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Photo by Karen Brune Mathis - On New Year's Day, a new generation took control of the former Zurich Insurance Services. Thomas F. "Ty" Petway IV took over as chairman from his father, Thomas F. "Tom" Petway III. With new leadership came more changes, ...
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 25, 201212:00 PM EST

Zurich Insurance Services changes leadership, brand, address


A well-known Jacksonville-based company has changed its chairman and corporate identities and soon will change locations.

“Times change and the way we work changes,” said Thomas “Ty” Petway IV. His father, Thomas “Tom” Petway III, turned over the chairmanship of the former Zurich Insurance Services Inc. Jan. 1 and remains a shareholder.

Ty Petway, who continues as CEO, leads the company under a new corporate name, US Assure, and is moving the headquarters.

The company is moving 175 employees into a 44,000-square-foot location at Cypress Point Business Park and keeping 100 workers at the Koger Center Gate Parkway offices it has occupied for 12 years. Those employees are expected to move over time to more space at Cypress Point.

The Southside locations are about 5 miles apart. The 175 employees should be moved by March 26.

“Coming here is a clean slate,” said Petway, 41. “A move is good and a move and a name change are better.”

Tom Petway and his partners started the company in 1977 as Home Builders Insurance Services at 2727 Atlantic Blvd. in the St. Nicholas area not far from Downtown. It changed its name to Zurich Insurance Services in 1998 and moved to the 5011 Gate Parkway site in 1999.

Tom Petway also is well known for many other roles, including as a founding partner in the Jacksonville Jaguars, as a chair of the JAX Chamber, as co-chairman and host of the Super Bowl Host Committee for Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville and as the first chairman of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. He also has been active in Republican political circles and also was a founder of Prudential Network Realty.

On Jan. 4, the Jaguars franchise was sold by majority owner Wayne Weaver and the partners to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan, meaning Petway had retired from two of his main roles – a Jaguars owner and Zurich chairman.

Ty Petway said he has been working with the company since he was a teenager and started on the management track about 15 years ago. He became CEO in 2005.

Petway provided responses to the decisions:

• The geographic move is “a move into the future,” he said. “We wanted something we could design ourselves. We decided that we wanted real estate that best represented how we work today — lean, efficient, collaborative, transparent — and we needed a space that would support these guiding principles,” he said. US Assure will be the first tenant in the Cypress Point space. “It was a shell. We had a blank canvas,” he said. The Gate Parkway lease was expiring, he said, and landlords are making lease arrangements for the remaining 100 employees to stay there.

• The branding to US Assure “is the next evolution in the history of our company,” he said. “Our association with Zurich is important, but that is their brand and we needed our own.” US Assure is an insurance program administrator and services provider for the property and casualty insurance industry. US Assure said it remains the nation’s leading program administrator for Builders Risk insurance from Zurich. It said Zurich American Insurance Co., part of the global Zurich Financial Service Group, is the primary insurer for risks administered by US Assure.

“As we evolve our strategy, we’ve determined that we need a brand that is unique to us to best achieve our goals,” Petway said.

US Assure is privately held and does not disclose financial information. Along with serving as a program administrator for Builders Risk insurance, it also offers specialty coverages for some nonconstruction risks and industry segments such as religious institutions, environmental exposures, specialized commercial automobiles and management and professional liability exposures.

• The new generation of leadership consists of an executive team that includes Petway and Andy Ferguson, son of Lee Ferguson, a founding partner with Tom Petway. Andy Ferguson is president of US Assure.

US Assure is moving to Cypress Point as the business park, at Butler Boulevard, Philips Highway and Baymeadows Way, loses a major tenant, EverBank, which is moving Downtown by June-July. Petway said US Assure looked at sites around town, including Downtown, but the Southside was more convenient to employees.

The City recently approved a building permit for contractor Brasfield & Gorrie LLC to provide interior tenant improvements for US Assure at the site, at 7140 Baymeadows Way, at a cost of $1.7 million. The business park is owned by HGL Properties.

The total investment is about $3 million.

The interior designer is Gresham, Smith and Partners and the real estate broker was Jim Sebesta with Grubb & Ellis Phoenix Realty Group.

The offices are designed to include:

• The “Collaboration CafĂ©,” a move “beyond the traditional break room. It’s a multipurpose room for lunch and for small team and group meetings.

• The “Idea Zone,” an area with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards where employees can write their ideas, work on projects and leave suggestions.

• Private “enclave” rooms for employees to use for personal phone calls or for quiet work.

• Specially designed areas for technology staff.

• An employee fitness center with showers.

There also are other features, including Wi-Fi, extensive use of glass to promote transparency and locating the majority of managers’ offices on the interior, allowing the bulk of the staff to have window views and natural light.

The move is a downsize from 65,000 square feet of space at Gate Parkway, but Petway and Ryan Schwartz, senior vice president of marketing and corporate affairs, said the space is more efficient at Cypress Point.

The staffing is lower, as well. Petway said the company peaked around 500 employees in 2005-06, the height of the construction boom.

“Competition is as fierce as it’s ever been,” Schwartz said, saying that US Assure is poised for the rebound, whenever that might be.

Asked when the construction industry is expected to start growing again, Petway said “it’s an eight-ball.”

“We can track it and we do,” he said. “But the why and when, we don’t know.”

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