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In what originally began as the opportunistic expansion of a manufacturing business, Marshall & Sterling has established itself as one of the nation’s premier insurance organizations.

This year, the company celebrated its 150th anniversary with more than 400 employees, who are also active members in the communities they serve. And even as widespread consolidation has swept through the financial services industry, Marshall & Sterling has successfully maintained its status as an independent firm.

Today, the company is the 31st largest privately held insurance broker in the United States, with $560 million in premiums. Marshall & Sterling has 25 branch offices throughout the nation and the U.S. Virgin Islands, representing more than 200 carriers and maintaining a block of business at Lloyds of London.

joseph marshall and graham sterling
Joseph H. Marshall and Graham L. Sterling

The company focuses on providing risk management, insurance, and financial services for clients throughout the U.S. In addition, Marshall & Sterling provides group health, life, and ancillary employee benefit programs to both large and small companies.

It has been quite a journey for a firm that was founded on Main Street in Poughkeepsie, just as the Civil War was about to come to an end.

In 1864, Joseph H. Marshall, a manufacturer of carriages and sleighs, expanded his business activities to sell insurance. Marshall then successfully ran the company for more than 30 years before deciding, at the age of 70, that he needed someone to pick up the reins.

Marshall chose his 34-year-old fishing buddy, Graham L. Sterling, who also worked at a sporting goods store across the street from his office. The two formed a partnership in 1898 that still stands today as Marshall & Sterling. At that time, the company represented three insurance carriers: German American Insurance Company; Liverpool, London & Globe Insurance Company; and Globe Indemnity Company.

marshall and sterling 1955-1973 marshall and sterling office present day

left: the Marshall & Sterling Poughkeepsie office, 1955-1973; right: Marshall & Sterling’s current Poughkeepsie location

In 1920, Sterling decided to retire and sold the business to Charles Hoyt Smith, Sr., who was a special agent for the Liverpool, London & Globe Insurance Company based in Albany. When Smith died in 1931, the business was eventually passed down to his son, Charles Hoyt Smith, Jr., who then ran Marshall & Sterling for almost 70 years.

As an independent firm, Marshall & Sterling managed to weather numerous storms in the financial services industry, including the Great Depression in 1929. Over the next several decades, Marshall & Sterling accelerated the growth of the company through new business sales and development in existing locations and markets, and by acquiring other insurance agencies. Since 1984, Marshall & Sterling has bought 30 agencies around the nation and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 1977, an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was formed, which annually purchased shares from Charles Hoyt Smith, Jr. The appraised value of shares of Marshall & Sterling stock when the ESOP was formed was $20.67. By the end of 2013, the share value was $836. The company’s premium volume during the same period went from about $9 million to $560 million.

In 1994, the firm underwent a complete reorganization and established Marshall & Sterling Enterprises, Inc. as a holding company that owns all the stock of its subsidiary corporations.

Today, Marshall & Sterling continues to forge ahead as an independent company with its long-term core values — including integrity, collaboration, knowledge, and quality — in place.

Since 1864, Marshall & Sterling Insurance has been the name synonymous with outstanding insurance coverage and customer service. Marshall & Sterling provides exceptional insurance coverage with unparalleled service and support for our valued clients.

Marshall & Sterling Insurance
110 Main St., Poughkeepsie
845-454-0880 (fax)

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