Venbrook Serves a Niche

Brokerage finds growth in the middle markets.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 2 min read

Jason Turner started working in insurance right out of college when, at 23, he took a job at a Farmers Insurance agency run by an acquaintance. As he learned the industry, he saw an untapped market — right in the middle.

Turner convinced his dad, who ran a small surety bond business, to partner with him and open a brokerage in Los Angeles focused on serving middle market businesses that were “buying insurance off the shelf.”

Jason Turner, CEO, Venbrook Group

“Those were interesting days because really neither one of us knew exactly what we were doing,” Turner said. “Failure was not an option, so it was keep going … keep going.”

Several years and a few acquisitions later, Turner formed Venbrook Group, LLC. Today it is one of the largest independent P&C brokerages in the U.S., with more than 150 employees working on 10,000-plus accounts.

Turner remains at the helm as Venbrook’s CEO. With seven offices around the country, Venbrook offers advice, risk management, risk transfer, risk control, and risk mitigation solutions to companies with revenue between $10 million and $1 billion.

“Our sweet spot is $10 million to $100 million in revenue,” Turner said.

Venbrook offers middle market buyers the same level of insurance and risk management services along with all the resources a publicly-traded Fortune 5000 client might get from a leading brokerage house, Turner said.

The company services a select group of industries, mainly real estate, transportation, financial services, construction and development.

Recently, Venbrook added a food manufacturer with an 18-month old claim denial. Venbrook gathered the account’s lead managing director on the P&C side, a loss control person, the claims manager and then brought in an attorney to review the claim.


“Our team came together and said this loss should have been paid, we think it’s worth challenging,” Turner said. They prepared a strong response to the carrier who then agreed to pay the $1 million claim.

Turner believes Venbrook’s role is to act as a consultant, helping clients’ businesses prosper, helping navigate through contracts or releases, and even assisting with human resource issues or ERM issues.

“We don’t look at insurance as a transaction,” Turner said. “We look at it as a strategy that every client needs to incorporate into their business.”

In October, Venbrook raised $42 million from Madison Capital Funding, a subsidiary of New York Life. A portion of that funding was then used to acquire a New Jersey-based wholesaler, Brooks Insurance Group.

“I’m proud of our company and the people we have working with us,” Turner said. “I’m proud we are still an independently owned organization, that somewhat separates us from a lot of others.” &

Juliann Walsh is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.


R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.


R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]