Growing up in a family that worked in the textile industry, and in central North Carolina, an area known around the world for its textile plants, Ed Shackelford was destined to spend his working life in the mill.

Well, you would think so.

Ed took his first job in a textile plant as a “fixer” while still a junior in high school. He worked second shift – 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Ed’s grandfather, Ray Stafford, happened to be the “head fixer” at the textile plant and would surely teach his young grandson all of the tricks required to keep the loud and dangerous machines running. Ed would learn to fix machines – machines that knitted socks.

Grandpa Ray ultimately retired at the ripe young age of 86, and for those of you that may know Ed, it now becomes clear that a strong work ethic certainly runs in the family. After graduating from high school, and not content with the money he was making at his full-time second shift job at the textile plant, Ed took a third shift job at another plant and for the next six years worked eighteen hours a day, six days a week.

Unable to “scratch the itch” that was driving him to want more out of life, Ed decided to take the North Carolina insurance exam. He passed, but being a bit unsure of himself and how he would fare at sales, he quit his second shift job to begin selling insurance – but kept his third shift job just in case.

The precursor of The Assurance Group was born – Piedmont Brokerage. And like most young entrepreneurs who have a dream, he headed straight for his garage to setup his first office. The year was 1988.

And like most young entrepreneurs who have a dream, he headed straight for his garage to setup his first office. The year was 1988.

From 1988 until 1995, Piedmont Brokerage, with Ed at the helm, became experts in the employee benefits arena and grew to become arguably the largest employee benefits provider in the Southeast. Piedmont Brokerage would also become recognized during this same period as the largest seller of voluntary dental plans in the United States.

Back up to 1993. The Clinton administration had officially proposed the “Health Security Act” which was the start of a discussion on reforming the nation’s healthcare system. Determined not to let Bill and Hillary get in the way of his growing company, and uncertain of the future surrounding employee benefits, Ed Shackelford switched gears and formed Piedmont Brokerage’s life division. Life insurance, he surmised, was out from under the prying eyes of the federal government. By early 1996, Piedmont Brokerage had shifted its focus to selling final expense. And sell it did!

In 1999, with a national agent distribution in place, Piedmont Brokerage, the eleven year old dream of a former “fixer”, became The Assurance Group - “TAG” was born.

From 1996 until 2003, the company began yet another growth phase and became one of the largest marketers of final expense products in the United States. With the support of a good friend, an alliance was formed between their two companies. Together they eclipsed $50 million a year in paid final expense premium. Through this remarkable growth period, Piedmont Brokerage added other senior-focused products to its portfolio and suffered through several ever-larger office moves until finally establishing a permanent
home office location at 5035 Prospect Street, Archdale, North Carolina in June of 2001.

One other important event took place during this period. In 1999, with a national agent distribution in place, Piedmont Brokerage, the eleven year old dream of a former “fixer”, became The Assurance Group – “TAG” was born.

In 2003, Congress passed the “Medicare Modernization Act”. Part of that bill took a little known coverage plan and renamed it “Medicare Advantage”. TAG’s next growth phase was about to begin.

In 2004, United Healthcare, a provider of the new Medicare Advantage plans, recognized TAG’s national agent distribution network and approached Ed to determine if there was any interest in having TAG’s ever-growing agent base sell this new “zero premium” Medicare product. Humana, another provider of the new plan also saw TAG’s potential and knocked on TAG’s door.

Over the next three years, TAG agents enrolled over 750,000 Medicare Advantage clients representing nearly $2 Billion in revenue to TAG’s carrier partners. TAG’s reputation as a national insurance marketing organization was now solidified.

By 2008 changes in CMS regulations governing Medicare Advantage plans, such as benefit changes, shortened selling seasons. A compression of agent commissions meant it was time once again for TAG to refocus its strategy and diversify the portfolio.

Still a prolific seller of Medicare Advantage plans to this day, TAG’s diversification plans beginning in 2008 included increasing final expense sales which slowed due to the advent and growth of Medicare Advantage, an amplified focus on the sale of Medicare Supplement plans, creation of an annuity division and an entry into the individual Major Medical market. It became yet another successful corporate realignment that carried TAG into 2012.

Early in 2012, TAG’s leadership, buoyed by Ed’s desire and vision to create the best (not necessarily the largest) career agent platform in the country, began building what today has become TAG’s Career Division.

Through effective recruiting and timely acquisitions, TAG’s Career Division has since experienced hyper-growth. With thirty physical office locations in seventeen states, TAG’s career agent system focuses on serving clients with a needs-based sales approach.

Careful and thorough client reviews, completed by TAG’s well-trained career agents at the point of sale, not only identifies the important coverage needs of our clients but allows TAG agents access to a broad portfolio of products. These include Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, life (both final expense and traditional), annuities, long term care, under-age health and supplemental plans.

Today, TAG’s distribution model consists not only of our career agency system, but also by nearly 5,000 brokerage agent relationships throughout the United States.

TAG’s business model can best be described this way – we integrate world-class people with world-class products and provide them with world-class support.

TAG’s business model can best be described this way - we integrate world-class people with world-class products and provide them with world-class support.

TAG’s “agent-centric” philosophy guides us to an understanding that our agents deserve only the best. The best service from home office personnel. The best products. The best training. The best compensation, reward and performance recognition programs in the industry.

Since 1988, TAG has evolved from a dream started in Ed Shackelford’s garage into a nationally recognized leader in the marketing and sale of insurance products.

Since 1988, TAG has evolved from a dream started in Ed Shackelford’s garage into a nationally recognized leader in the marketing and sale of insurance products.

Today, TAG has nearly 150 full-time employees, 30 physical office locations, 500 active career agents and just shy of 5,000 brokerage agents.

TAG’s past growth and success is a result of putting people first. Future growth and success is ensured because TAG will continue to be guided by a value system that defines people as our most treasured resource.