Blog : Local Insurance Company Focuses on Environmental and Economic Sustainability

By John | Jun 3, 2015 | in

By Katelyn Monroe

PORTSMOUTH - Jon Merwin started his business by following in his father's footsteps. A decade ago, Merwin was fresh out of college and set out to start his own insurance agency focused on providing reliable insurance and customer service to its clients. Today, not many insurance agencies are known for their sustainability efforts and community giveback. But on the Seacoast, Merwin's Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance (PAI), celebrating its tenth anniversary in June, remains ahead of the industry.

Merwin graduated from the University of New Hampshire, and soon passed the Property & Casualty exam, licensing him to become an insurance agent. He began his career by opening a branch location in Laconia, New Hampshire under Insurance Express in June 2005 and was the sole employee for the company, sharing a small office space with another business.

Starting with a blank slate and no clients, Merwin worked his way up and began writing home and auto insurance for family and friends. As Merwin's reputation grew, client referrals slowly trickled in. It wasn't easy going in those early days, according to Merwin.

“Over the course of a few years I learned the ins and outs of the insurance agency business, often times by learning from my own mistakes,” he said.

That education, however, helped Merwin take the Laconia branch of Insurance Express to a new level. As he became more successful, Merwin decided to move forward and became independent of the company. With the help of his mother Cathy, who joined the business, and a new roster of employees, Merwin moved to the Seacoast and opened Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance.

Originally only writing policies in New Hampshire, in the past several years PAI has expanded its coverage to Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. And the agency has plans to expand further into markets in Connecticut and New York. This summer, Brian Merwin, Jon Merwin’s brother, will facilitate growth in southern New England with the opening of a new office in Stratford, Connecticut under the Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance umbrella.

Focusing on personal policies for home, auto, motorcycle and boat insurance when it started, PAI now covers businesses, as well as health insurance and all financial services. Still, Merwin hopes to further expand PAI's reach in commercial lines by developing a greater focus on business insurance policies. With its largest clientele of policy holders in New Hampshire, including several in downtown Portsmouth, PAI has contracts with several commercial clients in Maine and Massachusetts and will expand its commercial reach when it opens its Stratford branch.

When Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance started, they worked with five insurance companies; in the years since, the agency has expanded to offer policies with fifteen carriers including MetLife, Progressive, and Safeco Insurance. Merwin's company now works with about 2,000 personal & commercial clients. Agencies like PAI offer the same services as those larger companies, but on a smaller and more local scale. Its local community connections, according to Merwin, put PAI's clients at ease knowing they will be in contact with the same person each time they call and not rerouted to a service call center.

“We have grown primarily through referrals over the years because not only do we offer the most competitive home and auto policies in New Hampshire and New England, we pride ourselves on service and we have a great track record on that over the years,” he said.

Merwin explained that one of the main reasons he's been successful growing PAI is due to a vast number of his clients owning second homes, primarily seasonal vacation rentals, across New England. These homeowners, said Merwin, want to insure their two properties under one provider for convenience.

Though the company has grown significantly over the last 10 years, Merwin says he hasn't lost sight of the important community values behind his business. Each year, the agency sponsors a variety of charitable events throughout the area to support different causes. Employees at PAI are given a full day off from work each year to spend time giving back to the cause of their choice. Cathy Merwin, PAI's customer service expert, volunteers for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire for the past 15 years to help neglected and abused children in New Hampshire. “Giving back to the community where we live and work is very important to our agency,” Jon Merwin said.

On top of community involvement, environmental awareness has been part of the PAI foundation since its beginning. When Merwin began at Insurance Express, it was a very technology oriented company using a paperless record system, while most agencies still utilized physical records. Merwin carried this practice over to PAI and continues to find more ways to reduce in-office waste. Over time, the business implemented small changes in an effort to become more sustainable and now uses 100 percent recycled paper, paper towels and toilet paper, biodegradable plastic bags, and 7th Generation cleaning products. PAI also uses Docusign for clients to electronically sign documents and has taken great measures to recycle as much as possible, including their printer and toner cartridges. And PAI is a Business Partner with the Green Alliance, an organization with upward of 100 Business Partners working to increase the profits of companies, large and small, that have the least impact on the environment. Portsmouth Atlantic Insurance has been a Business Partner with the Green Alliance for several years, and since then the two businesses have worked to grow awareness about the agency and its environmental and community initiatives.

”Successful small businesses need the support of their local communities. Our agency is a perfect example of that. It’s important that we remain an active participant in giving back & supporting other local business, friends & family because at the end of the day we’re all in this together.”

All GA Green Card holders recive a free tote bag for every policy they purchase. Also, any Green Alliance member who purchases a policy will have a tree planted on their behalf through plantabillion.org. Additionally, any GA Members who refers a friend will receive a $20 gift card to any GA Business! Not a member? Become a member for $25 and join our Isles of Shoals Cruise for free!