Terry Barber remembers hearing about the time his grandfather, William Chittenden, Sr. was considering bringing the first of one of his family members into his insurance business. He told a friend he had decided to involve his son-in-law in the agency. The friend’s response was not likely to be taken for moral support. “Don’t you know any better?” The friend volunteered indifference to the apparent pitfalls of mixing family with business.
Three generations and seven decades later, the successful continuation of The Chittenden Group suggests that Bill Chittenden did, in fact, know better.
Today, The Chittenden Group represents some of the finest and much sought after insurance companies in the industry.
William Chittenden, Sr. served as President until 1987 at the age of 92. Eventually he felt it was time to pass on the reins and the next generation agreed. At that time there were four other family members in the agency: sons-in-law Fred Zonino & Nate Pierpont; son Bill Chittenden, Jr. and grandson, Terry L. Barber.
“Not many people can say they worked in the same business side by side with their grandfather”, says Terry. “Above all he was an individual who marched to his own drummer. His ethics were beyond reproach and he made sure those of us who followed him operated the agency the same way. He never looked at what others were doing to make decisions. He did things that he felt were appropriate. Some of his ideas were way ahead of his time and serves the agency well today. My grandfather was a trendsetter.”
When Terry took over he added some fine tuning to take advantage of the strength the agency possessed. He divided the agency into four divisions: Commercial Property & Casualty, Personal Property & Casualty, Captive Insurance Programs and Financial Services which includes Life & Health. Each agent is required to specialize in one area of insurance and become proficient in that area. The expertise in that particular discipline could then be called upon by a fellow agent when they are not familiar with a particular situation. This resource system works exceedingly well.
The Personal Property & Casualty division provides customers with homeowners, automobile, umbrella, life insurance and investments. “We feel we get to know our clients better than most agencies”, says Terry. “We take the time to visit and photograph every house we insure. It is imperative that we do this and along with talking to our clientele, we make certain their insurance is designed to meet their needs today and as they evolve in the future.”
“On the health insurance side, Joe Ferry, Jr. Vice President and manager of the Employee Benefits Division and his team go beyond the normal service one might expect,” states Terry. “ Chittenden matches Medical Insurance Networks to the Doctors our clients’ employees use. This helps to prevent unhappy employees down the road. We also get involved in difficult claims situations. We may not win every battle, but we win our share. Chittenden clients appreciate the fact that we are in their corner.”
Commercial Insurance involves Property, Liability, Automobile, Workers Compensation and Umbrella Insurance. “We act as an advocate for our commercial clients in many areas, “ Terry continues. “When a fire happens we are usually on site right after the fire department. We really deliver our product when a claim happens. It is usually a frightening and difficult time for a business owner and we want them to know we are there for them. The last thing we want is for them be on an 800 number with a stranger.”
“The support staff at The Chittenden Group is outstanding,” adds Joe Ferry. “The breadth of experience is impressive. From customer service to claims management, we are fortunate to have a wonderful staff who put customer service first and foremost”, Terry concurs. “The customer service our people provide goes above and beyond what is expected. The continuous training they receive shows in the compliments I receive from very satisfied clients. We are truly fortunate to have these people.”
Kris Stella, office manager has seen many changes during her years at Chittenden. “We have definitely kept up in the area of technology. The system we currently use is state of the art. It allows us to efficiently service our clients and get things done in a very timely manner.”
The Chittenden Group has seen many changes since William Chittenden opened the doors in 1928, but the more things change the more they stay the same. People will always crave personal service. People want to be assured that someone knows their individual situation and cares. When the day comes that they have a claim, they want to talk to someone they know they can trust. The Chittenden Group pays attention to that principle. Your trust is our most valuable asset.