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The World is Flat

In his landmark book, “The World is Flat”, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman revealed how countries around the globe are increasingly interconnected by business, and that to flourish in the economy of the future we all must learn to embrace the fact that we now live in a global economy. That interconnectivity has been prominent during the recession. As the U.S. economy stumbled in 2008, the world financial markets were impacted as well, further emphasizing the reality of financial interdependence.

This is often perceived as a negative development – whether it is U.S. jobs shipped overseas or the fact that U.S. creditors are countries who may not always seem to have our best economic interests at heart. Regardless, it is a reality that we now depend on this foreign investment and trade – but so does the rest of the world. This dependence has its benefits, as well. The need to effectively generate commerce between disparate continents and cultures has the added value of bringing people together for a common purpose – economic growth.

That’s no more evident than the development of Assurex, a corporation that Parker Smith & Feek joined in 1982. Assurex was founded in 1954 and was predominately North American based. It was established to provide private brokers with a network to help them deliver service to their clients across state lines and to share best practices in their respective firms. In 1998, recognizing that U.S. clients were increasingly conducting business outside the country, Assurex adopted what was then seen as a bold, and controversial strategy. We began to rapidly expand our network beyond North America, beginning with a number of key, high-quality firms in Europe. Rebranding itself as Assurex Global (AG), the network continues to expand to every corner of the globe. Today there are 107 AG partner/owners on six continents, comprising the third largest insurance distribution system in the world.

This has been significant for PS&F. Our clients have established operations around the world as well. The only continent where we don’t conduct business today is Antarctica. It would be impossible for us to provide service to our international clients without a network like AG.

I have the privilege of having chaired the AG Board (2003) and serving as a Director since 2001. I could never have imagined how that experience would have enriched my business career. I just returned from our spring AG meeting in Dallas. Serving on our Board are principals from our network partners in Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and India. The chance to interact and transact business with them, to learn about their firms, their best practices, and their cultures has been immeasurable – for me and for PS&F.

As I said at the outset, it has been enlightening to see how the need to be competitive in today’s global economy transcends most issues around culture and politics. Business has created a platform by which diverse peoples find commonality in the need – the requirement – to work together. AG is a microcosm of that reality. It teaches you that there are far more similarities than differences among countries. Rather than being threats to each other, we now become partners in business.

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