Demystifying insurance for the mergers-and-acquisitions sector

August 31, 2022

Luke Parsons, ’10, provides innovative insurance and risk management solutions to private equity firms during all stages of the investment life cycle

Acquiring and growing a business can be risky. That’s where Luke Parsons, ’10, comes in. The partner and leader of the Private Equity Practice Group at Woodruff Sawyer, one of the largest privately held insurance brokerage firms in the U.S., assists private equity firms during the due diligence process prior to a merger or acquisition. Then, after a merger or acquisition closes, he works directly with the portfolio companies from an insurance and risk management perspective to protect and improve corporate profitability.

Specifically, his team assists private equity and other firms on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the middle-market sector, where transactions typically range from $50 million to $1 billion+ in total value. Citing his skill at expanding companies’ insurance coverage while reducing costs, Risk & Insurance magazine named him to its power broker list in 2020 and 2021. Since 2014, he has been involved in more than 1,500 middle market transactions with private equity firms across the U.S.

“I enjoy working with private equity firms because each transaction is different,” said the broker with his warm, open smile. "My team actively participates in each deal by providing due diligence on the target acquisitions’ property, casualty, and management liability programs, as well as employee benefits and 401(k). When I put a proposal in front of a client, I know it’s the best possible solution for that particular transaction. My team acts as the outsourced risk manager for our clients.

“At its core, insurance is a relationship business. My clients need to know and trust me personally and trust that my team has the technical expertise to protect their companies’ profitability. You can’t build these kinds of relationships during 30-minute Zoom meetings.”

So, several times a month, Parsons leaves his office in Woodruff Sawyer’s San Francisco headquarters, crisscrossing the country to attend face-to-face meetings with clients.

In addition to the interpersonal aspect of his work, he said he relishes his contribution to supporting entrepreneurship in the insurance sector through working with the private equity community. His portfolio company clients comprise some of the nation’s most innovative and fastest-growing companies.

“Insurance is the backbone of capitalism,” Parsons said. “No one would start a company if they didn’t have a backstop to safeguard their personal assets in the event the business had an issue.”

His undergraduate education at University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies appealed to his entrepreneurial streak, he said. “My Jepson education gave me the fundamental skills to be an entrepreneur in the insurance industry, building my own business under the Woodruff Sawyer umbrella.”  

Now he gives back to his alma mater. He co-chaired the University’s San Francisco Alumni Group and currently serves on the Jepson Alumni Corps and the University of Richmond Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Last year, Spider undergraduates participating in Career Services’ Spiders in Silicon Valley trip visited Parsons at his San Francisco office to learn about the insurance industry.

“The students were surprised by the many careers available in such a gigantic industry,” he said. “The opportunities are rife for smart graduates from a fine institution like University of Richmond.”

He should know.