The Partners Group Says Goodbye to Original Co-Founder Bruce Kerr in a Retirement Celebration

Bruce Kerr - early and now

Picture on the right: During Bruce’s retirement party, Rod Cruickshank toasted Bruce Kerr with the “Red Solo Cup” song from Texas, where Bruce spends a lot of time now.

In June of 2016, The Partners Group honored their original co-founder Bruce Kerr in an event to celebrate his retirement. Kerr is leaving behind a legacy of stability, success, and long-term honorable relationships, both in business and in community service. The ceremony was filled with grateful and tearful stories as co-workers, friends, and family all toasted Kerr in his successful career and life achievements.

Kerr’s leadership extends beyond The Partners Group into many worthwhile organizations. He has served as President of the Down Syndrome Network Oregon Board, on the boards of the Dorernbecher Children’s Hospital and Nominating Committee, Cascade Pacific Council Boy Scouts of America, the Rotary Club of Portland, Rotary Charitable Trust, Portland Parks Foundation, Rose Festival Association Foundation, the Guardian Life Executive Committee, and also the Karen Gaffney Foundation. Kerr also held previous community leadership positions with the Children’s Museum leadership council, Legatus President and Membership Chairman, and as President of the Rotary Club of Portland. Furthermore, Kerr has been honored with Rotary’s Ken Bement Award and the Portland Mayor’s Spirit of Light Award.

Kerr founded Kerr Insurance, Inc. in 1981, and then in 1995 he formed a partnership with Rod Cruickshank, the current President and CEO of The Partners Group. At the time, Kerr Insurance had four employees and approximately $400,000 in annual revenue. The initial two partners formed a second company called Kerr Cruickshank. In 2000, they merged Kerr Insurance and Kerr Cruickshank into what is known today as The Partners Group, aligning their skill sets around their strengths and what they liked to do best. Cruickshank said “Bruce was the relationship builder, and I was the day-to-day leader.”

In their 21 year partnership together, Kerr and Cruickshank averaged double digit growth every year, and they never had a year where they didn’t grow the business. Over the past 35 years, The Partners Group grew from one employee to 140 employees today, with a projected revenue of $29 million by the end of 2016. Cruickshank said “We never imagined we would reach this level of success and growth.” He added “Bruce always had my back, and I always had his. He always trusted me, and I never worried about his ethics and morals. I knew I could trust his future focus for other people as well”. In Cruickshank’s toast to Kerr he stated “Bruce, I haven’t said it nearly enough times, you have been absolutely the best partner, friend, and businessman that a guy could have ever had.”

Doreen Barnhouse, Vice President of Operations at The Partners Group, who has worked with Bruce for the last 22 years – beginning with Kerr Insurance said, “Bruce has been my longest relationship! He truly believes in people and encourages and enables them to be the best they can be. Only you stopping yourself will keep you from becoming your best. He has taught me a lot and I appreciate his leadership and friendship.” Furthermore Jo Bryson, past CEO of the Oregon Medical Association (OMA), has known Bruce since 2002, and she stated “The relationship between customer (OMA) and vendor (Bruce) blossomed”. In 2006 Bryson and the OMA formed a business partnership with The Partners Group which included co-investing and constructing the building in which both are housed. Bryson added “If you’re going to build a house together, you either become closer together or it’s going to tear you apart, and this partnership was one of the best I’ve ever created. Bruce has such a legacy at being a hard and dedicated worker. Plus his community service and faith have been instrumental in directing a lot of the decisions I’ve made.”

Shawn O. Higley, Partner and Practice Lead of The Partners Group’s Physicians Advisory Services, said “I was lucky to have met Bruce in 1990 while serving his original agency as a Group and Pension Advisor for Principal Financial Group. Bruce has been a great friend and mentor to me over the last 26 years, and it was a privilege to work side by side with him serving clients. I am honored to have the opportunity to fill the shoes of Bruce Kerr’s legacy of serving physicians and clinics within the Oregon Medical Association.”

Gary Alton, Managing Partner of The Partners Group Employee Benefits Division, has known Bruce since 1990. Gary stated “After knowing Bruce for a quarter of a century, I really appreciate everything he’s done for me including selling some of his personal stock in The Partners Group to allow me to become an owner in 2004. Bruce always made me feel that if I was succeeding, he was succeeding.” As one of Bruce’s oldest customers who started working with Bruce in 1978, Steve Barnes, who also co-founded a networking group with Kerr in the 1980’s said “We first met during the time Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Hotel California was the song of the year. It’s not very often that a customer does business with a company for 38 years.”

Founded in 1981, The Partners Group has been serving the financial and insurance needs of employers, medical professionals, and successful individuals for over 35 years. They are an independent consulting firm with over 140 employees, and services including employee benefits, business consulting, retirement planning and investment services, commercial and individual insurance. The Partners Group has offices in Bellevue, WA; Portland, OR; Lake Oswego, OR; Bend, OR; and Bozeman, MT. For more information, please visit 503-241-9550.