October 2017

Hilton Head Insurance & Brokerage: Focusing on Customer and Community Makes for Good Business

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

The Team at Hilton Head Insurance and Brokerage
(Left to right) Gary Davis, Nicole Hedden, Coley Davis and Jeff Hedden.

“We are an independent insurance agency. As an independent agency, we can equip ourselves with up to 30 or 40 insurance carriers, and we can navigate between all those carriers on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. In my opinion, being an independent agent benefits the customer,” said Jeffrey Hedden, partner at Hilton Head Insurance & Brokerage with his wife Nicole Faniola-Hedden, and Gary Davis. And that, is not nearly the whole story, but absolutely the bottom-line, mission, and way of life at HHI&B; if it benefits the customer and the community, it means good business.

When Hedden set out to start a Lowcountry insurance agency in 2014, the Connecticut native and insurance veteran set up shop in the family’s kitchen after Nicole told him it was time to get back to work, having spent a great deal of time on the golf course following their move to Hilton Head Island two years earlier. “I got into the insurance business almost from birth. We had a family business in Connecticut until it was sold in 2010. Right out of high school [in 1981] I went to work for my dad and his partner.

Grandad started the business in the ’40s, my dad went to work there in the ’60s, and I came in in the ’80s.”

In 2015, at about the time HHI&B moved from the kitchen table to offices just off-island, Hedden met Gary Davis at a BNI (Business Network International) event. Davis was as local a boy to the Lowcountry as Hedden was to his Northeastern roots, and the duo realized while they came from distant parts of the country, they had largely common goals for both their business and family lives. Davis had endured the economic downturn of 2008 while in the real estate business, and was open to a new direction. “After Jeff and I met, I started thinking about what he had to offer. It was really what my whole life is about: family and being local—taking care of clients and customers.” On the board that created Atlantic Community Bank in Bluffton, he saw parallels. “We were all local business people who wanted to take care of people’s needs at the local level. This was the perfect opportunity to do the same thing.”

The partnership seemed meant to be. “As I got to know Gary, I realized he had a lot of connections to the area and avenues that would support the insurance part of our business,” Hedden said. “I just had to put the infrastructure together so that when he brought people in, we could insure them. That’s why our relationship works really, really well.”

What is now a team of four—Hedden, Davis, Faniola-Hedden, client relations, (a.k.a. Harvard grad in economics and Jane-of-all-trades), and Davis’s son Coley Davis, sales associate and client relations—the family nature of HHI&B is reflected in all aspects of the business, including choosing new office space in 2017. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make this move,” Faniola-Hedden said. “Ultimately, we chose [Village at] Wexford when we decided to come on the island, because we felt there was a community atmosphere here.” Some days even the Hedden children, sixth-grader Tripp and third-grader Harper, are found putting in time at the office—doing homework, naturally.

Writing business, health, life, property, and vehicle insurance for clients throughout the Lowcountry, HHI&B makes doing business with them as easy as possible. “We do things the old-fashioned way,” Gary Davis said. “We actually go to people’s homes. We meet one-on-one in their homes and we get to meet their families. And if you look at our business cards, you won’t see an office number. Those are all our cell phone numbers. We have everyone call us directly, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”

Preparing for Irma
Coley and Jeff take phone calls from clients as Hurricane Irma bears down on the Lowcountry.

Response time is another hallmark of HHI&B—a way of doing business that reflects a do unto others as you would have them do unto you approach. “Our response time is something that sets us apart,” Hedden said. “We know that, because our referral partners tell us.”

Referrals are the backbone of HHI&B’s business, whether they come from existing clients, BNI partnerships, or industry professionals. “BNI is a big part of our business,” Hedden said. The organization helps businesses make connections to like-minded area businesses, that are known to provide reliable, fairly-priced services. “We also thrive on partnering with local realtors and mortgage people. We’ve taken our flood education to the level where we can help realtors make a sale.”

The best advice for home and business owners who want to make sure their insurance coverages are right for their needs, and are at the best rates available, is to meet with one of the HHI&B team. What you don’t know can hurt you here, and what HHI&B does know, can help. “For example, if you’ve been with the same carrier for more than five years, your home could be underinsured and you could be paying too much,” Coley Davis said.

Insurance is always in a state-of-flux, and working with in-the-know professionals can provide peace of mind, and often financial savings. “There’s now a profit flood market that competes with FEMA,” Gary Davis said. “It’s much more accurate. Another thing that people don’t know about is, if you’re still in the wind pool in Hilton Head, you’re paying way too much for insurance.” When looking at policies at renewal time, if the rate is more than two percent higher, HHI&B will re-shop the policies with their A-rated carriers, always working to do better for their clients.

Each member of the HHI&B team has a heart for family and community and is heavily involved in local charitable causes and events, including “Week of Champions,” an annual week-long camp where former professional athletes donate their time to children who would not otherwise have similar opportunities, and the “Outdoor Dream Foundation,” which is much like “Make a Wish,” with hunting and fishing experiences. HHI&B has also sponsored events and made donations benefiting United Way, First Tee, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bluffton and Hilton Head, Habitat for Humanity, and many more. Further, the Heddens and Gary Davis and his wife Pam have strong ties to their church communities at First Baptist Church Hilton Head Island and NewSpring Church in Bluffton, respectively, where they each teach Sunday School to children and youths.

The Hilton Head Insurance & Brokerage bottom line and way of life is all about benefitting customer and community. Mission accomplished.

HHI&B is located at 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite J-13, Village at Wexford, Hilton Head Island. For more information, please call (843) 422-4154 or visit hiltonheadinsuranceandbrokerage.com.

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