Pierre Morrisseau: OneGroup; Let’s help each other out

By: Sarah Hall

You might think you know Pierre Morrisseau’s family’s roots.

You’d be wrong.

“I’m not French,” he said. “Our name is actually Scottish. When [my ancestors] went to France they put the ‘eau’ at the end of it. My father was very eccentric and just decided to give us all French first names for the fun of it.”

The story is rather on-brand for Morrisseau, the CEO of OneGroup. The company is, by the most basic definition, an insurance firm. But it’s also an advisory group, a public policy maker, a small business incubator, a community partner, a leadership academy, and so much more.


“The premise of [OneGroup is] ‘insurance is a lot more than insurance,’” Morrisseau said. “The company is built around getting people to think broader and bigger and engage in it on another level.”

Morrisseau spent several years in the insurance industry before launching an entrepreneurial endeavor with two colleagues, focusing on what he calls “performance-based risk management.”

“How do we take safety, which is a don’t-do-this thing, to actually a performance-based culture?” he said. “So if you think about football, you can’t not tackle. So what’s better? Let’s teach them how to tackle effectively and efficiently so they’re not hurting themselves.”

It was that idea of performance-based risk management that followed Morrisseau as he climbed the ladder at OneGroup. In his day-to-day business, he spoke with many companies whose executives were struggling on so many fronts from technology, finding qualified workers, environmental, ergonomics, indoor air quality and more. In order to address those needs — to mitigate the risks faced by these companies — he came to believe it was necessary to assemble a team with diverse knowledge. Now, OneGroup and its affiliates are able to provide everything from financial planning, to business planning, to retirement planning, to estate planning and many of the services needed for each along the way.

In helping other businesses to grow to their full potential, OneGroup has soared, as well. When Morrisseau joined the firm 16 years ago, it had just 35 employees and $3.5 million in revenue. Now, revenue is up to $32 million, with more than 200 employees in 19 locations, and current growth projections suggest it will double in size over the next five to eight years.

‘More than insurance’

So what is “risk management?”

“It’s kind of one of those overused terms, right?” Morrisseau said. “In reality, insurance is just what’s called risk financing. So if something bad happens, there will be cash flow to get me through that.”

Among OneGroup’s offerings is personal insurance. Especially if one owns a business, it is critical that their personal insurance protection is properly planned to insulate their business from personal risks. In personal insurance, OneGroup’s experts are available to speak to clients to understand their goals and determine proper coverage.

“The number one problem in personal insurance is people don’t know whether they’re getting the right coverage or not,” Morrisseau said.

But OneGroup’s true bailiwick is helping businesses: human resources, workers’ compensation, employee benefits, business insurance and cyber liability insurance. Just as they do with personal insurance clients, OneGroup’s experts work to help their business clients figure out what coverage they need and how it will best benefit them.

“Keeping your business going is risk management,” Morrisseau said. “So part of it is having game plans to deal with [catastrophe]. We help people with everything from sales risks, receivable risks, fiduciary risks. All these things you never think about in everyday life, and yet, if something happens and then maybe only one in a thousand chances it can happen. But if it does, you’re done.”

Unfortunately, not all risks are insurable. The vast majority — 80 percent — are not. But that’s where the planning comes in. Often, he said, such planning helps businesses to grow.

“I had a client [with whom] we would go down this exercise and said, ‘You can’t “what if” everything,” he said. “So let’s just start with the big ones, right? What’s a big worry? What if your building burns down? How are you going to go out and take six months?’ I said, ‘So, can we diversify where everything is so that at least, you have half of your stuff somewhere else?’ They go, ‘You know, we’re just thinking about expanding into other states.’ So they then did and now, they have three or four locations. So risk management is moves away from being this thing you have to do, to something that actually can help you grow your business.”

OneGroup also works with a number of start-ups, Morrisseau said, where they begin by asking “better questions.”

“How would [your business] work?” he said. “What would happen if…? How could we mitigate that if it does happen? How could we have a plan B or plan C? Believe it or not, they are applied to all big, small, or large. The thing is no one takes the time to ask. No one takes the time to slow down a minute and give that benefit, especially if you’re a small business.”

‘All we need is the question to be asked’

Morrisseau said OneGroup’s team of advisors are there to ask those questions, and to answer any clients may have.

“What we can really bring to the table is our willingness to take the time and really understand who you are and what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.

What makes the firm unique is that it’s a kind of one-stop shop for business owners and executives where all advisors and services can coordinate together to determine what’s best for the business, allowing them to consider a broad range of options and saving on overhead costs. OneGroup has over 200 experts with backgrounds in law, human resources, business, engineering, occupational therapy, geology, marketing, accounting, sales, wealth management, health, human resources and, of course, insurance, among other fields.

“It’s fascinating to really understand how many different types of professions work here,” Morrisseau said. “We’re seeing so many different things from different angles that we can take the experience of one and bring it over to another. So all we needed is the question to be asked.”

As evidenced by their enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, OneGroup doesn’t shy away from the unknown.

“We don’t necessarily know the answer, but we really know how to figure stuff out,” Morrisseau said. “We don’t really run away from anything.”

Indeed, OneGroup is delving into uncharted territory. The firm is working with Nuair, one of six companies around Central New York working on drone technology. OneGroup has provided financial backing as well as a space for the tech start-up to work on its initiative.

Drone technology introduces a host of new questions for OneGroup’s advisors.

“The reality is we have to look at what’s unknown, and the unknown risk that we face right now is very, very high,” Morrisseau said. “All of us work up really weird questions that we don’t know how to answer yet. We’re actually on the forefront of trying to help people define public policy.”

A holistic approach

OneGroup is also trying to redefine employment. No more does each staff member take on a specific task, then pass on the file, assembly-line style. Instead, each client’s case is handled cooperatively.

“If you think about the industrial age, we love the concept of, ‘I’ll just do my piece and pass it on,’” Morrisseau said.  “But the reality is we really need to think more holistically about things.”

Morrisseau said this way of thinking marks a major shift in the business paradigm, but it’s one that clearly benefits OneGroup’s clients, as well as its employees.

“We tend to think of it like, ‘Hey, it’s working. Why will we break it?’” he said. “We really believe in breaking it all the time. As a matter of fact, every year we break stuff… it creates a very higher purpose type of culture.”

Also contributing to that sense of higher purpose is OneGroup’s dedication to promoting leadership and personal development among its staff. The firm has launched initiatives like a Day of Giving to replace holiday parties and retreats, where employees pick a nonprofit to work with, as well as OneGroup Day of Learning, where the agency will rent out the OnCenter and run a day-and-a-half-long conference and allow employees to pick whatever learning and personal development tracks they choose and run it like any other career conference.

Morrisseau said he sees OneGroup as being in the idea sharing business, and it’s important that leadership be cultivated internally.

“Ideas come from everywhere,” he said. “We don’t care what your role is. Everyone is really important to us. Everyone should be learning. Everyone should be contributing.”

And leadership internally, he said, contributes to leadership in the community.

“I think the world requires more community,” he said. “How can we help each other out? Because at the end of the day, is that not what insurance is? Helping each other out?”