Jeffrey Ice, Longtime Friend to the Industry
Jeff Ice loves logistics. And yet he’s never delivered a package or hired a dispatcher. But for the last 30+ years he’s immersed himself in it. “I’ve been involved because I liked the industry. I like the folks in it. They’re fun. They’re entrepreneurs with a capital E. And they were misunderstood by the insurance industry way back when I started to get involved with them. Once I realized how misunderstood these carriers were I made it my business to learn all I could about their business. They realized that that I understood them, and together we were all successful,” he says.
Jeff’s industry is insurance, which makes his induction into the CLDA Hall of Fame remarkable. “I’m an insurance guy so that makes this award even more meaningful because I think I’m the only non-delivery person who’s ever been inducted,” he says.
He’s right. The 2023 Hall of Fame winner is, indeed, the first person in the award’s 30-year history to come from outside the industry. “Jeff Ice was chosen because he has been a pillar in our industry for upwards of 30 years,” says Final Mile Forum chair Thomas Jowers. “He has been a voice of reason, a friend, and a mentor to many of the people in the industry and is always willing to lend a hand where needed. We felt that his contributions to the industry warranted recognition. He may not be a final-mile provider, but he’s an important part of our world.”
It Started with a Game of Golf
Jeff can pinpoint the day he first became intrigued by the logistics sector. “I was invited to play golf by my CPA in April of 1988. And one of the other members of the foursome was the owner of Quicksilver Messenger in Cleveland,” he recalls. “He asked if I did commercial auto insurance. I said, yes and we met later that week in his office. We really got along so he asked me if I would go to the second meeting of a new association, he was part of called the Messenger and Courier Association of America (CLDA’s predecessor). I went to the meeting in Tampa, and it was a great experience. I met a whole bunch of people, and it became very clear to me that these guys were misunderstood by the insurance industry. They were looking at these couriers for underwriting purposes as if they were truckers. I realized they weren’t truckers. They were a much more creative and varied bunch of people. Their customers would say, ‘Can you do this?’ And they would say, ‘I’ll figure out. I’ll get it done.'”
After the conference, Jeff visited several courier companies around the country and did several phone interviews to get a more solid profile of the industry. “When I came back, I felt I had a good handle on this sector,” he says. “Armed with that, I went to the insurance carriers I worked with to create insurance products suited to the courier industry. In our first few years working with couriers, we did things like cargo insurance, dishonesty bonding and some auto policies.”
Jeff called upon his relationships with insurance companies to start creating policies customized to the industry. One of the biggest challenges was getting the appropriate auto insurance as most companies were using independent contractors driving their own vehicles and most companies had state and/ or federal motor carrier operating authority so they needed an insurance regulatory filing. Armed with courier industry knowledge, Jeff’s company was able to get hired/non-owned auto liability coverage for an appropriate premium and get the regulatory filings done through the hired/non owned auto liability policy alone. At the time there were few if any other insurance brokers that were able to do this, and this really launched the standing of Jeff’s company with the industry.
He found himself mimicking the creativity that he so admired in the couriers as he pushed the envelope with various insurance providers. “You’ve got an industry that is very creative, unusual and very misinterpreted by the insurance industry,” he says of his persistent pursuit of products to match the needs of couriers. “My goal was to change that. The insurance industry needed to understand what the carrier industry really was. So, a big part of my early connection with the industry was educating the insurance underwriters about this industry.”
At the time, Jeff was working as an insurance broker for the James B. Oswald Company out of Cleveland, OH. He was adding coverages and working with a variety of insurance companies as market conditions and corporate focuses changed. “We had to change companies a lot, but we always made it happen,” he recalls. “We had very significant data so we continued to work with the providers, educating them with our data so they could develop an understanding of the courier sector. There were other brokers that did some courier stuff, but over the years, we were the largest provider of insurance for the courier industry.”
Catching the Entrepreneurial Spirit
The 1997 MCAA Fall Conference in Dallas was a turning point for Jeff. “I was dealing with all these entrepreneurs and it was starting to rub off on me,” he remembers. On the way to his hotel before the conference he overheard a conversation between two women discussing how they had left big companies to start their own businesses. “I’m thinking ‘You were meant to hear this.’ So, when I got to the hotel, I called my wife and I said, ‘You know what? I made the decision. I’m leaving Oswald. I’m going to start my own firm from scratch!’” he says.
The key to making this move was that Jeff had to talk Laura Krieger into leaving Oswald and joining him in the new venture. Laura came to work at Oswald in 1995 and was the Account Manager for Jeff’s courier accounts. “I wouldn’t have made the move without Laura,” says Jeff. “She was (and still is) that good! But she did make the move and we hooked up with an insurance agent who was a friend of mine, and we formed KIK Insurance. It officially launched January 1, 1998. I was 48 years old, had been working for a 100 plus year-old company, with a six-figure income and I left to start my own business. My wife thought I was nuts, but thankfully she supported the move. I had a relatively small amount of courier business that Oswald let me purchase from them, so with that as our base we were off to the races. We grew exponentially over the next several years.”
In 2005 Oswald decided they wanted to have more of a presence in the transportation arena, so they brought Jeff’s group back as their transportation practice. But the entrepreneurial spirit was strong and in 2010 Jeff left for a second time, merged with his biggest and most courier-knowledgeable competitor, KBS International to form Brightstone Insurance.
As Brightstone grew it attracted the interest of M & A brokers and Jeff and his partners Howard and Peter Schlactus, were approached by several larger companies for a purchase After careful analysis, they decided to join Risk Strategies in 2017. Jeff and Peter and all the Brightstone crew stayed on.
Jeff expected to work into his mid-70s, but a medical crisis three years after the merger caused him to rethink that idea. “My plan was to work until I was 75, but then in July 2020 I had to have heart bypass surgery. That was a wakeup call. I decided I needed to retire, which I did on March 1, 2021,” Jeff says.
While Jeff was reluctant to leave the business, he believed the company was in a good place to continue what he started. “I left it in good hands,” he asserts. “My son Bryan came to work for me right out of college and is the Director of Sales. One of his best friends, Brian Jungeberg, also joined the company right out of college and is a VP for Risk Strategies. Another of Bryan’s close friends, Bryan Paulozzi, joined a couple of years later. He is
also a VP at Risk Strategies. For years they have been referred to as B3, and at the Final Mile Forum, Rob Slack, a fellow Hall of Famer, gave Jeff a new title in honor of B3: The B Keeper.
Jeff’s long-time business partner, Laura Krieger, continues with Risk Strategies as Director of Client Services. She is joined by a solid pool of long-time employees. “One of the things I pride myself on is that we had a lot of veteran employees which I think is very unusual in this day and age. Some of these employees have been with me for 10, 15 and even 20+ years,” Jeff says.
Since his retirement, Jeff continued to stay connected to the industry, going to CLDA and Florida Messenger Association events and sharing ideas with his son. “We talk about the business several times each week and on March 1 of this year I entered into a formal agreement to consult part-time for Risk Strategies Transportation Practice,” says Jeff. “I’ve spent 30+ years working with the industry. It’s part of my DNA so it was a no -brainer to stay connected. It’s very important to me to stay involved with the industry that made my career. The Hall of Fame award certainly validates that connection.”
A Friend to the Industry
Jeff sums up his reaction to the Hall of Fame award this way: “It really means a lot to me, to have this award. I think for everybody who’s been inducted into the CLDA Hall of Fame over the years it means a lot. But I think it means even more to me because, I’m outside of the industry. I’m a vendor. Clearly it says they consider me a friend to the industry. That’s very special to me.”