NORTH BAY – In the four years since it expanded to the region, San Francisco-based Woodruff-Sawyer & Company has grown from one of the smallest brokerages in the North Bay to among the top 20, attracting the region’s foremost experts in the industry and launching a wine purchasing pool.

Founded close to 100 years ago, the nationally ranked insurance brokerage opened its first North Bay location in Novato in 2006, quickly shooting up the list to 19th largest among Sonoma, Napa and Marin firms, according to the Business Journal’s 2009 property/casualty insurance firm ranking.

At its beginning in the North Bay, the one-man shop specialized in construction and recorded about $160,000 in revenues. Profits now top $5 million, and the company has picked up 21 new staff members. Officials hope to add at least two more professionals in the coming year, and plans are in the works to add more office space.

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“Our growth in the North Bay has been equally organic as in the number of people,” said James Settles, a former ABD executive who joined the agency as benefits practice leader last year.

“Because we are privately held, I think our clients appreciate that our ultimate responsibility is their best interest rather than Wall Street. And I think that is also the reason we have been able to attract some of the most experienced professionals around.”

USI Insurance Services executives Tom Hughes and Larry Coyne joined Woodruff in 2007, following the purchase of the company by Goldman Sachs & Company.  USI was one of the top 10 largest agencies in the area until that year, when it closed its Santa Rosa and Petaluma branches.

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“We are literally bursting at the seams,” said Woodruff Vice President Chris Reiter, who also transferred to the company from ABD following its merger with Wells Fargo Insurance Services.

“Our winery purchasing pool and hospitality has been a real area of growth for us in the North Bay, and we are one of the largest writers in the area of D&O insurance.”

Additionally, brokers specialize in real estate, financial services, life sciences, technology, clean tech and commercial. They sell executive and corporate protection, property/casualty, employee benefits, mergers and acquisitions, international risk, claims auditing and consulting and business continuity management.

The company has the option to add about 1,500 square feet of neighboring space some time in the first half of next year, which would close to double its current North Bay footprint. The business is located at 88 Rowland Way in Novato, Suite 180.

Woodruff as a whole was named commercial insurance agency of the year by the National Underwriter and number one D&O broker by the Tower Perrin Directors & Officers Liability Survey. Early last month, the company acquired the western region of D&O broker Carpenter Moore Insurance Services in San Francisco.