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Baltimore Business Journal: Kelly Benefits Strategies Buys Howard County Insurance Brokerage

Kelly Benefits Strategies was represented by Justin Batoff of Batoff Associates, P.A.

By Joanna Sullivan – Editor-in-Chief, Baltimore Business Journal

Feb 7, 2022 - Updated Feb 7, 2022 1:40pm EST

Kelly Benefits Strategies, a Baltimore County employee benefits broker and consulting firm, has acquired Howard County's Jolles Insurance in a deal Kelly's president said was the "right fit."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, President John Kelly said the Sparks firm picks up 400 employee group clients — small to midsize — in the transaction. And Jolles' top executives, Lisa Jolles and Lois Sheely, have joined Kelly.

The previous umbrella company of the insurance brokerage, Jolles Financial, was kept independent from the acquisition under the direction of Brian Jolles, Lisa Jolles' husband.

"We look for the right fit," Kelly said in a telephone interview Friday. "It was a natural fit. Lisa and Brian approached us and wanted to make sure their clients were taken care of."

Consolidation among insurance brokerages has been brisk the past two years, fueled by private equity money and the desire of owners of older brokerage firms to cash out. The number of deals hit 1,034, 30% higher than the number recorded in 2020, according to a report by Optis Partners LLC, a Chicago investment bank specializing in the insurance industry.

Kelly said his firm isn't interested in buying up firms like the private equity and large firms that are driving consolidation. But he added that he is always happy to speak to brokerages that might work well with Kelly Benefits Strategies' goals.

"We're not in the business of major acquisitions," he said.

Ellicott City-based Jolles Insurance has independently operated since 1985, providing individual and group health, life, disability and long-term care insurance to businesses, families and individuals.

Kelly Benefits Strategies is a division of Kelly & Associates Insurance Group Inc., which has more than 2.5 billion in insurance premiums and nearly 9,000 groups to its name. The firm consistently ranks No. 1 on the Baltimore Business Journal's List of Largest Employee Benefits Administrators. The company employs nearly 400 people in Greater Baltimore.

"We’re a very good fit for brokers with a diversified client base — small to midsize and larger groups," he said, adding that Kelly Benefits Strategies has clients with anywhere from two to tens of thousands of employees.

He said Covid has been a challenge for many of the firm's clients. They're faced with rising costs because people delayed health care during the height of the pandemic and are now undergoing treatment.

"More care is being rendered," Kelly said. "That's a challenge for our clients."

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