It doesn’t sell appliances anymore, but a Lacombe insurance brokerage that’s been operating for 7 1/2 decades gained an expanded range of products and services this week.
Brown & Ward Insurance Ltd. has been acquired by Western Financial Group, effective Feb. 1. The 5024 51st St. business will continue to operate at that location with its existing staff, said former owner Lorne Rye.
Joining Western Financial Group gives it new offerings and opportunities, he said.
“Being part of the Western network means we’ll be able to offer a much broader range of insurance and financial services. We’ll be able to go after more business in the oilfield and industrial side, as well as larger agricultural operations.”
Rye said it’s tough for small family-run operations to compete in the competitive insurance industry. And the pressures extend beyond insurance.
“You have to keep up with the technology, government relations, web development — all of that other stuff.”
Western Financial Group, which has its headquarters in High River, operates at more than 120 locations with 600,000-plus customers. I
t’s part of the Quebec-based Desjardins Group, the sixth-largest co-operative financial group in the world.
Rye and his wife Heather purchased Brown & Ward from Heather’s parents, Bill and Eileen Ward, in 2004. But they were involved in the management of the business dating back to 1998.
The Wards purchased the brokerage from founder Buster Brown in 1976, at which time the Brown & Ward name was adopted. Brown, who Rye said remained involved in operations for a period thereafter, started the business in downtown Lacombe in 1938
“Back in those days he also sold appliances and a whole bunch of other things,” said Rye. “Insurance was but just one service for our town.”
It was common then, he explained, for insurance brokers to deal in a variety of products and services as required by the people in their communities.
Although the Brown & Ward name has given way to Western Financial Group, Rye and his wife Heather remain.
“We’re only 46,” said Rye. “I don’t plan on going anywhere until I’m ready to retire.”
Letters informing customers of the change were sent out on Wednesday, he said.
“The only real difference people will see is the sign and the fact that we can offer them a wider assortment of services.”