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SFIS Celebrates 40th

In the spring of 1974, Bob Standring’s only thought when he graduated with a degree in business from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was, “Well, now what?”

After working with the Local 150 Operating Engineers Union for five months, he exchanged a steamroller for a pen and paper.

“I know these things move slowly, but believe it or not, insurance was more my speed,” Standring said.

Today, Standring is celebrating 40 years of business at Standring Financial Insurance Services, 10517 S. Western Ave.

“I can’t believe it’s been 40 years, but to tell a family secret, I started when I was 5 years old,” Standring quipped.

Truthfully, Standring was one of six children who resided in the St. Cajetan Elementary School neighborhood. He went on to excel in athletics at Leo High School and was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

“Leo was a terrific experience for me,” Standring said. “I met a lot of new friends who I still consider close friends today. I also had the opportunity to play sports under a lot of great coaches and leaders.” Sports provided Standring the opportunity to earn a four-year scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he starred in football. “Playing football in college and managing time to study taught me lessons I carried over to the business world,” Standring said. “There is enough time to enjoy college life and get the work done as long as you exercise discipline. In the sales game, you need that discipline. It also doesn’t hurt to have drive, persistency, knowledge and a positive mental attitude.”

Standring originally started in the insurance business selling life insurance over the kitchen table at night. He learned valuable lessons. “Being 22 years old and making cold calls, the only people who would see me were newly-married couples or young professionals just starting out,” Standring said. “But it was great. The thing that grabbed me was a love of meeting new people, listening to their stories and getting to know them. The sale always came last because if you didn't listen to them, how could you truly help them?"

After Standring married Carole Feeney in 1977 and had two children, working nights became more difficult. As a result, he began learning the employee benefits market, which allowed him to talk to business owners during the day. The group health, life and disability insurance business grew and expanded to include retirement planning, mutual funds, key executive benefits and other voluntary employee benefits.

In recent years, as the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act came into effect, Standring and his team became certified by the federal government to represent clients in the marketplace. “The new law marked a massive change in how healthcare insurance is delivered and regulated,” Standring said. “Yes, you can go online and get insurance, but in my opinion, you’re much better off talking to licensed professionals who know what they’re talking about. Next to your salary, securing proper health insurance is just about the most important thing you can do to take care of you and your family.

Over the years, Standring and his firm have seen quite a few changes due to new regulations. “From HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996] to ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974], there will always be some new regulation to come down the pike,” Standring said. “With changes come challenges; with challenges, there is always opportunity.”

Growing over the last 40 years has also meant that Standring needed to hire to stay ahead of the game. So 17 years ago, he hired Nancy Leiser, who handles multiple in-office administrative tasks. In 2007, the firm added two other members to the organization: Bess-Catherine McCord and Andrew Ariens. McCord handles the IT systems, and Ariens, Standring’s son-in-law, has been a great addition. Andrew completed the Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2012 and is licensed to sell life and health insurance, annuities, long-term care and certain types of investments suitable for retirement plans.

“I have to admit, 40 years went by pretty fast,” Standring said. “And it’s a nice milestone, but the job is far from over. Part of our practice deals with helping business owners develop a succession plan. The time has come for our little firm to address the same issue. I’m not ready to stop working full-time, but having a plan is important to help the future continuity of the business.”

So, after 40 years, what truly gets Standring up in the morning?

"When we see medical benefits being paid for employees with devastating medical claims; when an untimely death occurs and a claim brings a monetary benefit when all other news is not good; when an unfortunate disability occurs and the cash benefits begin to pay the bills when there is no other source of income to pay them; and when we ultimately get to see people's dreams come true when they retire -- this is what really keeps me going." Standring said.

Just like when he first started out over kitchen tables 40 years ago, Standring still finds motivation in the people he meets and the people he helps. “Ultimately, it’s my clients who I need to thank—especially those from the Beverly community—for their many years of loyalty,” he said. Standring has lived in Beverly his entire life. And he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Beverly is nothing special,” he said, “but it’s just perfect.”

Published originally in the Beverly Review December 9, 2014

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