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Broker EPIC acquires benefits consulting firm

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San Francisco-based insurance broker and consultant Edgewood Partners Insurance Center has acquired employee benefits consulting firm Ascende Inc., expanding the broker's footprint in the Southwest.

The deal adds nearly 100 benefits professionals to EPIC's team of more than 200 benefits professionals nationally, according to a statement released Wednesday.

“This is a terrific opportunity not only for us, the legacy Ascende business, but really our clients,” Jim Watt, former CEO of Ascende and now the regional president for the Southwest at EPIC, said Friday. “What we get in this combination is a terrific new set of capabilities that we have long wanted and our clients have been asking for, for some time.”

Those capabilities include support for workers compensation, directors and officers liability insurance and property/casualty coverage, Houston-based Mr. Watt said.

In addition, EPIC will benefit from Ascende's “high-growth” pharmacy management business and a pharmacy coalition, as well as the firm's international benefits consulting capabilities, Mr. Watt said.

As part of the deal, Mr. Watt is charged with expanding EPIC's Southwest footprint. EPIC has until now largely operated on the West and East coasts, Mr. Watt said.

Ascende will continue to operate in Houston and will retain all of its employees, he said.

He declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

“We found a strong cultural partner in Ascende, in an important and highly desirable region, where we have wanted to be a partner in the community and see strong opportunities for growth,” EPIC CEO John Hahn said in the Wednesday statement. “EPIC has been investing heavily in our employee benefits consulting capabilities across the country, and Ascende, with the leadership of Jim Watt and his team in the Southwest, will add significant value to our clients and create further opportunities for all of our employees' long term growth and career success.”

EPIC is the 23rd-largest broker of U.S. business, according to Business Insurance's latest ranking.