March 2009

Life is Risky Business: Let Kinghorn Insurance help you manage i

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Bill Litell

You know that life is full of risk, but just how much is absolutely astonishing. Simply leaving your house each day is a risk. Driving your car is another. As Lowcountry residents know, living in the path of natural catastrophes, like hurricanes, is another. Add fires, floods, sports injuries… If this makes you feel like crawling back under the covers, forget it. You have a one in 650 chance of sustaining an injury in bed this year. While you can insure yourself against many risks, buying insurance can be confusing and expensive. That’s why choosing the right insurance agency is so important.

“Insurance is complicated and boring to most. It’s an intangible—a very expensive intangible,” said Jimmy Rowe, president of Kinghorn Insurance. In an interview with CH2, Rowe shares his passion for the insurance business and for the community he loves and explains how Kinghorn can make risk management easy and affordable.

CH2: Mr. Rowe, you’ve devoted much of your life to building Kinghorn into the successful business it is today. What would you say sets Kinghorn apart from other insurance agencies?
Jimmy Rowe: I’m going to answer that differently than you might expect. I think Hilton Head really is blessed to have some very good agencies here. We have some terrific competition, and I have the highest regard for them. When you have really good people in the business, it’s hard to set yourself apart. I think our strengths are that we have maintained good insurance company relationships that have allowed us to offer our customers choices. We have company representations that are second to none. When a customer comes in, we take into account their lifestyle, their risks, and match them up with a company that we think will be a long-term relationship.

CH2: How has the business grown over the course of your career?
JR: We’ve taken this business from what it was to a very large agency. [When Rowe joined the company in 1977, there were only three employees. Kinghorn currently has three locations and approximately 70 employees.] Our business is built on referrals, and that continues to be our best resource for new business. We’re humbled by it, and we don’t take it for granted.

CH2: To what do you attribute the growth and success of the company?
JR: We have a great staff—people who are committed and dedicated every day. I am just amazed by them. I am amazed by having been able to keep so many nice people who genuinely care about their customers. I feed off of that. It’s what I preach and teach. We have a lot of people who have been here over 25 years and even a greater number at 20 and a greater number at 15. We have also been very careful to try to attract young talent so that we keep a broad spectrum of age and ethnic background. We try to be as diversified as we can. We try to be representative of the community, and I’m very proud of that. We have several Hispanic agents, so when people who speak Spanish come in here, we can take care of them.

CH2: What changes have you seen in the industry over the years?
JR: Certainly since Hugo there have been changes. We have to work harder and smarter than we ever have. With all the wind pool and insurance companies pulling off the coast, it’s been difficult to continue to try to deliver the products that we are accustomed to delivering to the people in this community. We continually get new markets. As a coastal agent, companies reach a point when they can’t take any more wind. We like to have some new companies in the stable to start taking some of that when they kind of fill up. It’s a constant challenge in coastal markets to keep enough companies to offer our customers choices. But you can have too many. We have to be sure that we are important to an insurance company. We like to make sure that we put our customers with a company that we are important to. We’re still motivated by doing the right thing for the customer.

CH2: How have current economic conditions affected your business?
JR: Particularly today, we are as sensitive as the market will be with people who are suffering—people who have had a reduction in income, whether it’s business or personal. We’re going all out to help our customers cut expenses. We cannot cut rates, because we don’t set the rates. What we can do is try to help customers reduce coverage where they can—maybe that’s higher deductibles or reducing limits of liability. We help our customers re-evaluate insurance needs and make adjustments to fit their current circumstances.

CH2: It’s my understanding that you owned the company until recently. Why did you decide to sell the business?
JR: About eight years ago, I began to think about perpetuation of the business. I entertained suitors for about a year, selling it in June, 2001, to a bank holding company, First Financial Holdings. They are a company that is phenomenal with a philosophy that is very much in tune to mine.

CH2: Do you have plans to retire?
JR: It was my goal at that time to stay on three or four years and fade off into the sunset. It’s been seven years. I do enjoy what I do. I’m 65; I’m certainly not an old man. And I have lots of energy. [In addition to serving as president of Kinghorn, Rowe is president of First Southeast Insurance Services. He serves on numerous boards, including First Financial Holdings, Broad Creek Public Service District, Palmetto Electric and Central Electric. He also owns a working farm in Hampton.] Things are very tough now. I’m not going to leave when things are tough. When things get better… even then, I’ll probably work a few days a week. I love to hunt and fish. Ideally, I would like to be at the farm three days a week and on Hilton Head four days. I think I will know when it is time.

CH2: What do you see for the future of Kinghorn?
JR: We don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re going to be here. Kinghorn has had a sustainable business since 1898, even during the depression. We will continue to stay on the leading edge of market availability and do the best we can for our customers every day.

Kinghorn: Your source for peace of mind
Kinghorn Insurance Service, Inc. is an independent insurance agency offering a full array of personal and commercial insurance lines. Visit them at one of three area locations:

1544 Fording Island Road
Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

23D Shelter Cove Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

Phone: 843.837.3911

For more information, visit online at

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