Richards Group Buys Centurion Insurance From Mascoma Bank

Valley News Business Writer
Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lebanon — The Richards Group, an insurance and financial services firm headquartered in southern Vermont, has reached an agreement to acquire Centurion Insurance Group from Mascoma Bank and will consolidate its Norwich offices into Centurion’s building on North Main Street in West Lebanon.

The divestiture of the bank’s in-house insurance agency marks the latest change at Mascoma Bank since Clay Adams took over as chief executive from longtime Mascoma chief Steve Christy a year ago.

Among the changes have been switching the bank’s charter to the New Hampshire state level from federal oversight and the opening of a “private banking” division. The bank also changed its official name to Mascoma Bank from Mascoma Savings Bank as part of the charter switch, although many of the bank’s marketing materials, including its website, still reflect the old name.

Richards Group, based in Brattleboro, is a leading insurance broker and health benefits consultant throughout Vermont. The privately-owned company has steadily increased its footprint in the Upper Valley in recent years with the prior acquisitions of Ramel Insurance in Norwich and Hanover health benefits adviser Abacus Consulting.

Mascoma, in announcing the sales agreement, did not specify a reason for divesting its insurance agency unit, which it opened in 2012 and then enlarged when it acquired Centurion Insurance Group, founded in 1977, two years later.

But Adams, in the news release, said “both our customers and the Centurion employees will be well served working with the breadth and depth of (Richards’) product offering and expertise. Like Mascoma Bank, the Richards Group has a deep commitment to their communities, which they have dependably served for three generations.”

Adams, through a spokeswoman, declined additional comment.

The purchase of Centurion, which is expected to be finalized by April, is a “natural fit” for Richards Group, said Tom Scull, a principal in Richards and head of its employee benefits group. The two insurance agencies have a “similar product mix” of about 60 percent commercial insurance and 40 percent personal insurance.

He said that Richards Group has made no secret of its desire to expand in the region and has regularly made that interest known to owners of other insurance agencies.

“We’ve always had an interest in growing our presence in the Upper Valley, and we’ve expressed our interest to all the insurance firms in the area,” Scull said about what motivated the Centurion acquisition talks.

Scull said he expected a “majority” of Centurion’s 11 employees to stay on under the Richards Group banner, including the division’s president, Phil Latvis. Richards Group’s six employees in its Norwich office will relocate to Centurion’s office building on North Main Street in West Lebanon.

He added that the transfer would be seamless for clients and would even provide them with a broader palette of insurance options and services. Richards Group employs 120 “insurance professionals” and has more than 20,000 clients in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, according to the company’s website.

“There shouldn’t be any disruption, and in fact, it should open up some new markets and products for customers and more rounded and higher level of expertise than what could have been offered by the bank,” Scull said.

As for why Mascoma Bank sold its in-house insurance unit, Scull said. “I think they made a strategic decision that this is not a space they wanted to be in long term. But kudos to them for not selling it to a big agency in Boston. They could have done that. But they wanted to keep it local.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.


Tom Scull is a principal with The Richards Group and head of its employee benefits group. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect last name.