Real Estate - Residential

New Independent Insurance Firm Opens On Military Cutoff Road

By Cece Nunn, posted Apr 9, 2024
Matt Ham

Matt Ham describes building relationships as his “heartbeat.”

A Wilmington native, Ham worked for North Carolina Farm Bureau from 2008 to 2018 before embarking on various entrepreneurial and nonprofit endeavors.

This year, he returned to the insurance business by opening Airlie Oak Insurance Group in the flagship office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolina Premier Properties at 1612 Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington.

“I felt like it was time for me to re-engage this heartbeat for relationships and people, and I’ve known Jeff Sweyer [the president and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolina Premier Properties] for 25 years, since I was a teenager,” said Ham, who is CEO of Airlie Oak Insurance.

It’s a natural connection, Ham said, for his insurance firm to be located in the same building as one of the area’s largest residential real estate firms in a variety of ways.

On the coast, “it’s a pretty dynamic, changing environment in the insurance world … when you have Realtors who are welcoming folks to the Wilmington community, people who are moving in from outside, it’s a big transition when they see ‘Oh, insurance down here is different than where I was,’” Ham said. “We want to help make that process smooth and easy for everybody and just provide education, and then also, of course, the policies on the back end.”

Ham hired Sarah Hardee, who is also a Wilmington native, as Airlie Oak Insurance’s client services specialist, and he plans to grow the firm.

“Our primary focus coming out of the gate is going to be homeowners and automobile insurance. And then as we grow, we hope to add extended commercial insurance services as well as even life and health insurance and a variety of different things so we can be full-service,” Ham said.

Ham is also the executive director of a nonprofit called Redefined, through which he oversees faith-based community initiatives throughout the state.

As he gets back to selling insurance, Ham sees value in steering an independent insurance agency.

“It gives you the opportunity to speak to a customer about the various opportunities in the market for them to get coverage versus only being restricted to one,” Ham said. “I value education more than anything, especially in insurance, because most people do not understand it. And because they don’t understand it, they make assumptions about what’s covered, how it’s covered, and then when something happens, it’s not covered that way.”

That can lead to negative opinions of insurance companies, he said, “and that’s something that I value to change by simply being in a relationship with people and explaining things to them.”

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