Spotlight: Core Commercial Producer Tom Etier, Keystone Agency

Spotlight: Core Commercial Producer Tom Etier, Keystone Agency

Meet Core Commercial producer Tom Etier: agency owner and philanthropist


Tom Etier and his Keystone Insurance Agency staff of four in Rockford, Illinois offer dozens of lines of insurance coverage, from BOP and bid bonds to personal lines. What sets them apart? Their commitment to customer service, which has led them to an ongoing 91 percent retention rate.

We spoke with Etier recently, who explained three ingredients in his “secret sauce” of success:

  • Routine efforts to keep business insurance costs steady.  “We can’t guarantee that the costs won’t fluctuate; however, we take extra steps that other agencies cannot or will not attempt, to keep rates on track.”
  • Thorough analysis of prospects’ and clients’ businesses. “Our 38 years of experience insuring business accounts helps us dig deeper into their businesses to understand their specific risk exposure.  Then we use our resources to find the most economical way of transferring that risk to an insurance policy.”
  • Customer service. “We aren’t necessarily the cheapest option, but we have worked hard to become the best option for insurance not only in the Rockford area, but also nationally, retaining 91 percent of our clients, year-after-year.”

Tom Etier is one of the few we’ve interviewed who actually planned to enter the insurance industry after college, unlike most who simply stumbled onto the industry. His father owned Keystone, and after receiving his bachelor’s in finance (emphasis on Insurance), Etier joined the agency. He purchased the agency in 1986 and has since significantly expanded Keystone’s insurance offerings.

Related: Core Commercial Producer Spotlight on Chrissy Suhr, Corkill Insurance

How did you prepare to become an agent, in addition to your degree?

“An agent is only as good as his or her depth knowledge of the industry,” Etier said. He joined Commercial Union Insurance Company’s commercial lines school, an eight-week program. He also took the National Independent Insurance Agent Association’s four-week program and earned his Certified Insurance Counselor designation. Over the years he attended additional seminar trainings, such as Success in Insurance Sales; Selling techniques – Opening Opportunities to Closing for the Sale; Efficient Business Practices.

“Not only have these courses helped me be a better business owner – I bought the agency in 1986 – but they’ve given me a great deal of insight into running a business. That’s helped me understand the inner workings of my clients’ businesses,” he explained. “And continuing my CIC – I’ve been certified for 24 years – has kept me updated with the latest industry changes.”

Tom Etier is a 10-time recipient of the Liberty Mutual President’s Award. He is also a member of the Frankenmuth Agent Round Table and Arrowhead’s Core Commercial Agency Council.


What attracted you to Arrowhead’s Core Commercial Program?

“I formerly did business with QBE and their small commercial product. When QBE transferred the program to Arrowhead, I was immediately onboard as a Core Commercial producer.

“I now sit on Arrowhead’s Core Commercial Agency Council, giving feedback from the field as to their products and services. I must say, their leadership has been highly receptive in executing ideas from the council. I’ve been impressed with the speed of their implementation.”

Related: Top reasons to add Core Commercial for your small-to-medium business insurance clients


What’s your most – and least – favorite part of your job?

“Working with so many people and establishing various relationships and interaction,” he said. Another secret to Etier’s success is his deep and long-standing commitment to his community. He’s active in his local Masonic Lodge and Shriners, along with Cosmopolitan Club and Make-a-Wish and has held leadership roles in each.

“My least favorite? Well, all jobs have challenges. Some you can control and many others you can’t control. I’m convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. So the only thing I can be completely in charge of is my attitude.

“My personal motto is ‘Work Hard, Play Hard, & Pray Hard. Do the right thing for the Prospects, Insureds, Agency, and Insurance Carriers – and this will result in good fortune, success and personal satisfaction.”

Jolene Kowalski, an 18-year employee of Keystone, said this about Etier and how he lives out his motto:

As a boss, Tom is too good to be true. He runs a very profitable business with a staff he treats like gold. He’s supported employees through good times and bad. Tom is someone you can confide in, trust in and learn from. He regularly finds time to take his employees to lunch, county fairs, major league baseball games, concerts, plays, spa outings, shopping sprees, tours, and on top of all of that, he so generously recognizes his staff with monetary bonuses throughout the year.

Said Sally Foley, our senior Core Commercial underwriter for Keystone Agency, “Tom Etier is top ‘tier’ for Core Commercial.  He’s willing to work with his carrier at all levels – from management to billing – and has a strong, consistent relationship with his underwriting team.  Tom’s the perfect fit for our Agency Council, scrutinizing detail and procedures, helping us improve our program.”

“Tom’s a true agency partner,” agreed Karen Leet, Arrowhead’s AVP and underwriting manager.  “Many of his suggestions have been instrumental in the improvements we’ve made in our processes.  He’s a key partner with his insureds as well, looking for the win-win in every situation.”