Then & Now: Clark’s career comes full circle through acquisition

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 2,245 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the April 10 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.


Marty Clark, president of Fort Smith-based BHC Insurance, has worked in the insurance industry for 30 years. He recently completed a deal to acquire the agency the Fort Smith native joined in 1993.

It was acquired from Fort Smith-based First Bank Corp., the holding company for multiple banks, including First National Bank of Fort Smith and First National Bank of NWA. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal closed on March 1.

Clark, 54, said the deal allowed for minority shareholders, which will be essential for growth, and provides equity to take the agency to “the next level.”

In 2002, First Bank acquired BHC Insurance after the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was approved, allowing banks to own insurance agencies. In the same year of the acquisition, Clark was named president of BHC Insurance.

“We operated together for 20 years, very friendly,” Clark said. “I was on the bank board for 20 years — just a good relationship. I couldn’t say anything negative about them.”

Over the years, Clark looked to share the equity and benefits of the agency’s growth with its staff. More recently, the sons of Clark and business partner Shannon Schmidly joined. Afterward, Clark hired a consultant who helped develop a 10-year model showing it possible to purchase the agency from the bank.

The primary owners are Clark and Schmidly. Their children and 10 existing employees are shareholders.

“We wanted to have very intentional perpetuation with invested partners with skin in the game,” Clark said. “It’s a recruiting tool. It’s a differentiator that most agencies don’t have. We rewarded those who’ve been here for a long time and those we see as up-and-comers by allowing them to become shareholders.”

The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Clark to the Forty Under 40 class in 2006. Over the past two decades, the agency’s revenue has risen 450% to about $16 million annually. Clark’s goal is to double this organically in less than 10 years. The company has 75 employees and offices in Fort Smith and Lowell, as well as Poteau and Sallisaw, Okla.

“We are rated the third largest agency in Arkansas,” he said. “But we’re the only one based in Northwest Arkansas… We have 15 people in Northwest Arkansas. We intend that to double in probably three to five years minimum.”

He said the agency has a dominant Fort Smith presence and looks to expand and grow in Northwest Arkansas. He expects to outgrow the Lowell office in about a year.

The agency primarily focuses on commercial insurance, ranging from medium- to large-size customers. It has about 1,800 commercial and 1,500 personal insurance clients. It also offers employee benefits, including health and life insurance.

The latter comprises about 30% of the agency’s revenue, while 90% of the remainder consists of commercial insurance.

Aspects that set the agency apart from others include:

  • A dedicated claims service and technology.
  • Providing clients with safety and risk management tools.
  • Automated policy service and delivery.

“We want to be very much considered a very important part of a company’s needs,” he said. “We want to be on the level essentially of their attorney, their banker, their accountant.”

Asked about his career highlight, Clark explained how his brother Scott Clark and Schmidly contributed to the agency’s growth after joining the family-owned agency in the 1990s. Now, they look to the next generation to continue to grow the agency and to help them achieve growth.

“I was fortunate to have grown up in the business with a father who was considered to be an industry leader … Larry Clark,” he said. “Larry, my father, died in 2020 but was a member of the second-ever Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame class [in 2016].”

Marty Clark and his wife, Gina, reside in Fort Smith and have two sons, Paxton and Hudson. He is the board president of Fort Smith Boys Home and was board president of multiple organizations, including Bost Inc., Children’s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith and Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame. He’s a Razorback supporter and enjoys playing tennis and spending time at his lake home at Lake Ouachita.