurance (R), both agencies now a part of the Marsh McLennan Agency family

Two Great Agencies Forming One Outstanding Team

Synergy—in nature, science and business—means that the combined power of a group of things working together is greater than the power each can achieve working separately. At Marsh McLennan Agency, a longstanding legacy of collaboration continues with two great insurance agencies coming together as one.

In 1905, rival brokers Henry Marsh and Donald McLennan met while pitching their services to the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad. The directors of the railroad liked their individual pitches so much that they suggested that the two firms team up. Since that time, Marsh McLennan Agency has sought out the strongest agencies in an area and brought them into the MMA family.

MMA builds on the legacies of local agencies and creates new opportunities for colleagues and clients by creating partnerships that focus on growth, best-in-class culture and services and a commitment to quality. Steve Vlk, MMA Dakotas CEO, said the company’s story is all about bringing the highest quality and respected firms in the U.S. together to partner with Marsh, its parent company.

“We aspire and live out the local touch, which is providing uniquely personalized service, with global risk resources,” Vlk said. “This powerful combination blends local talent and global resources to support our clients with risk management best practices and insights that provide better insurance coverage with lower costs over the long term.”

About MMA

MMA Dakotas is comprised of insurance professionals from agencies formerly known as Howalt McDowell (Sioux Falls), Dawson (Fargo) and Vaaler (Grand Forks, Fargo, and Bismarck).

Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) provides business insurance, employee health & benefits, retirement, and private client insurance solutions to organizations and individuals. With 9,500 colleagues and 170+ offices across North America, MMA combines the personalized service model of a local consultant with the global resources of the world’s leading professional services firm, Marsh McLennan.

The Best of the Best in Providing a Local Touch

Bruce Vaaler was impressed by MMA’s collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit. “We wanted to get better, to improve our capabilities, and MMA has allowed us to do things we weren’t able to do in the past,” Vaaler, President of the Vaaler Division of MMA Dakotas said.

Both agencies strive to maintain the local feel by expanding their service capabilities to serve clients as well as engage with the community. They were drawn to MMA when considering their future, in part because of its strong focus on culture and commitment to supporting local organizations.

Vaaler emphasized the importance of relationships throughout this process. “Our staff has remained the same, as well as our relationship with our clients,” he said. “It is essential that we provide the same personalized service to our clients, and MMA fully supports that goal.”

Providing personalized service means not only getting to know clients’ businesses and unique needs but also giving employees access to training and collaboration that ultimately benefits clients. “As agencies like ours grow, we are looking to strengthen relationships and meet the challenges our clients bring to us,” Tom Dawson, Chairman of the Dawson Division of MMA Dakotas said. “We have a network of colleagues across the country—very smart and talented people who can help us solve problems.”

Being active and involved in the community is important to MMA. The combined MMA Dakotas and Vaaler offices gave more than $710,000 in donations and sponsorships to their communities last year.

Global Reach

The agencies agree that becoming part of MMA helped them to grow to meet client needs. They’re the same professionals providing even better service and the same people with greater access to some of the most knowledgeable and creative minds in the insurance business.

Vaaler said joining the MMA family has given them the ability to provide more robust and complex coverage and service to clients. “Without these additional capabilities, we simply would not be bringing our clients all of the resources and solutions they expect or deserve,” he said.

The agencies have combined their Employee Health & Benefits teams, an area that has become more important for businesses that are working to retain and recruit talent in a challenging job market.

“Benefits is a big line item for most businesses, so having a conversation with our team can be very beneficial for businesses in our region,” Vaaler said. “We can provide analytics and benchmarking and have a different conversation with our customers than our competitors can have.”

For both agencies, joining the MMA family has provided professional development and education possibilities that might not otherwise have been available. “We can offer greater flexibility and attractive benefits that make this a work environment where people want to be,” Dawson said.

Ryan Hoffman and Steve Swanson lead the agencies’ Fargo offices. Like the original Marsh and McLennan agencies who joined forces in 1905, the MMA Dakotas teams have come together to provide unmatched resources and services. “Dawson and Vaaler are the same,” Vaaler said. “We just have worldwide capabilities now. It’s made our existing team that much better.”

Steve Vlk,
MMA Dakotas CEO

“Being a part of MMA has strengthened our ability to provide world-class service offerings while maintaining our local commitments to our clients and communities.”

Tom Dawson,
MMA Dakotas Chairman

“Insurance has become increasingly complex—it was important that we partner with an organization that provides best-in-class solutions.”

Bruce Vaaler,
President of Vaaler Insurance

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Josiah is an Editor and Photographer at Spotlight Media in Fargo.