February 2016

Kinghorn Insurance: Accountability Creates Growth Opportunity

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Scott Moody


The Kinghorn Team: Bill Fuge, Evan Jeffords, Missy Layman and James Rowe

The ominous black wall of clouds is marching the summer storm over the tree tops. Lightning cracks horizontally and vertically across the horizon, followed by waves of rumbling thunder. The rain falls with a vengeance, coming down in sheets, making visibility nearly impossible. Inside the house’s cozy kitchen, the lights have been turned on to combat the darkness the storm has brought to the neighborhood. Without warning, and with a high-voltage snap, lightning strikes the roof of the house. The lights go out and the smoke detectors immediately start their warning cry. Making a quick tour of the house, the homeowner discovers smoke coming from around the attic stairs. She grabs her purse and the dog and makes a dash for the protection of her neighbor’s porch. After calling 911 for emergency help, she slumps down on the step, looks at her phone, and can’t think what to do next. Think, think, think, she tells herself. Then she searches for, finds, and dials Missy Layman. And that, right there, is what sets Kinghorn Insurance apart.

Bill Fuge, partner at Kinghorn, was on the golf course in a tournament when a similar scenario occurred. “A customer called me and said, ‘Missy, my house was struck by lightning and is on fire’” said Missy Layman, Kinghorn partner. “I called Bill and he left his golf ball, got disqualified in the tournament, and we were right there.”

Synonymous with Lowcountry insurance for over a century, the first Kinghorn agency opened in Beaufort in 1898. With a member of the Kinghorn family involved in the company until 1955, James Rowe picked up the mantle and, in 1977, opened Kinghorn Insurance with offices on Hilton Head Island, in Beaufort, Bluffton, and Ridgeland. Rowe and his team worked hard, built a strong company with a solid reputation, and when the timing and opportunity presented itself, sold the company to First Federal Bank. “That was a really good fit for 10 years,” Rowe said. “I stayed on and worked. I love what I do. In 2008 the bank decided they needed to convert this asset into cash and sold it in 2011 to HUB International.”

“Claims can be extremely traumatic,” Fuge said. “A lot of time you think you know what you’re going to do when a claim occurs, but when it happens, you realize you don’t know what the first step is. We’ll be there.”

Each member of the Kinghorn Insurance team takes this sort of accountability and accessibility very seriously. “Accountability is a huge word for us. It’s important for us, living here and working here; we’re going to see people. We want to make sure we’re doing a great job; we want to protect our friends and protect our assets,” Fuge said.

It wasn’t long before Rowe knew he wanted to get back to doing business the way it was done in the earlier years of his career when accessibility and accountability were standard operating procedures. “When Bill and I started looking at doing this,” Rowe said, “we met Evan (Jeffords) who was with BB&T Carswell, and we thought he would be a wonderful addition. The three of us started an agency in June 2013.”

“A bigger company can dictate what kind of business I can write and what I can’t write,” Jeffords said. “We’re a small community here, where everybody kind of knows everybody. I can service everybody in this community. I love what I do, and I want to do it here.”

Hoping to use the Kinghorn name if it was available, “I had an attorney do some research and was told, if you don’t use it, somebody else will,” Rowe said. After a thorough course of due diligence, the Kinghorn name was theirs. “We’re very proud to have that name because it means something to us,” Rowe said.

“We are locally owned and operated; we are relationship driven, and we are community oriented,” Fuge said, “If you look at our backgrounds and who we are, it sets us apart. We’ve all been here for a long time. I like to think that there’s some respect for where we’ve been and where we’re going. We’re humbled by the support we’ve received.”

Beginning work out of their second office in October 2015, on Hilton Head Island the company operates in an almost boutique fashion. “We have markets locally that we can get because we’ve been around a long time,” Layman said. “We understand the claims that happen here inside and out. We’ve been to the markets that are huge, and national, and regional, and have been able to bring those relationships back here. There are a lot of heavy hitters here, and they need big-time insurance and big-time service, and we can do that.”

Confirming their excellent reputation within the industry, Rowe said, “We got all of the carriers we wanted right out of the gate. We had all we needed to be successful. Now they’re coming to us.” Having the luxury to be able to offer customers the best and strongest carriers is just one of the assets few others in the area can tout.

Another is their status as an all lines agency. “I don’t know of any other agencies that do life, health, and benefits from individuals to large employers, with personal and commercial lines at all levels. You don’t have that mix anywhere: all three lines, all sizes, and meeting a community everywhere there is a need to be met,” Layman said.

Meeting with one of the Kinghorn team members to discuss your insurance needs may be one of the smartest decisions you will make in 2016, because they take their work and their role in the community very seriously. “We think, every living, human, oxygen breathing person needs what we have,” Layman said. “Pointing and clicking and going online works until life happens, and what people forget is that this is contract law. There are words that are regulated and not regulated in your contract. You sign it, and that carrier signs it. It’s complicated.”

Local knowledge, local loyalty, and the commitment to holding themselves accountable, is what sets Kinghorn Insurance, its team, and its family of partners apart. “We’re humbly grateful to be doing what we do,” Rowe said. 

Kinghorn Insurance has two locations: 1544 Fording Island Road, Bluffton (843) 837-3911, and 23-D Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island (843) 686-3911. For more information, please visit kinghornagency.com.

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