Relationships & Trust

Chip Hoover and Jimmy McElhaney are hitting stride. Combined, they represent nearly 37 years of experience in the insurance industry. Both started their insurance careers after graduating from MTSU and then teamed up in 2014 when Jimmy joined the agency. Today, they have built an impressive office with clients across the United States.

The two senior producers for J. Smith Lanier & Co, a Marsh & McLennan Agency company, want to make it clear their agency is about much more than persuading a business owner to buy an insurance policy.

“We are not a fit for everyone”, said Hoover. “Where we seem to do best is within the middle-market space. This is the space where an organization has plenty of risk but does not have a professional in-house risk manager to manage that risk. Or if they do, he or she usually wears many hats and simply does not have the needed resources or time to design and implement a risk management program.” Hoover added.

Mr. Hoover, Senior Vice President and Commercial Lines Producer for J. Smith Lanier said one way to establish trust is to at times not sell insurance to a prospect. “It’s not unusual for producers out of this office to advise a business prospect to stay with their current agent. Sometimes, that makes the most sense and is the right thing to do. It builds credibility”, he contends.

“The marketplace is always looking for agents to sell someone an insurance policy” said Jimmy McElhaney, who leads the office’s Employee Group Health and Benefits department. “It can be difficult for an agent to become a trusted adviser by only focusing on a transaction that many buyers consider a commodity. That’s especially true for Group Health & Employee Benefits due to the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act. So we are more interested in building relationships and solving problems.”

“Our number one objective is to determine how we can help our clients with the unique needs they have”, said McElhaney. “By having in-house risk management resources, we are able to serve as an extension of our clients Employee Group Benefits and Commercial Insurance risk management departments and deliver tools to improve their total cost of risk.”

J. Smith Lanier uses a client service team approach for each of its commercial insurance accounts. They manage insurance programs for most every type of industry including Banking, Churches & Private Schools, Contractors, Healthcare, Life Science, Manufacturing, Public Entities, Restaurants, and Technology related risks.  

The agency’s commitment is to build a risk management relationship with clients and securing their trust. Managing Risk in the Administration of Employee Benefits and Commercial Insurance coverage is the primary objective.

In addition to the traditional agency model, J. Smith Lanier provides its clients with an array of in-house risk management services tailored for each individual client. Services offered for no additional cost include on-site Risk Assessments and certified OSHA training performed by their in-house Risk Control specialist.  They also provide Contractual Risk Transfer Review, HR & Wellness Support, ACA Compliance, and numerous other risk management resources.

Kent Ayer, President of TDK Construction, one of the largest multi-family construction firms in the Southeast, has been a J. Smith Lanier client since 2009. Hoover handles their commercial insurance program including Contractors General Liability, layered Excess Liability, Builders Risk, and Workers’ Compensation. McElhaney manages their group health, wellness, and employee benefits program.
“Chip and I have been friends since we were fraternity brothers at MTSU” says Mr. Ayer. “He has always had a unique combination of being highly-driven yet humble and not-self focused. Chip had a vision of where he wanted his office to go, and executed it. I would put his book of business up against any producer in Middle Tennessee – including Nashville”.
“When it comes to professionalism, service, and risk management, J. Smith Lanier is best in class” said Mr. Ayer. “Chip & Jimmy’s HR and loss control resources are endless. It’s as if TDK had an internal risk management department within our own company.” he added.

Keeping up with numerous regulatory and legislative actions relevant to a client’s business insurance program is also a top priority. “We provide in-house risk management training sessions to educate our clients about post-loss procedures, claims reporting, workers’ compensation law and contractual liability issues,” Hoover said.

Education has always been a key part of the J. Smith Lanier culture. Having created scholarship programs in Risk Management and Insurance with major colleges and universities, J. Smith Lanier allows students to intern with the agency as part of the student’s curriculum. It’s not unusual for an intern, including interns from MTSU, to transition into a full-time position upon completion of their degrees.

This is extremely important to Hoover and McElhaney who are both graduates of MTSU. “Middle Tennessee State University is an incredible asset to this community, region, and really the entire United States” said Hoover. “I’m often in different parts of the U.S. for client meetings. Without fail I seem to always meet a fellow Blue Raider that’s now in an executive role within his or her organization. That’s a testament to our local University”.

J. Smith Lanier was recently acquired by Marsh & McLennan Agency, the middle market agency subsidiary of Marsh. J. Smith Lanier will operate as Marsh & McLennan Agency’s southeast regional HUB. The acquisition will provide clients with even more insurance markets and risk management tools.

“We are very excited about what this means for our office, clients, and the Murfreesboro community.” Hoover said. “By virtue of being part of the J. Smith Lanier organization, which has locations across the Southeast, we are honored that Murfreesboro is Marsh & McLennan Agency’s first Middle Tennessee office.”

Founded in 1868, J. Smith Lanier is a provider of insurance, risk management, and employee benefits solutions to businesses and individuals throughout the U.S. J. Smith Lanier has 600 employees in 21 offices across Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida.