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R&Y Celebrates 20-Years of Employee Ownership

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Executive leadership recognizes staff's longevity and work ethic as the primary drivers of success.

"Looking back 20 years, I remember that, in many ways, we didn't know what we didn't know! But we trusted each other, learned how to survive and thrive as an independent agency, and attracted incredibly talented people to come along with us," says CEO Dudley Wooley, CPCU, CRM, CIC, AAI.

"Twenty years later, we're bigger, but we're still learning, working hard to be the best we can be at our jobs, and are so very thankful for each person that has chosen to be part of our Ross & Yerger family."

What began in 1860 as the first insurance agency in Mississippi quickly gained the attention of business partners James Ross & Edward Yerger, within its first two decades.

The two later purchased the agency in 1892, renaming it Ross & Yerger, before Edward Yerger became the sole owner in 1908.

What followed was four generations of Yerger family leadership and a successful merger in 1990 with one of North Mississippi's largest agencies, Hutto & Company (Tupelo, MS).

Ross & Yerger's first century was propelled by passionate innovation and expansion, growing the business into a strong, independent, and well-established agency that dominated its local insurance markets.

This success was a considerable accomplishment for the family-owned agency. Still, growing demands amid shifts in the industry meant the company needed to evolve to better serve its community's needs.

In 2000, CEO Wirt Yerger Jr. faced a crucial decision to solidify Ross & Yerger's future. "He had several offers from major brokers, but he wanted the agency to remain independent if he could work out a way to do so," says CEO Dudley Wooley. "That presented us with an opportunity to become owners, and, in February of 2002, a group of us purchased the agency from the Yerger family."

2002 Clarion Ledge Article.

A Look Back - "Ross & Yerger Now Employee-Owned"

Read the original Clarion-Ledger article published in 2002 announcing the agency's employee purchase.


"One of the things that made this possible," adds CFO Vivan Farris, CPCU, CPA, "was that Wirt wasn't greedy to maximize his profits. He was most interested in keeping the legacy going, so the agency could continue to make a difference in Mississippi."

Being the oldest insurance provider in the state is an impressive feat, but R&Y's notable progression and focus on clients set the foundation for the agency's success.

"After the purchase, we decided we needed to find a way to become true partners with our clients. Focusing on clients that were committed to risk management became our goal. But that also meant we had to be willing to walk away from clients who were just shopping for insurance based solely on price," explains Amy Smith, CPCU, CIC, AU, executive vice president, and commercial lines manager.

"We put our money behind that endeavor, certain that it would pay off, by hiring non-revenue-producing employees passionate about risk management. We needed experts who could sit down with our clients and insurance carriers and explain what we were doing and why," Smith recalls.

If you're wondering what the secret is, it's pretty simple: innovative employees and vast agency experience. "One of the benefits of having a large team and a large client base is that, in many cases, when we're faced with a problem, we've already seen something similar and have a solution," says EVP and Employee Benefits Manager, Scott Bingham, CEBS, RHU. "Our team members are constantly sharing their experiences so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel constantly. That's one of the distinct advantages of working for an agency where people are focused on helping others succeed."

Since 2002, Ross & Yerger's employees have propelled its momentum to new heights and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.



Ross & Yerger – one of the largest independent, privately-held insurance agencies in the Southeast – was established in 1860 and is headquartered in Jackson, MS. The firm has 127 employees throughout their five offices in Jackson, Tupelo, Hattiesburg, New Orleans, and Memphis. Ross & Yerger is licensed in all 50 states and offers a full range of brokerage services, including insurance, employee benefits, bonds, financial services, and risk management consulting. For more about Ross & Yerger, visit www.rossandyerger.com.


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