Richard Atlas

Richard Atlas

It’s hard to figure out where to start. As a young man, I attended the University of Michigan and graduated from the School of Business.  At that time, most of my friends had no idea what business school even was…boy, have times changed.

After graduation, I entered a family insurance agency which had been started in the 1940’s by my dad and his partner, Tommy Rogovein. It was called Atlas-Rogovein, Co – named after the two principals.

We were located in downtown Kansas City at 15 W. 10th Street, across from what is now the Kansas City Public Library. In those days, downtown was truly the hub of all business activity for this area – especially the financial segment.  In fact, all of the insurance companies were within walking distance of our office.

Back then, the world of insurance was based on “paper” and computers weren’t even a dream yet for everyday business.  There wasn’t even a Homeowners policy when I first started – though it did arrive not too long after.

Each personal client received a House policy, a Personal Property policy and a Liability policy.  Today, we hear from clients with a single personal policy complaining about how much paper they receive….think about having three separate policies!

A Fire Insurance policy on a business was for a relatively small part of the total coverage, and a larger business could have 10 different fire policies to provide the coverage they needed. We had a file cabinet with each building in Kansas City listed on a small card because there was an individual fire insurance rate for every structure which we could reference.  Once a month, someone from the Insurance Agents Association came in the office and updated the data adding new rates and removing old ones.

In those days, there was a thriving Garment District and we insured many of these manufacturers. As I recall, they were a colorful bunch and helped make Kansas City the second or third largest manufacturer of ladies clothing outside of New York.

One of our more interesting clients was Wishbone Salad Dressing – named after the restaurant where it was made in the back room located at 45th & Main.  They bought some old bottling equipment and couldn’t make enough of it operating 24 hours a day.  They eventually sold to Lipton Tea – and, as they say, “the rest is history.”

All of the policies were actually typed in our office (probably explains why I still have an affinity for the manual typewriter).  We had an abundance of carbon paper to make duplicates.  I doubt the millennials entering the work force today even know what carbon paper looks like!

My dad purchased a Bookkeeping Machine which was a large piece of equipment to help with producing bills and statements. I even learned how to run it and was very proud of that accomplishment. Direct billing from an insurance carrier was unheard of at that time. The agents sent the bills and were responsible for their collection.

If a client didn’t pay, the agent still had to remit payment to the insurance carrier!

The “copy machine” of the day was a Thermo Fax machine, and the copy came out on a thin piece of paper – certainly not the standard copy paper of today.

At that time, we recognized that forces were changing the insurance industry and believed the small boutique agency was going to have trouble surviving.  In the early 70’s, we closed our office and associated with a larger agency so we could have the resources which weren’t available to us. My dad’s partner retired, and my dad died in 1980. As a result, I took over the agency. In 1985, I sold the agency to a savings and loan which wanted to have an insurance agency presence.

I always said that if my dad came back and saw how the insurance world has evolved, he wouldn’t recognize the business he had been in since the age of 16.  I joined Schifman Remley & Associates in 1995 and it has been a very good association.  I look forward to the future as long as I can make a meaningful contribution.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the one constant in life is change – as evidenced by the use of the internet, social media, and, yes, the posting of my first blog!