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Vanner Insurance Agency with Agent of the Year award

Pictured: Members of the Vanner Insurance Agency team. From left: Kim LaVigne, Tom Vanner, Chelsa Wlodarczyk, Lori Fuzi, Lori Waite, Sara Jaszka, Tiffany Knapp, Ann Lorusso, Alissa Sinicki, Rosanne Christel, Adrienne Dabrowski, Victoria Puglia, Daniel Ludwig, Mark Byrne, Alex Alicea, RJ Vanner

Merchants Insurance Group has announced that Vanner Insurance Agency of Buffalo, N.Y., is the company’s 2021 Agent of the Year.

Each year, Merchants presents this esteemed award to one outstanding agency, recognizing its commitment to customer service and demonstration of Merchants’ core values of integrity, respect, loyalty, teamwork, and the aspiration to improve. Merchants Insurance Group partners with more than 1,000 independent insurance agencies.

“We are thrilled to present this prestigious Agent of the Year award to Vanner Insurance. Vanner Insurance aligns with Merchants on delivering quality service, building long term relationships, and giving back to their communities,” stated Merchants Insurance Group President Charles Makey. “We are proud to work with such a talented team of insurance professionals.”

Merchants Insurance Group presents Agent of the Year award to Vanner Insurance Agency

From left: Charles Makey, Merchants President; Dan Bierbrauer, Merchants Sr. VP, Regional Operations; RJ Vanner, Risk Management Consultant and former Chairman of Vanner Insurance Agency; Greg Robinson, Merchants Regional Vice President, Western Strategic Business Center

Vanner Insurance Agency has been a valued partner with Merchants since 1960 and was recently acquired by AssuredPartners, Inc. Vanner is a family-run business, established in 1967 by Ralph Vanner Sr.

Mr. Vanner’s sons, RJ Vanner and Tom Vanner, led the company until recently, the former serving as Chairman and the latter as Chief Executive Officer. The agency’s current leadership includes President John Daughton, Vice President Bill Quinn, and Director of Sales & Marketing, Scott Dobosz. Vanner’s Commercial Marketing Representative Alissa Sinicki is also a member of Merchants’ commercial lines Agency Service Council.

“Merchants is a great partner to our firm,” Vanner’s Scott Dobosz commented. “We enjoy working with the entire team and servicing the WNY community together.”

Vanner specializes in contractor, manufacturing, marine, non-profit, jewelers block, grocery, and fleet insurance, as well as risk management solutions. They have been appointed with Merchants for over fifty years.

“The team at Vanner Insurance Agency are consummate professionals with an unwavering focus on the needs of their clients and community,” said Dan Bierbrauer, Merchants’ Sr. Vice President, Regional Operations. “They are a premier agency in WNY and well deserving of this prestigious award.”

Vanner Insurance Agency also earned 2022 President’s Club status with Merchants Insurance Group. President’s Club is composed of an elite group of Merchants’ independent insurance agent partners who have demonstrated a commitment to Merchants and who have achieved excellence in the insurance industry.

Vanner thrives on innovative customer service solutions, such as a customer portal, allowing customers 24-hour access to important policy information, and to submit claims, request changes, and more. Additionally, Vanner actively engages with customers through their Facebook page and website, and encourages customers to go paperless, strongly promoting Merchants’ pay-as-you-go plan, MIGPay®.

Vanner Insurance Agency's RJ Vanner with Agent of the Year award gift

RJ Vanner, Risk Management Consultant and former Chairman of Vanner Insurance Agency

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanner demonstrated excellent leadership by continuing to grow while prioritizing employee safety and ensuring stellar service to all customers adapted to the new environment, went uninterrupted, and remained efficient.

“I am proud to award The Vanner Insurance Agency as the 2021 Agent of the Year and feel that they are very deserving of this award,” said Greg Robinson, Regional Vice President of Merchants’ Western Strategic Business Center. “Merchants has worked closely with this agency in the past, and we have built an excellent relationship.”

Similarly to Merchants Insurance Group, Vanner Insurance Agency prioritizes community involvement, participating in fundraisers, drives, and philanthropic endeavors such as the Colvin Cleaners’ Coats for Kids and a toy drive for Haven House Toyland each Christmas. Agency leadership serves on boards at organizations such as People, Inc. Foundation, 100 Club of Buffalo, Niagara Business Associates of WNY, Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, Nativity of our Lord School, Endeavor Health Services, Child & Family Services, United Way of Erie County, and more.

“We are fortunate to have an agency of this caliber represent Merchants,” Charles Makey said. “Their talented staff is knowledgeable and very involved with supporting their local community. We are truly honored to count them as one of our elite agents.”


About Vanner Insurance Agency

Vanner Insurance was founded in 1967 and consists of 70 employees specializing in Property & Casualty, Employee Benefits, & Personal Lines Insurance.  Vanner is a growing operation and recently joined AssuredPartners who is the 11th largest brokerage in country. The partnership between Vanner and Merchants goes back over 50 years and we have always viewed Merchants as premier partner for our clients.  We are honored to work with Merchants as a local company that helps support our businesses here in Buffalo.  All of us at Vanner are honored to be chosen as the Merchants agent of the year.  We look forward to many years of continued growth as an agency with Merchants.


About AssuredPartners, Inc.

Headquartered in Lake Mary, Florida, AssuredPartners is a full-service insurance broker providing commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and personal lines through consulting and services.  With over 8,000 employees located in offices throughout North America, London, Belgium and Scotland, AssuredPartners is in the business of building relationships.  While cementing powerful, lasting relationships built on trust earned from working openly and honestly with our partners.  That’s what we call, Power through Partnership.  For more information, visit

Katherine Trautwein

Merchants Insurance Group

Merchants Insurance Group sells its products through a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We sell our products through independent insurance agents because we believe they provide value to policyholders through their broad range of products and their insurance expertise.