Mike Wagar Transcript Page



00:00:02 Chris Cline

Hello, this is Chris Cline and welcome to closing the Gap Westfields Podcast in which we discussed some of the issues and challenges your agency may be facing today and bring forward some of the insights and ideas that we've gathered from our work in and around the Mr.

00:00:17 Chris Cline

Because if it matters to you, it matters to us.

00:00:24 Chris Cline

Hey everybody, thanks for joining us again here.

00:00:26 Chris Cline

On closing the gap.

00:00:28 Chris Cline

Going to have a little bit of fun today and I think.

00:00:32 Chris Cline

Bring back well, at least for the first time this year, but perhaps the most frequent guest on our show and that is the venerable Mike Weigart from Westfield Bank.

00:00:42 Mike Wagar

Venerable well, great to be here in the new year in 2021 here we are. You know a few weeks into it already and honored to be back, as always.

00:00:52 Mike Wagar

Reason Chris, kudos to you and Rob and the team for having a very long running.

00:00:57 Mike Wagar

An highly successful award winning podcast.

00:00:59 Mike Wagar

You guys do a fantastic job and I'm just honored to be part of it and and beyond so.

00:01:04 Chris Cline

Yeah, we could hang it up a little bit on that, but you know.

00:01:06 Chris Cline

But in all sincerity, you know you've been on a number of times in a couple of years we've been doing this and.

00:01:12 Chris Cline

Hey, you do a really nice job.

00:01:13 Chris Cline

I think in this format, but you know as it relates to our listeners what you do for Westfield Bank is.

00:01:19 Chris Cline

Is near and dear to the heart of large portion of our audience, and you know, you know, maybe even a broader portion as we think about some of the things that we could get into today.

00:01:27 Chris Cline


00:01:28 Chris Cline

Crazy crazy 2020 and.

00:01:31 Chris Cline

You know we're not going to rehash all of that, at least.

00:01:34 Chris Cline

Through the traditional lens, but what is cool about about what you've done is that you you live.

00:01:42 Chris Cline

Agency finances you.

00:01:44 Chris Cline

Help them buy and sell each other and internally perpetuate and fund new producers and.

00:01:49 Chris Cline

Make other capital investments and you got some some really interesting and good phenomenal line of sight really into all of those types of things because you actually do it and look at the books.

00:02:02 Chris Cline

And so I thought it be great because of the fact that it was just a really, really goofy year and in so many ways.

00:02:09 Chris Cline

Yeah, just to get on and catch up on some of those things, so if you're game will just take this thing wherever it goes, man.

00:02:16 Mike Wagar

Yeah, let's just run with it and and get crazy. Well just have fun with it and you're right. 2020 was a year like no other for a variety of reasons.

00:02:24 Mike Wagar

And we all saw it play out in the social media, space and TV and constant updates and and it, and it relates, you know, right into you know how it affected insurance agencies and and the landscaping and financing piece of it.

00:02:38 Mike Wagar

And so we can go a lot of different directions with it.

00:02:40 Mike Wagar

But you know, it's it's funny when we talk to agencies a lot for the first time.

00:02:45 Mike Wagar

You know they say, wow, it's it's refreshing to talk to somebody who knows my biz.

00:02:51 Mike Wagar

And I think that's the biggest for me.

00:02:53 Mike Wagar

It's the most fun part of doing what we do is we were able to connect with that agent that principle and understand the language you're speaking, which is is hard to find in the financing world for insurance agencies.

00:03:06 Mike Wagar

So and we've, we've gained that perspective over years of doing it and and looking at deals and.

00:03:13 Mike Wagar

I go, I go back to one of my old tenants is that you know alone is alone.

00:03:17 Mike Wagar

Button insurance is insurance, but no two agencies are the same and no two cultures are the same and therefore no two acquisitions. No two perpetuation's No2 deals are the same and so really it's fun to get to know the agency. You get to know the people involved and really figure out what they're trying to solve for.

00:03:36 Mike Wagar

And being part of the process to help him get there, and that's really a real gratifying piece of it so.

00:03:42 Mike Wagar

Fun stuff man.

00:03:42 Speaker 3

What's that?

00:03:44 Mike Wagar

It's fun stuff man.

00:03:45 Chris Cline

Yeah, it really is fun and you know you kind of shared that already.

00:03:48 Chris Cline

But none of these you know.

00:03:49 Chris Cline

Two agency those same and I guess that's you know it's almost become a.

00:03:54 Chris Cline

Cliched, nothing that I say, I guess, but you know, at 9:00 o'clock in the morning when agencies flip on the lights, they all want the same thing, so they want to find new customers and keep the ones they have.

00:04:04 Chris Cline

But beyond that, the similarities are pretty much over, and it's.

00:04:07 Chris Cline

Exciting but yeah.

00:04:08 Chris Cline

I'm just curious too.

00:04:09 Chris Cline

I mean personally, you know a lot of folks know you out there.

00:04:12 Chris Cline

You know how you been.

00:04:13 Chris Cline

I know we haven't chatted really quite awhile.

00:04:15 Chris Cline

A couple of hey, how you been texts, but normally by now we have been.

00:04:20 Chris Cline

Bouncing around the country and catching up with agents and different, you know different trading partners that we you know we share in common and broadening our network and those types of things and.

00:04:22 Mike Wagar


00:04:31 Chris Cline

Just how have you been?

00:04:33 Mike Wagar

Generally, OK.

00:04:34 Mike Wagar

I mean, we're whole families, healthy, and we've all made it through kovid relatively unscathed, so we're fortunate and blessed for that then.

00:04:41 Mike Wagar

I will say this is the longest stretch of my career that I've not traveled and my wife gently reminds me of that frequently that I've been around the house more often than than in previous history.

00:04:50 Speaker 3


00:04:52 Mike Wagar

So, so it's been an adjustment.

00:04:54 Chris Cline

Like remind you of that or.

00:04:56 Mike Wagar

Gently remind me that you know it's been a long time since you've been on the road and trust me, I'm aware so.

00:05:04 Mike Wagar

But no, you know it's it has been an adjustment.

00:05:06 Mike Wagar

Chris 'cause we you know you're right we, we will frequently be at the same events and and talking with agencies together.

00:05:13 Mike Wagar

Whether it's out at an industry event or conference or.

00:05:16 Mike Wagar

Just just traveling to go see agencies and check in with them or work, you know, work on certain certain deals.

00:05:21 Mike Wagar

Or you know, here in Westfield Center and on the campus with all the events and so it was very odd not to have that this year.

00:05:28 Mike Wagar

And I'm eager for it to come back and things open back up so I'm sure we all are just to get back out and an reconnect.

00:05:36 Mike Wagar

I mean, it's.

00:05:37 Mike Wagar

You know, if anything it's proven that you don't need to have those things to keep doing business, but but man is an important part.

00:05:45 Mike Wagar

I think you know.

00:05:46 Mike Wagar

I mean, there's not.

00:05:47 Mike Wagar


00:05:47 Mike Wagar

We can write alone without ever meeting in person.

00:05:51 Mike Wagar

We can write a policy without ever meeting in person, right?

00:05:53 Mike Wagar

But there's something missing there.

00:05:55 Mike Wagar

We don't have a chance to interact with that person face to face and shake a hand and.

00:05:59 Mike Wagar

You know either share meal or beverage or whatever and just just have that relationship building.

00:06:03 Mike Wagar

And it's an important part and I I'm confident that.

00:06:08 Mike Wagar

That would that would be here again soon and I know we're eager to resume those activities as I'm sure everybody else is.

00:06:13 Speaker 3


00:06:14 Chris Cline

Yeah, it's a good point too, and I know it's somewhat belabored and.

00:06:19 Chris Cline

Everything has been written and spoken and video ized about you know the last year or so.

00:06:24 Chris Cline

But you know, it seems like everybody.

00:06:26 Chris Cline

Everybody that I've spoken to, whether it's

00:06:29 Chris Cline

I guess on the record as part of this podcast, or you know, as a part of my daily, you know, daily interactions with, you know, peers and coworkers are agencies, or even just somewhat off the record.

00:06:39 Chris Cline

I guess very common consensus that aligns with what you said.

00:06:43 Chris Cline

Like hey, we're doing it right.

00:06:44 Chris Cline

We're very productive and in many ways you could argue that productivity is pending.

00:06:48 Chris Cline


00:06:49 Chris Cline

And it was accelerated to really cool trends about how we're all using these tools differently and more effectively.

00:06:57 Chris Cline

I do.

00:06:57 Chris Cline

There's just that one little piece missing, and we never will go back in my opinion, to a point in time where the default mode of communication is finding a way to be in person.

00:07:10 Chris Cline

It's not as effective and efficient to spend that much time on the road traveling right, so not as cost effective, but it would sure be nice to have that have it as an option.

00:07:21 Chris Cline

You know, as a tool in the toolkit so to.

00:07:23 Chris Cline

Speak and know.

00:07:24 Chris Cline

That we were just joking around with you before we click the record button.

00:07:28 Chris Cline

It's hard to consume content.

00:07:30 Chris Cline

You know we're both.

00:07:31 Chris Cline

We're both podcast junkies along the way, but share some common interests around science and.

00:07:36 Chris Cline

Space and some.

00:07:37 Chris Cline

Geeky stuff like that and we were just joking about.

00:07:40 Chris Cline

One of the Lex Friedman podcasts being like 2 hours and 40 minutes and like like when do you consume 2 hours and 40 minutes when you're not driving and flying on airplanes or those types of things and.

00:07:50 Mike Wagar

Right, right, right fine.

00:07:50 Chris Cline

Here in Ohio is too cold and too snowy to go out on a run, at least for me so.

00:07:56 Chris Cline

You can come up with a bag of potato chips with two hours, I suppose.

00:07:59 Mike Wagar

Yeah, right, right yeah, I'm not. I'm not gonna be on a treadmill for three hours. Listen to one. So that's you. Know about 2530 minutes on there, then my intelligence being wings. And absolutely I did find a good podcast though, which is pretty timely for political junkies.

00:08:00 Speaker 3


00:08:15 Mike Wagar

It was called.

00:08:16 Mike Wagar

It was about every election dating from the first election of George Washington all the way through the Trump Biden. It was called Wicked Game, and it was about a 25 week podcast that came out every every week. And for anyone who is a political junkie and likes to hear some of the back stories, it was, it was excellent. I was wrapped into that one so.

00:08:37 Chris Cline

It's funny and we'll.

00:08:37 Speaker 3


00:08:38 Chris Cline

Get we'll get to the media stuff, but I like those cereal ones too.

00:08:41 Chris Cline

Or you like know that it's there's X number of episodes and you know you can kind of if the topic or the.

00:08:47 Chris Cline

The thing fascinates you.

00:08:49 Mike Wagar


00:08:50 Chris Cline

I mean obviously.

00:08:51 Chris Cline

Without giving, you know.

00:08:52 Chris Cline

Getting too political.

00:08:53 Chris Cline

What was the like?

00:08:55 Chris Cline

What was the the?

00:08:56 Chris Cline

You know the nuts and bolts of that when they drew in?

00:08:58 Mike Wagar

Yeah, it was really the behind the scenes of the election and the campaigning processes and where you know, we. I think we all probably had her overload of the political landscape. You know this year, but it's kind of odd that that podcast show that that stuff was going on 100 years.

00:09:16 Mike Wagar

Yeah, now it wasn't broadcast for everyone to see necessarily, and that's probably a little bit different, but there's alliances being formed. They're playing party lines and what Republicans looked like 100 years ago are different than what they look like now. Obviously in Democrats, and you throw the Whig Party in their way back when you know. I mean, it's it's really fascinating to see that behind the scenes and.

00:09:35 Mike Wagar

And really examine 2 where people may have slipped up along the way.

00:09:38 Mike Wagar

So whether it was a.

00:09:41 Mike Wagar

Of speech that wasn't well received, or if you remember the Howard Dean scream from several years ago that kind of derailed him.

00:09:48 Mike Wagar

I mean, there's there's a lot of those things behind the scenes that were there, and so it was.

00:09:52 Mike Wagar

It's a really good lesson.

00:09:53 Mike Wagar

So I.

00:09:54 Mike Wagar

If you're into that kind of thing, I highly recommend.

00:09:56 Chris Cline

Yeah, that's pretty cool.

00:09:57 Chris Cline

I mean, just in 30 seconds or less S around that turned me on to a like an 8 part.

00:10:04 Chris Cline

E Series Podcast last summer called Wind of Change.

00:10:07 Chris Cline

And it's it's really cool.

00:10:09 Chris Cline

If you're a music person.

00:10:10 Chris Cline

If you're into like conspiracy theories and maybe some of that CIA covert operation.

00:10:17 Chris Cline

But the the premise was that the Scorpions releasing that song wind of change.

00:10:24 Chris Cline

Was a CIA covert operative?

00:10:27 Chris Cline

Wow influence the end of the Cold War and the wow collapse of of the Soviet Union and all those types of things.

00:10:27 Speaker 3


00:10:30 Mike Wagar

Wow glasses.

00:10:36 Chris Cline

And so they interviewed like so many different facets overtime, ultimately ending with interviewing the singer from the Scorpions.

00:10:44 Mike Wagar

It's fascinating.

00:10:45 Speaker 3

Yeah, just kind of.

00:10:46 Chris Cline

Kind of cool stuff, but you know, I mean, I guess you know there's a really sketchy segue into the primary topic you know.

00:10:54 Chris Cline

Here we are using a podcast to share some pretty cool insights from, you know, from your work and.

00:11:01 Chris Cline

You know oil listeners, folks that have been around or work directly with Westfield I'm guessing are.

00:11:07 Chris Cline

Pretty, you're pretty keenly aware of what Westfield Bank does and and what your role there is as it relates directly to agencies.

00:11:14 Chris Cline

But just as a really quick snapshot for those that might be finding us for the first time and to help frame context for the insights you're about to share, what is it that you do and and how does Westfield Bank partner?

00:11:27 Mike Wagar

Yeah, so what's your bank? We actually turned 20 years old this year, so we're celebrating our 20th anniversary, wholly owned by the insurance company. So they started us 20 years ago and the idea was to start a new community bank because at the time in the banking landscape there you know there are a lot of M&A and you're getting the big corporate.

00:11:47 Mike Wagar

Large banks and so we were started relate to provide a new solution and it started as a community bank and has grown into we're almost a $2 billion institution and asset size now.

00:11:59 Mike Wagar

With a lot of different unique facets, you know we only have 7 branch locations in Northeast Ohio.

00:12:06 Mike Wagar

Most banks are size, have triple that amount, so our model has always been one to utilized technology and to help our growth without building branches on every street corner.

00:12:15 Mike Wagar

So we were an early adopter of remote deposit capture technology and.

00:12:19 Mike Wagar

Of course, being owned by our parent company, they said, hey, you know if you can find a way to find in some insurance agencies along the way that be great and so we kind of took that and ran with it and developed what's agency banking.

00:12:31 Mike Wagar

Now Westfield Bank, which I'm an.

00:12:33 Mike Wagar

And really, what we do is work with independent agents all across the country to help provide financing for acquisitions and perpetuation and new producers.

00:12:43 Mike Wagar

Just operating capital for lines of credit.

00:12:46 Mike Wagar

Commercial real estate.

00:12:47 Mike Wagar

If you want to buy building a renovated building or whatever it may be.

00:12:51 Mike Wagar

And really, anything and and the crux of the whole thing was is let's use. Let's learn how to utilize the book of business, which is the agency's most valuable asset as collateral.

00:13:01 Mike Wagar

You know 15 years ago, even ten years ago, I would say that if an agent needed financing, they only had a few options. They would look at the carrier's maybe help him out, and some carriers you know slowly realized that may not be the best use of their capital to help start financing these types of things, but they want to help out their partners. They would try to go to their community bank or local bank.

00:13:21 Mike Wagar

But most of those banks don't understand insurance and understand how to value that book of business or they go out and try and find, you know, just the the Unicorn out there to try to help finance.

00:13:30 Mike Wagar

So we we've got.

00:13:31 Mike Wagar

We got very comfortable early on with that book of business as collateral and the renewable nature of the Commission stream.

00:13:37 Mike Wagar

Certainly thanks to the education we got from from Westfield Insurance or parent company and the team there to help is going.

00:13:44 Mike Wagar

And so we've got very comfortable with that.

00:13:45 Mike Wagar

And if we can develop this Department to be, you know, the lending side I just covered.

00:13:49 Mike Wagar

But we also do deposit Ori solutions, so we're full service deposit.

00:13:52 Mike Wagar

ORI bank.

00:13:53 Mike Wagar

All across the country, I think we have clients in 32 states that do all their banking with us. So remote online all through your phone and then we also have premium finance available as well. And that was kind of a nice little add on as a bundled package to help agents you know finance their policies for their insured. It's all commercial, premium and.

00:14:14 Mike Wagar

And so you know, those three services have really been in.

00:14:16 Mike Wagar

Base package if you will is we're going out to market and saying, hey, we understand how you operate.

00:14:21 Mike Wagar

We understand you and let us help you get there.

00:14:24 Mike Wagar

And let's let's leverage your existing relationship that you have.

00:14:27 Mike Wagar

Maybe with Westfield Insurance to keep growing that and and say you already have that relationship here.

00:14:32 Mike Wagar

I'll just keep growing that to another other agencies along the way.

00:14:35 Mike Wagar

As a disclaimer, I mean.

00:14:37 Mike Wagar

You do not have to be a Westfield agent to work with us.

00:14:39 Mike Wagar

We work with all independent agents and we have a nice group of people that are not Westfield appointed that that we do business with.

00:14:47 Mike Wagar

And and it's really kind of grown from there, and we're starting to offer more things to become a more rounded option for client.

00:14:56 Mike Wagar

So we started a private banking division in which the principles can have access to some personal products and employees as well.

00:15:03 Mike Wagar

We have full service mortgage team that can help you with mortgage solutions, and there's a lot of that going on because rates have been so low.

00:15:10 Mike Wagar

You know, so those kind of services are dovetailing really nice with, you know, let's let's really have that strong relationship across a lot of ways, and so far so good.

00:15:19 Mike Wagar

It's been.

00:15:19 Mike Wagar

It's been a good experience I think for for everybody.

00:15:23 Chris Cline

Yeah, I appreciate that and.

00:15:26 Chris Cline

Sorry not sorry.

00:15:27 Chris Cline

I think the cool kids say if that came across as a commercial.

00:15:30 Mike Wagar

Yeah, I didn't mean it that way.

00:15:31 Speaker 3


00:15:31 Mike Wagar

I just wanted to give the overview of what we what we do just for those first time listeners like he said, that's a good overview.


No no.

00:15:36 Chris Cline

No, it's.

00:15:38 Chris Cline

Totally fair I, I think at least, and clearly we're biased because I felt like the relationship is.

00:15:44 Chris Cline

But you know, you're referenced there that you do business with Westfield agencies.

00:15:48 Chris Cline

Non Westfield business.

00:15:49 Chris Cline

You know Westfield agencies and.

00:15:52 Chris Cline

You know the cross pollination of education.

00:15:54 Chris Cline

For those listening, I mean it's separated by a pretty a pretty robust firewall.

00:15:59 Chris Cline

When it comes to specifics, but you know the opportunity to be astute around trends and what's going on in the market has been a nice partnership, so you know, insurance stuff and bank stuff.

00:16:09 Speaker 3


00:16:12 Chris Cline

Think really never crossed line.

00:16:15 Chris Cline

What has been appreciative of that is to you.

00:16:17 Chris Cline

As you know the integrity you bring to that deal well.

00:16:20 Mike Wagar

Yeah, thank me too.

00:16:21 Mike Wagar

I mean, it's been a great partnership for, you know, for us, and you know, I've enjoyed working with you and your team as we as we work with agencies and and I'm glad you mentioned that there is a very clean line in the sand.

00:16:32 Mike Wagar

You know we do have privacy laws that we don't share any information that type of thing, but there are opportunities there where if you're working with somebody that may want.

00:16:41 Mike Wagar

An introduction to the insurance company, or vice versa.

00:16:44 Mike Wagar

You know nothing is promised, but there's always just the nice opportunity to work together even further so.

00:16:49 Mike Wagar


00:16:50 Chris Cline

But the cool thing about it and and really, maybe just going straight to the core.

00:16:55 Chris Cline

And where I have learned so much from you and.

00:16:58 Chris Cline

The the conversations we need, but we've been able to have is.

00:16:58 Speaker 3


00:17:03 Chris Cline

There's there's a lot out there.

00:17:07 Chris Cline

About what's going on in the market.

00:17:09 Chris Cline

Agency valuations, deals and trends, and those types of things.

00:17:13 Chris Cline

And we've got some phenomenal partnerships between the carrier side and the bank side with firms that support those as well, and provide great insight really out to the industry.

00:17:24 Chris Cline

What I like about.

00:17:25 Chris Cline

Now, when you and I can catch up or what you know.

00:17:28 Chris Cline

Hopefully you can share with us a little bit to the Today is somebody who gets really into these deals and is underwriting them through the lens of.

00:17:39 Chris Cline

Do you want to lend lend money?

00:17:42 Chris Cline

You you know you see, you know you see, you see things and trends that.

00:17:49 Chris Cline

Just do a different filter and so.

00:17:52 Chris Cline

You know, if.

00:17:52 Chris Cline

I I'd love it if we went back, and it's probably a year since you get on or so.

00:17:57 Chris Cline

Last year was funky.

00:17:58 Chris Cline

For this there was some really weird spikes in the way announced deals, looked and projections really through the quarters last year around, what would happen to Na?

00:18:09 Chris Cline

What might happen to agency valuations and then now here we are?

00:18:14 Chris Cline

Most might have seen from.

00:18:16 Chris Cline

The industry reports that.

00:18:18 Chris Cline

2020 finish really strong and you could speak to that, but now here we have a new president and new administration and questions around capital gains and interest rates. And so there's a lot there.

00:18:30 Chris Cline

I, I'll tell you what, I'm just gonna like.

00:18:32 Chris Cline

Drop all of that out of you and say take it wherever you would want to go 'cause I'm sure there's a lot of people out there figuring out.

00:18:36 Mike Wagar

All right?

00:18:38 Chris Cline

Should I be buying?

00:18:39 Chris Cline

Should I be selling?

00:18:40 Chris Cline

Should I be waiting and you're not giving advice clearly but.

00:18:41 Speaker 3


00:18:44 Chris Cline

You know stuff and we're going to share stuff.

00:18:45 Mike Wagar

Yeah, happy too.

00:18:47 Mike Wagar

How much time do we have to talk through all those things so?

00:18:50 Chris Cline

39 minutes and 18 seconds.

00:18:52 Chris Cline

Got it.

00:18:53 Mike Wagar

No, you're right.

00:18:54 Mike Wagar

I mean it was.

00:18:55 Mike Wagar

It was a bizarre year, you know, from our landscape where we typically see a spike in activity is at the end of the year at the beginning of the year, and it's it's really tax centric.

00:19:05 Mike Wagar

So in a normal year I would say that we see a lot of deals.

00:19:10 Mike Wagar

We either want to close 12.

00:19:11 Mike Wagar

The one from a clean break from a financial standpoint in the tax year, or one one and the big differentiator there is, from a seller standpoint, if I sell 1231, I gotta pay tax on it and whatever shape that is.

00:19:25 Mike Wagar

On April 15th, if I wait till 1 one I can kick that can 12 months further down the road and pay it April the following year.

00:19:32 Mike Wagar

So what are the benefits there?

00:19:34 Mike Wagar

And in all those cases we you know when we're talking to sellers, we say.

00:19:37 Mike Wagar

Look, talk to your CPA and figure out what's best for you.

00:19:41 Mike Wagar

What was unique this year was that there was none of that spill over into one one, because with the election and the two very broad viewpoints on what that was going to be financially once, once the election went to Biden, there was an increased I think importance of trying to get in the deals this year.

00:20:02 Mike Wagar

For based on what is perceived to be a potential tax increase.

00:20:06 Mike Wagar

So as most people know, I mean, the capital gains rates are at historic lows an and the Biden plan is said that they want to increase capital gains, and So what? Normally is an even split between 12:30 one and one one all got lumped into 1231 this year just on the if come of.

00:20:26 Mike Wagar

Hey, if taxes go up, there's talk that it might be retroactive to some point. In January of 21, if they can pull that off. I don't want to take that risk, so I'll just take my chips off the table and we actually saw.

00:20:37 Mike Wagar

You know quite a few principals who maybe didn't have work were thinking they were going to sell right away, decide to take their chips off the table and just and pay the tax that they know versus the tax that they don't.

00:20:48 Mike Wagar

So I think there was some increase in activity that way.

00:20:53 Mike Wagar

You know, even if.

00:20:54 Mike Wagar

You go back to the start of the year when code first really started to come out.

00:20:59 Mike Wagar

I would say January and February and even the beginning of March were kind of normal activity.

00:21:04 Mike Wagar

And then once once things exploded, I think there's about a month long blip where everyone really paused and there were deals that were in process that.

00:21:12 Mike Wagar


00:21:13 Mike Wagar

Just just had to press pause until everyone figured out what the landscape was going to be.

00:21:18 Mike Wagar

On on the bright side of that news is that I guess from a banking standpoint, well, none of the deals that were that we know of that were announced.

00:21:28 Mike Wagar

Or were in processed.

00:21:29 Mike Wagar

Almost all of them continued on the close as as planned.

00:21:33 Mike Wagar

I think there was very little fallout ordeals.

00:21:36 Mike Wagar

I didn't that didn't happen because of Cove.

00:21:40 Mike Wagar

For a banking standpoint that coincided with the outflux of the PPP loans as well, and so we were, it was beneficial for us for that brief pause because we had to focus all of our resources on the PPP program going on, and then once that kind of got through, we were able to pick up.

00:21:58 Mike Wagar

Right back and.

00:21:59 Mike Wagar

And I nothing was normal in 2020, but from the agency M and a landscape business continued on as normal. Pretty much from May onwards through the end of the year.

00:22:11 Mike Wagar

There was some question about whether valuation would be affected and by and large it was not.

00:22:17 Mike Wagar

There would be a question if there was going to be a change in payment structure and where I think.

00:22:22 Mike Wagar

Uh, from some of the larger buyers.

00:22:25 Mike Wagar

Maybe there was a little bit less upfront money in some cases and a little more deferred initially.

00:22:30 Mike Wagar

I think that generally subsided as time went on, so it really ended up being a well.

00:22:37 Mike Wagar

It was a record breaking year from a deal size standpoint and deal announcement standpoint, and it was.

00:22:42 Mike Wagar

It was, it was just phenomenal that most insurance agencies.

00:22:45 Chris Cline


00:22:46 Mike Wagar

Fairly well diversified in that majorly impacted by a lot of the affected businesses.

00:22:51 Mike Wagar

Certainly that's painting with A broad brush.

00:22:53 Mike Wagar

Chevron had a little bit of impact and felt it a little bit, but for the most part we didn't see anybody.

00:22:54 Speaker 3


00:23:00 Mike Wagar

Close up shop because they wrote nothing but restaurants or anybody who lossed 90% of the revenue because they wrote nothing but cruise lines or something like that. Everyone is fairly well diversified and certainly felt some sting, but but not.

00:23:15 Mike Wagar

Not in a way that it was overly detrimental to the business.

00:23:18 Chris Cline

So yeah, and you said a ton there and.

00:23:22 Chris Cline

We could end it right there, I suppose and.

00:23:25 Mike Wagar

Yeah, so it's going.

00:23:25 Speaker 3

But if you're listening people you.

00:23:27 Chris Cline

Well, but if you wanna talk.

00:23:27 Chris Cline

Know you're listening?

00:23:28 Chris Cline

Hopefully what's that?

00:23:29 Mike Wagar

I said that.

00:23:30 Mike Wagar

I said keep going if you want, but I wanted to take a breath and let.

00:23:33 Mike Wagar

You chime in too so.

00:23:35 Chris Cline

Grab a swig of ice tea or whatever is in your beautiful.

00:23:37 Chris Cline

Westfield Bank that's

00:23:38 Mike Wagar

That's right.

00:23:38 Chris Cline

Right old logo.

00:23:40 Chris Cline

Nice job.

00:23:41 Chris Cline

So yeah, clearly we're on zoom video here but no in all sincerity like I was curious because timing you and you and I've talked about this.

00:23:51 Chris Cline

Before the word before anybody ever said Kovit.

00:23:53 Chris Cline

Out loud, you know that the whole.

00:23:57 Chris Cline

The biggest contributing factor to perpetuation, Emene, and in many ways is is timing, and so.

00:24:05 Chris Cline

The fact that many of these deals actually take awhile to be underwritten, fully developed and cultures aligned in those types of things.

00:24:17 Chris Cline


00:24:19 Chris Cline

It was probably a contributing factor to you know there was maybe a moment in time where people had kind of a no.

00:24:25 Chris Cline

You know what moment but.

00:24:27 Speaker 3


00:24:28 Chris Cline

So pretty quickly that agencies rebounded were able to stay active, and even though there was some economic implications, clearly economic implications for certain certain lines of business that diversification that you talked about.

00:24:43 Chris Cline

Look like it was going to outrun or stay relatively stable through.

00:24:47 Mike Wagar

You know through the.

00:24:49 Chris Cline

You know the situation we were dealing with last year, and.

00:24:53 Chris Cline

Agency values didn't take a hit, but.

00:24:57 Chris Cline

So yeah, you know it might have been a slow down or pause, but since they normally take awhile anyways all in it might not have been felt in the transmit.

00:25:04 Chris Cline

Did you experience any of those calls where people just said hey, can we sit tight for?

00:25:09 Chris Cline

Thirty 6090 days or just keep going.

00:25:12 Mike Wagar

You know, very rarely, I'd say on the most case, it was the opposite.

00:25:16 Mike Wagar

It was specially we got towards the end of the year.

00:25:17 Speaker 3

Oh wow.

00:25:18 Mike Wagar

Was, you know, HEICO?

00:25:20 Mike Wagar

It's been a crazy year, you know, the world changed our life change the way we work changed and you know I was thinking about hanging on for a couple more years.

00:25:28 Mike Wagar

But I just I've had enough and I'm I'm ready to go.

00:25:31 Mike Wagar

Let's accelerate this a little bit so we.

00:25:33 Mike Wagar

We saw quite a few cases where people were maybe in that perpetuation plan.

00:25:37 Mike Wagar

We've talked about that before, as you mentioned, were that a good plan takes a couple years to really, you know, feel out.

00:25:44 Mike Wagar

There was a point where I think a lot of folks who are maybe on the fence just said, you know what I'm done.

00:25:49 Mike Wagar

I I've had enough.

00:25:51 Mike Wagar

The tumultuous of this year has just, you know, said I'm ready.

00:25:55 Mike Wagar

I'm ready to go.

00:25:55 Mike Wagar

And so there were quite a few accelerated deals that came across our desk.

00:26:01 Chris Cline

Gosh OK.

00:26:02 Mike Wagar

And no one really that I can can think of.

00:26:05 Mike Wagar

Chris said, you know, I'm going to wait and see what happens and we're going to delay this more.

00:26:09 Mike Wagar

It was.

00:26:10 Mike Wagar

It was quite the opposite actually.

00:26:11 Chris Cline

Mr is resting.

00:26:12 Chris Cline

You know part of the part of the team.

00:26:14 Chris Cline

You know that I work with at Westfield.

00:26:17 Chris Cline

Find new agencies and we had some of that love to talk to Westfield or or or at least learn more about Westfield, but it makes no sense to try to bring on a new carrier.

00:26:20 Speaker 3


00:26:30 Chris Cline

In that was probably March, April May by June or July we started to see some of those come back around, but like any other sales process, we keep a funnel of prospects or suspects and agencies we want to talk to, and those that are in flight and those that were already down the path of.

00:26:49 Chris Cline

Taking appointment, those closed just like you would normally think through, but the top of the funnel started to dry up a little bit and now it's as full as it ever was, you know?

00:26:59 Chris Cline

So it seems like you know, game on us to make money and I was curious how that how that might have played into your.

00:27:04 Chris Cline

Space as well.

00:27:05 Chris Cline

But yeah, I appreciate it.

00:27:06 Mike Wagar

Yeah, yeah, I mean I, I'll tell you.

00:27:08 Mike Wagar

I mean, from a prospecting standpoint, we've our pipeline is as full as it's ever been.

00:27:13 Mike Wagar

And we can get this more down down the line too, but you know 2021 we feel is going to be more of the same as far as deal activity.

00:27:21 Mike Wagar

That specter, of of the tax change I think, has a major impact in the minds of a lot of sellers where they're going to get out with the getting's good. There might be some the Delta that could happen there is if they come up with a way to either retroactively make it affective 'cause there is some debate of should we make this retroactive to one 121?

00:27:44 Mike Wagar

That should we will. Will that happen or will it just be affective? 11 of 22. So if they make it retroactive then that may temper or you know those people who are on the fence may like to hang on because now it's a moot point.

00:27:59 Mike Wagar

But if they say it's starting 2022, its capital gains rate is now a Max of 39.6 when before it was 20.

00:28:06 Mike Wagar

You're going to see a pretty big spike in activity, I think.

00:28:12 Mike Wagar

So that's that's that's I guess, the focus we're trying to keep in mind is what does that look like?

00:28:12 Chris Cline


00:28:17 Chris Cline

Well, this kind of double pronged right?

00:28:19 Chris Cline

Depending on whether your buyer or seller so not only is.

00:28:23 Speaker 3


00:28:24 Chris Cline

The world has changed, right?

00:28:26 Chris Cline

I mean, we were on this trajectory via utilization of technology.

00:28:29 Chris Cline

We were on this.

00:28:31 Chris Cline

On this anyways, really all that's happened and we had shipped it up. Chips Yoko from tc.com on in the last couple of weeks. We he called it a great accelerator. I mean there really were no new trends, it was just how quickly we got here. So agencies are around have sort of figured out how to exist, but there's that next iteration of invest.

00:28:51 Chris Cline


00:28:53 Chris Cline

An agency probably has to start thinking about, and I could see that being one of the prongs is where here do we want to be a part of?

00:29:01 Chris Cline

You know, this continued acceleration of digital and current capabilities across every front.

00:29:07 Chris Cline

The other part of it is you know what happens, not only just the value, but.

00:29:12 Chris Cline

You know what's the benefit of selling capital gains and then how hard is it? Is it to get money? I guess on the buyer side, so right now, unless do that, Fast forward into that. I mean, I guess maybe it's using wrap up 2020 you saw and we all saw. If you follow the industry and you folks like Reagan and Marsh Berry who we know also.

00:29:29 Chris Cline

Showed 2020 as a phenomenal year with a ridiculous December.

00:29:33 Speaker 3


00:29:36 Chris Cline

Those are published deals usually.

00:29:40 Chris Cline

PE backed, publicly traded or very large regional folks that sent out a press release you need.

00:29:45 Speaker 3


00:29:46 Chris Cline

You're involved in those two, but you see a lot of privately held privately held deals that never make.

00:29:53 Chris Cline

Anything more than the local newspaper, I mean just did the trends follow suit with that size agency and app model as well as what we saw in the announced deals?

00:30:02 Mike Wagar

Yeah, absolutely.

00:30:04 Mike Wagar

I mean, I would say that the majority of deals we do are the private to private.

00:30:09 Mike Wagar

Because the PE firms are already well capitalized, publicly traded, are well capitalized.

00:30:12 Mike Wagar

They're not looking for bank financing, so the majority of the deals that were part of our that private private.

00:30:17 Mike Wagar

That unless it's announced locali or you know amongst the carrier's or there's some news there, it's it's. It's usually under the radar and and even though stats that Reagan archbury, if they're not tied in with those agencies that they may not have data to report that so, but the trend was the same. I mean, we've had. I'll tell you that our December activity was triple.

00:30:38 Mike Wagar

What it usually is.

00:30:41 Mike Wagar

So it was.

00:30:43 Mike Wagar

It was just unbelievable and there were some large deals that were part of that, but it was, you know, just the quantity of deals and the things that were going on.

00:30:51 Mike Wagar

The activity level was triple of what we normally do in December.

00:30:54 Chris Cline

I think that's really profound when you consider that.

00:30:58 Chris Cline

I'm trying to look at the graphs in my mind, at least the prior three years, if not the prior 4 have all been record years over top of the prior. So if if 2019 was the highest announced in a year ever in your December is triple.

00:31:15 Chris Cline

What any prior December was, that's that's an order of magnitude that my brain can't comprehend.

00:31:24 Mike Wagar

We we had some busy days in December.

00:31:26 Mike Wagar

There wasn't a whole lot of sleep going on for the month of December, so it's a good thing we couldn't go anywhere.


That's alright.

00:31:30 Mike Wagar

So 'cause we we doubled down and did it and and you know what our I gotta give.

00:31:34 Mike Wagar

Kudos to our the Westfield Bank team just on that for another slight recognition.

00:31:38 Mike Wagar

I mean for that level of activity and we got everything done and everything was on time it was.

00:31:43 Mike Wagar

It was, it was awesome to see everyone pull together and do it and it's just testament to our team.

00:31:47 Mike Wagar

So it was.

00:31:48 Mike Wagar

Yeah, it was unbelievable.

00:31:51 Chris Cline

So let's do this and I know there's, you know, there's no magic here nobody will come back.

00:31:55 Chris Cline

At least I won't.

00:31:57 Chris Cline

In six months or 12 months and replay this in front of you if you're wrong.

00:32:00 Chris Cline

But if you shook your your crystal ball, your snow globe or whatever, it is that your magic Genie, lamp or whatever.

00:32:08 Chris Cline

There are some real moving.

00:32:10 Chris Cline

Are some things you.

00:32:11 Chris Cline

Know some things out there happening that you've already referenced that that could impact 2021 and and beyond just.

00:32:18 Chris Cline

Maybe without even like predicting where it goes like how are you thinking about prepping for 2021 and finishing this year?

00:32:27 Mike Wagar

Yeah, so I.

00:32:28 Mike Wagar

I think it's gonna be more of the same now.

00:32:30 Mike Wagar

I'm not sure we can handle triple or capacity every month from here on out.

00:32:35 Mike Wagar

That would be that would be crazy a good problem to have, but you know really from from my conversations with agencies and other people in the industry, I think we're going to see you know more record activity.

00:32:46 Mike Wagar

Uh, and I think that to me.

00:32:48 Mike Wagar

The big the big variable there is the tax situa.

00:32:52 Mike Wagar

We're going from a regardless of politics.

00:32:55 Mike Wagar

You're going from a favorable corporate tax environment to what could be not as favorable, and that's going to trickle down to the agencies of all size.

00:33:05 Mike Wagar

From a sales standpoint.

00:33:06 Mike Wagar

So I'm really my crystal ball.

00:33:10 Mike Wagar

Maybe a little bit foggy on a lot of things, but I think that this is going to be.

00:33:13 Mike Wagar

Another record level of activity and I think if you talk to anybody the Reagans and the March berries of the world they're going to see a lot of that too.

00:33:22 Mike Wagar

Again, the variable could be the tax change if there's a big change in the stock market where PE firms or redirect.

00:33:28 Mike Wagar


00:33:29 Mike Wagar

You know funds to look for other returns somewhere that could have some impact on it, but.

00:33:35 Mike Wagar

You know the fact is insurance is A is a very resilient industry and the recurring cash flow nature of it is an attractive feature to a lot of a lot of people. And so it's a solid business, a resilient business, and it's going to attract a lot of attention. I think that continues for 2021 and not to say that it's going to drop off a Cliff in 2022. I don't.

00:33:55 Mike Wagar

I don't think that's the case.

00:33:56 Mike Wagar

I think it it may look differently depending on the political and economic nature or forces that that may change, but.

00:34:04 Mike Wagar

You know, we've been in a prolonged stretch of of high valuations and lots of buying and selling activity.

00:34:10 Mike Wagar

And ah, now I just don't see it ending anytime soon.

00:34:15 Chris Cline

It seems to be a pretty similar sentiment, and you know you you know you mentioned the resiliency of it too and.

00:34:22 Chris Cline

You know the value of recurring revenue and you know you referenced earlier, not that many years ago.

00:34:29 Chris Cline

Was it hard to even get a loan because that wasn't understood and now?

00:34:34 Chris Cline

There's so much you know, private equity funding is.

00:34:38 Chris Cline

Sitting there as dry powder waiting to write, you know, with its sights set on our industry, which is, you know, a cool thing in a way I guess depending on how you look at it.

00:34:46 Chris Cline

And I think most people are past any sort of notion that it's.

00:34:51 Chris Cline

A bad thing or that it could cause harm?

00:34:53 Chris Cline

I mean it is what it is and.

00:34:56 Chris Cline

It's kind of a positive if you spin it that way and that you know if if people want to invest in our industry and not only just any on the agency side, which you know is there, but also.

00:35:08 Chris Cline

Tools and technology to support.

00:35:09 Chris Cline

You know the industry, and so you've gotten in a situation right now where the margins on the agency side, by and large, are pretty healthy.

00:35:16 Chris Cline

I mean, even if you take an average agency, I mean most.

00:35:19 Chris Cline

You know, most benchmarks have sort of middle of the Bell curve it like but.

00:35:24 Chris Cline

1418 points of Ibata

00:35:26 Speaker 3


00:35:28 Chris Cline

Thanks in going up from there, right for healthy shops, you know we're going to get that kind of return on.

00:35:28 Speaker 3


00:35:31 Mike Wagar

Right, right, right.

00:35:35 Chris Cline


00:35:36 Chris Cline

You know in your capital, so even if there is some fluctuation in ad or some variability in how all of these things play out, there's enough juice in the math to still make this a very lucrative you, know, lucrative industry.

00:35:48 Mike Wagar

Absolutely, absolutely.

00:35:49 Mike Wagar

And you know, the the PE buyers you know they they make the news releases and sometimes there are multiples or or higher.

00:35:57 Mike Wagar

But I mean there's there's a large large slew of people who go in that peer out is not not the exit strategy for them.

00:36:04 Mike Wagar

They want to keep the name on the door they want to run their own business.

00:36:08 Mike Wagar

And and be that community stalwart.

00:36:10 Mike Wagar

And I you know, I guess I correlated to banking a little bit.

00:36:14 Mike Wagar

In that you know the the JP Morgan Chase of the world, the Wells Fargo, the world all have their place and they do a ton of business, but there's room for the Community banks of the world too.

00:36:23 Mike Wagar

And and there's a lot of correlation there to insurance agencies in that, you know, I may not be the biggest, you know, fish in the pond, but I'm a pretty healthy fish and you know, things are.

00:36:33 Mike Wagar

I'm swimming along just.

00:36:34 Mike Wagar

Just fine and and I'm happy being that I don't need to go to the bigger the bigger pond so you know, I I think the I think it's a healthy, healthy dynamic really and we have seen cases where people have sold to a PE firm and there's usually a contract that goes there.

00:36:49 Mike Wagar

Then you know, after after five years and they've worked out their contract.

00:36:53 Mike Wagar

They may want to go.

00:36:54 Mike Wagar

Do things again and get back to that kind of small business mindset so I I foresee that being a healthy dynamic going forward.

00:37:02 Chris Cline

It's interesting you went there too.

00:37:06 Chris Cline

It also feels like there might not.

00:37:09 Chris Cline

There might not be a better time to start an agency.

00:37:15 Chris Cline

From scratch or with a small seed acquisition.

00:37:19 Chris Cline

'cause there now is enough insight into.

00:37:23 Chris Cline

Kind of a digital sales oriented model.

00:37:25 Chris Cline

If you wanted to build one that way, build a platform.

00:37:29 Chris Cline

Agency off of technology, or if you wanted to.

00:37:34 Chris Cline

Try to thrive on Main Street, right?

00:37:37 Chris Cline

And so we've been through this in a cycle enough now that you're exactly right, people vote.

00:37:40 Chris Cline

Lived, you know their earnouts or you know that we kind of now know what happens to producer comp.

00:37:46 Chris Cline

And there's this somewhat predictable offshoots if you will.

00:37:51 Chris Cline


00:37:51 Chris Cline

For for startups.

00:37:53 Chris Cline

And so you know, there's definitely a meaningful measurable like decrease, probably in total independent agencies, but it hasn't fallen off.

00:38:02 Chris Cline

The way you know where some might have predicted Doom, you know maybe more doom and gloom.

00:38:06 Chris Cline

I think part of that is because there's there's.

00:38:08 Chris Cline

There's new, you know there's new entrants emerging and.

00:38:11 Mike Wagar


00:38:12 Speaker 3


00:38:13 Chris Cline

Creating opportunities for people that want to have their own agency and maybe do their things their own way, so it's kind of cool.

00:38:19 Mike Wagar

And there's a, you know, there's a healthy infusion of young talent where that there hasn't been there.

00:38:22 Chris Cline


00:38:24 Mike Wagar

Maybe in past years, and you know, there's people are coming back to insurance is this is?

00:38:30 Mike Wagar

This is pretty cool thing and there's a lot of lot of things we can do with it.

00:38:33 Mike Wagar

And, you know, using the the data stand side standpoint of it and the technology side.

00:38:38 Mike Wagar

Uh, and ultimately it comes down to personal relationships.

00:38:41 Mike Wagar

I mean, I think you know, no matter what, you may have a a consumer who may not want to go with a big shop.

00:38:48 Mike Wagar

They want to go with a little shop because every relationship with that person and so those were personal relationships to me or are now as important as ever.

00:38:54 Mike Wagar

Even though we may not be in person as we talked about before.

00:38:58 Mike Wagar

You still have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and call somebody and reach him, and and do that and and that's an important part of it.

00:39:05 Mike Wagar

I think that we can't be overlooking.

00:39:07 Chris Cline

So yeah, I mean I want to be respectful of your time.

00:39:10 Chris Cline

I know we joked about it however long ago it was how many minutes we had left.

00:39:13 Chris Cline


00:39:16 Chris Cline

It sounds like you know crystal ball.

00:39:19 Chris Cline

Whatever I mean, we don't know what the math is going to look like.

00:39:21 Chris Cline

Or whatever and but.

00:39:24 Chris Cline

The industry is still very healthy.

00:39:25 Chris Cline

Very viable, lot of capital available.

00:39:28 Chris Cline

Lot of people interesting, you know.

00:39:32 Chris Cline

Interested in our space.

00:39:34 Chris Cline

I mean like.

00:39:35 Chris Cline

Like what you're just, what your total vibe.

00:39:38 Chris Cline

If you are you.

00:39:39 Chris Cline

You excited about where we're going as an industry and the things that are out there to do?

00:39:43 Chris Cline

Or do you have?

00:39:43 Chris Cline

Is there anything out there that gives you pause?

00:39:45 Mike Wagar

I was bullish on the industries we ever have been to be honest with you from a banking standpoint, we look at it as.

00:39:53 Mike Wagar

Very stable, very resilient as we talked about before health evaluations.

00:39:59 Mike Wagar

Strong performance.

00:40:00 Mike Wagar

So from a lender standpoint, it's as good as you can get really from a from outlook in an industry.

00:40:08 Mike Wagar

Now as a banker, you always look for the worst possible case scenario, right?

00:40:11 Mike Wagar

So what happens if and you go through all these scenarios and?

00:40:15 Mike Wagar

You know, we've all of these agencies.

00:40:18 Mike Wagar

We've made loans to have performed exceptionally well, and we've had a really positive experience with it, so I'm.

00:40:23 Mike Wagar

I'm excited for 2021 as I have for any year I'm I'm very bullish on the future, excited to keep working on these deals and and I think it's a we have a very positive outlook in my.

00:40:36 Mike Wagar

And like Foggy crystal ball so.

00:40:40 Chris Cline

So you heard it from Mike, right?

00:40:41 Chris Cline

Yeah, don't don't punt.

00:40:43 Mike Wagar

Don't feel it.

00:40:43 Chris Cline

Not sure why they just ready to fund.

00:40:44 Mike Wagar


00:40:47 Chris Cline

Crystal ball on another win.

00:40:50 Chris Cline

What will we in 2021 you?

00:40:56 Chris Cline

And I.

00:40:58 Chris Cline

In an agent to be named later.

00:41:02 Chris Cline

Be sitting in a hotel lobby in some city other than Westfield Center, sharing an iced tea in 2021.

00:41:12 Mike Wagar

My crystal ball says absolutely.

00:41:15 Chris Cline

I love your crystal ball.

00:41:17 Mike Wagar

It's a very optimistic crystal ball, but I I I think that we will be.

00:41:21 Mike Wagar

I mean, that's you know not to get into all the the CDC type things, but you know, I think I think I read the other day that vaccines have finally overtaken the amount of cases.

00:41:31 Mike Wagar

That were there.

00:41:32 Mike Wagar

So there are some positive trends that way, and I think overall.

00:41:38 Mike Wagar

I know I'm ready.

00:41:38 Mike Wagar

I know you're ready to get out and about a little bit more and I think there's some pent up demand for that so.

00:41:43 Mike Wagar

My positive outlook is by the IS in the fall time frame will be starting to creep back out there a little bit cool will be awesome.

00:41:50 Mike Wagar

Cool love you.

00:41:51 Mike Wagar

Look forward to doing it.

00:41:54 Chris Cline

Mike, any final thoughts?

00:41:55 Chris Cline

Any words of wisdom to our dear, loyal listeners out there?

00:41:58 Mike Wagar

Yeah, just you know hey everyone, hang in there and you know I think the best is there's a lot at the end of the tunnel and we're gonna get through this and I think we're in a great spot to have a great 2021. And I certainly look forward to connecting with as many people as we can as we do that, especially Chris because.

00:42:18 Mike Wagar

We're overdue for an ice tea somewhere.