Member Firm Profile: Barney & Barney, San Diego


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles on member firms. The series begins with Barney and Barney which has been a member of the association as far back as we can count (1925) and is the firm of IBA West President-elect Steve Shea.

Like IBA West, Barney & Barney, LLC was founded in the early 1900s. Today Barney & Barney is the largest privately held independent insurance agency in the state with almost $100 million dollars in annual revenue and over 450 employees. Based in San Diego with additional offices in Orange County and the Bay Area, the firm is owned and managed by 37 active partners who share a commitment to the industry, the community and their clients. Their business is evenly split between property and casualty and employee benefits making them somewhat unique among large firms in the state.

Over the years, Barney & Barney has developed a list of core values that define the firm: integrity, accountability, excellence, fairness, creativity, teamwork, community involvement and attitude. These values are expressed in the culture of the company and are manifest in the leadership of the firm. Senior management credits their overall success with their ability to maintain the culture of a small, community-based independent insurance agency.

“We call it the three C’s: Clients – Colleagues – Community,” said Paul Hering CPCU, Managing Principal and CEO who’s been with the firm since 1985 and was elected CEO in 2004. Hering took over from Larry Shea, father of Steve Shea, currently IBA West President-elect.

“Our corporate culture is so important to us that we never seriously considered going outside of the firm for leadership,” said Hering.  Hering succeeded his mentor Larry Shea, who also succeeded his mentor, Bruce Moore, the iconic leader of the firm for more than forty years who recently passed away at the age of 87.

While finding great people is a challenge for all businesses, Barney & Barney has successfully relied on a multifaceted approach of hiring successful producers as well as “growing our own,” explained Hering. 

“In fact, if you asked me what I am most proud of in my tenure at the firm, it’s the fact that I convinced my partners to let me hire a couple of young people right out of college and teach them our business. I’m pleased to say they are now principals at the firm,” said Hering.

“The culture at Barney & Barney is very supportive, very collegial and very collaborative,” said Steve Shea, IBA West President-elect and Principal in Barney & Barney's Commercial Division, where he is responsible for account service and retention, new client development, and leadership of the firm's non-profit and hospitality practice groups. “You can feel the vibe, we all get along very well,” said Shea.

Hiring and developing great people has been a hallmark of the firm and it’s reflected in the firm’s continuing growth and success. The firm was recently award "Top Performing Agency in the Country", by IIABA's Best Practices Study, 2011, Large Revenue Category.

In celebration of their centennial two years ago, Barney & Barney formed a foundation seeded with $1 million dollars including an ownership share in the firm gifted by the owner/partners.  Each year, Barney & Barney employees are invited to nominate charities for grants from the foundation. Last year the foundation gave about $100,000 to nine charities, five in San Diego, two in Orange County and two in the Bay Area.

A long-standing member of IBA West (since at least 1925 when our record keeping starts) Barney and Barney has contributed significantly to the leadership of the association.

Hering is extremely proud that Shea will soon be elected president of IBA West.  “Selfishly, we like having him involved. We have a seat at the table in the highest level of the organization.”

For his part Shea hopes that he can help IBA West grow membership and communicate the value of the association to agency owners of all sizes.

“We are concerned about impending changes in health insurance that could dramatically affect our future,” said Shea who believes a strong voice for insurance agents and brokers in Sacramento will serve the everyone not just Barney & Barney.

“I wouldn’t feel like we were a serious firm, if we didn’t belong to IBA West,” adds Paul Hering. “Our membership is an investment we make to protect our livelihood.”