FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)– Tim Ash jokes that he’s got the coolest building in Fort Wayne.

It’s hard to argue with the businessman whose view from the ninth floor of the Skyline Plaza is unrivaled in the city for the panoramic view it offers from the 800 block of South Harrison Street.

Ash Brokerage, a family firm that got started 51 years ago with his father, Jim Ash, opened its sparkling, trendy downtown headquarters in May 2016. It’s where his 400-plus employees work in a post-modern vibe that seems to offer calm amongst the tulip chairs interspersed in common areas.

But seven years ago, Ash, CEO of the largest independently owned insurance brokerage focusing on life insurance, annuities, and long-term care, started talks with the Dallas-based firm, Integrity Group Group LLC. This week, the two firms announced a new partnership that will only benefit each other, they say. Negotiations took about a year.

Inside Skyline Plaza at the Ash Brokerage Plaza

Nothing will change – name, logo, or building, said Ash who will now be the managing partner. Space in the downtown building was built to be flexible and the company can grow 25 to 30% “without sweating,” he added.

“This is not a sale,” Ash said. “This is a partnership. This is us becoming part of a bigger organization and enabling us to serve more lives. That’s what this is all about. Once you understand the story. Once you understand the culture of our company, understand the decisions we’ve made in our 50-year history, we’ve always been people forward.”   

Offering employee ownership in the company has always been a dream of Ash’s, too. Local sponsorships will continue.

“Ash joined Integrity to be a much more comprehensive organization,” Rachel Aird, Integrity’s media spokesperson said.

Ash says the brokerage’s product lines will expand to include Medicare, Medicare Advantage, a bigger share of disability benefits, and prescription drug coverage. Ash products are sold through 25,000 to 30,000 financial advisors.

“Integrity is the largest and leading provider of Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and prescriptions drug plans in the United States. That’s a product that while we have done some business with them, we are now going to take that and grow that tremendously with their resources, with their technology, with their know-how,” Ash said.

Someone might say, “Oh someone sold,” Ash said. “We didn’t sell. We partnered. That means more jobs and more community value,” Ash said.

The added bonus for employees is that they will own a piece of the corporate pie. The Integrity employee ownership plan instituted in 2019 has already benefited its employees with $175 million in employee payouts, Aird said.

That same opportunity will be available to Ash’s employees, Ash said.

During a sitdown interview Thursday in his office overlooking the one-acre rooftop park, Ash said life changed somewhat since Tuesday’s announcement.

“My phone’s been lit up for the last 36 hours,” Ash said. “It’s been a whirlwind, in a good way.”

His firm that will pay $401,000 in city and county taxes this year will stay in Fort Wayne. Response from employees, the city, and financial advisors Ash works with has been “nothing but positive,” he said. Ash pointed out that before his firm acquired the 1.3-acre property for development, taxes to the city amounted to $1,200.

“I view change as growth. I view change as an opportunity,” Ash said. His advice to his employees and his team is “change is something to embrace.”