Born into Belleville insurance family, son takes over the business

July 14, 2014 

David Miller, President and CEO of W.A. Schickedanz Agency Inc.

PROVIDED PHOTO/BND

David Miller said he always envisioned being a part of his family's Belleville insurance agency, W.A. Schickedanz Agency Inc., which is one of the 30 largest insurance agencies in the state. He is taking over the business from his father, Jack Miller, who has led the agency for the past 30 years. David Miller recently invited business writer Will Buss to his office to talk about taking over the helm:

Q: How long have you been a part of the insurance agency?

A: "I have been here for 16 years going on 17 years. We have another office in Peoria that goes by another name, Interstate Risk Placement. I will be president and CEO of both entities. We also have a premium finance company called Gateway Premium Finance Co., and I will be in charge of both."

Q: How did get started?

A: "I started out in the mail room and accounting department. I've held about every job in my time here."

Q: Who was W.A. Schickedanz?

A: "Adam Schickedanz was my great-grandfather. He was my grandmother's father."

Q: Any other family members in the business?

A: "I've got a brother and a cousin, but neither one are in the business."

Q: What led you into it?

A: "I always admired what my dad did. I decided to go to school for it, and here I am."

Q: Where did you start?

A: "I started out doing the mail I did that when I was 15, 16 years old. My first job here was in the accounting department and I managed accounts receivable and collections. We had an underwriter named Sue Yates. She was a great lady. She ended having emergency surgery and she was only supposed to be gone for two weeks and ended up being gone for six months. That's how I got into the underwriting side, which is what we really are. We are an underwriting agency for various different insurance companies. They actually give us the authority to price and set terms for insurance policies. In 2008, I became a chartered property casualty underwriter, which is a CPCU. It's the premiere designation to have. It's similar to a CPA for accounting or a certified financial planner. I've heard people say it's like a master's degree for insurance."

Q: What did you do after that?

A: "I took over for Sue Yates in 2000 and then a gentleman named Dick Palmer was liquor liability manager, and he trained me to do that while I was working on property and general liability. Then when Dick Palmer left, about 10 years ago, I became underwriting manager. I held that position for the next 10 to 12 years. I then moved into executive vice president three years ago. That job entailed negotiating our contract we have with our insurance companies and going to all of the various trade shows and meeting them. My dad, over the last three or four years, has stepped back and let me run the business. It's great now that I have the title, but my job is really not going to change."

Q: How old is the insurance agency?

A: "This business will celebrate its 83rd year on Aug. 31. W.A. Schickedanz was a life insurance salesman from Marissa and started in Belleville in 1923 and incorporated in 1931. We're the oldest agent in the country for Bituminous Casualty Insurance Companies."

Q: What are Bituminous Casualty Insurance Companies?

A: "Bituminous Casualty Insurance Cos. is an insurance company. We started out insuring all coal mines in Southern Illinois. Then we became a general insurance agency and retail insurance agency until the '70s. Then, we became a Lloyd's broker in 1973."

Q: What is a Lloyd's broker?

A: "It's Lloyd's of London. We're the only Lloyd's coverholder south of Chicago in the state of Illinois."

Q: How many employees do you have?

A: "Nine in Belleville and 12 in Peoria. Our employees make this what it is. It's not all about me at all. It's all about them. They're the ones that make this happen. They're all just wonderful people. I really want to stress that. They're really a great group of people that I get to work with. It's fun to come to work every day. And I think they all like it, too."

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your new job and time in the family business?

A: "I'm proud to be a part of this organization and I'm proud to take it into the future. It something I've done my whole life. I always knew I was going to come here when I was a kid. I always remember being here. It's put food on the table for four generations of my family, which is pretty neat. I feel like we've got to keep this going."

Fourth generation leading family-owned Belleville insurance agency

Name: David Miller

Job: President and Chief Executive Officer, W.A. Schickedanz Agency Inc. @ 300 W Main St., Suite 1, in Belleville (618-233-0644)

Outlook: "I'm proud to be a part of this organization and I'm proud to take it into the future."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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