Five Questions With: Larry Keefe

LARRY KEEFE serves as chairman and CEO of Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc. / COURTESY STARKWEATHER & SHEPLEY INSURANCE BROKERAGE INC.

Larry Keefe serves as chairman and CEO of Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc. Keefe has had more than 30 years of experience working at Starkweather & Shepley and has held various leadership positions within the agency. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Rhode Island.

PBN: How have you seen the industry, and your business specifically, change during the pandemic?

KEEFE: Insurance services had been deemed an “essential business.” As a Rhode Island-founded, and now top 100 insurance brokerage firms nationally, we help protect the assets of businesses, personal and employee benefits (providing health insurance for workers).

For many of our clients and industries, we have seen unprecedented challenges and change. For others, we have witnessed essential and aligned industry and service business growth. No one has been unaffected or untouched by the pandemic. The spectrum of resulting and additional challenges includes supply chain disruptions, logistical nightmares, labor shortages, cyber risk exposures, human resource problems, and the list goes on.

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Our reality and realization is that our clients need us and our services now more than ever and at a level greater than ever before. They need someone to count on holistically and in an anticipatory way to navigate and assist with these risks.  These are uncharted waters for today’s business, personal and benefit insurance solutions.

For me, personally, and maybe second only to the 2008 financial crisis, this pandemic has been the most challenging time in my 36-year tenure with the firm. But with challenge comes opportunity.

PBN: What long-term impacts do you expect to come out of the pandemic? What changes are temporary?

KEEFE: For us and many of our clients and associates, we have taken the position that challenge creates opportunity. We know we can improve. We purposefully have directed time and energy to our client needs and associates into what we can control and ways we can “be better.”

We are evolving in structure, technology and investing in human capital to continue to drive client and associate value and experience. We also have a heightened sense of our commitment to community.

We strive daily to earn “trusted adviser” status from our clients by offering new and evolving alternative risk and captive consulting, cyber risk protection, and additional proprietary products and services for personal insurance and benefit solutions. Clients need and expect advice/alternatives, answers and advocacy now more than ever.

PBN: Your company has been in business for over 140 years. To what do you credit that longevity?

KEEFE: Our longevity and success are a direct result and entirely attributable to our people – both our current staff and the generations of associates before us. We have always presented with passion, commitment and competency, by serving professionally every day – whether in person or remotely – to make a difference, bringing value to our clients.

Additionally, our unique ownership structure, by being held in trust since 1935, allows us to focus foremost on our associates and clients. We strive to always be there for them and to pay it forward.

PBN: What advice would you give to small-business owners in Rhode Island when it comes to making decisions about or considering commercial insurance? Are certain types of protections better than others?

KEEFE: Not all things are created equal. Go with your instincts, but also trust and verify. Regarding protections, it’s all about the detail. Nothing is ever a problem until it is.

PBN: What are your top three goals for the company for the year ahead?

KEEFE: Our top three goals for the year ahead are:

  • Commitment to colleagues – continued personal and professional development for our associates.
  • Commitment to clients – our clients need alternatives, answers and advocacy (now more than ever).
  • Commitment to community – give back to the communities we have the privilege to serve.
  • And, if I may, I’ll add a fourth: champion diversity, equity and inclusion.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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