PayneWest Insurance is a “Best Place to Work” with Deep Montana Roots: Q&A with Sarah Walsh, COO


Quick Facts:

Company: PayneWest Insurance

Locations: Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Industry: Personal Insurance, Business Insurance and Health Benefits

Founded: 2012 (merger between Payne Financial Group and Western States Insurance)

Employees: 675

Key Leaders:

Terry Payne, Chairman, Missoula

Kyle Lingscheit, CEO, Missoula

Allison Johnston, CFO, Missoula

Sarah Walsh, COO, Helena

Steve Smelley, COO, Beaverton OR

Troy Kane, Managing Director of Benefit Planning, Billings, serves on the Montana High Tech Business Alliance Board of Advisors

“Our roots are in Montana and our commitment to Montana is unwavering. More than 60% of our business and our people are here.  Our focus on growing and serving our Montana friends and neighbors is as intense today as it was in 1921.”

– Sarah Walsh, COO, PayneWest Insurance

How did PayneWest get started?

PayneWest Insurance traces its roots back to 1921, when our Billings office came into existence. At that time it was called Hoiness LaBar Insurance, later Payne Financial Group (PFG).  In 2012 PFG acquired Western States Insurance and changed its name to PayneWest Insurance. We were founded on independence and remain independent and employee-owned today. We feel it’s the best way to serve our clients, colleagues and communities across our 4-state footprint of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.


What does your company do?

We’re in the business of protecting what’s valued and important to people – a.k.a. the insurance business. We serve individuals and businesses with a breadth of services and coverage, including business and personal insurance, employee benefits, surety and everything in between.


What industry does your company serve?

We serve all industries but have a few specialty areas including construction, agriculture, technology, hospitality, transportation, healthcare, education, financial institutions, small business and private clients.


Who do you hire?

Only the best! We are keenly aware that culture outplays all else – so we hire people we think will thrive at our company. If our colleagues are happy and engaged working here, we know our clients will be well-served.  It’s really that simple. Most people don’t think of insurance when deciding upon a career. We happen to think our industry and our company is the best kept secret out there.  Check out our career page on our website ( to get in on the secret!


What is special about your company?

We may be biased but we think our colleagues are the best in the business. In 2015 we were named a “Best Places to Work in Insurance” company by Business Insurance. In addition to that national recognition, of which we are very proud, we are also ranked in the top 50 largest brokers in the United States. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are a company that truly lives its mission. Ours can be boiled down to three words – Clients, Colleagues and Communities – those we serve. Our core values of Respect, Accountability, Balance, Integrity and Excellence define how we serve them.


Is there a story that best illustrates what you do and why you do it?

Every time one of our clients experiences a loss…there is a story. And every one of those stories tells why we do, what we do. Experiencing a loss, what we call a claim, is never high on anyone’s list of fun. We advocate on behalf of our clients and work with our many insurance carriers to make the experience as painless as possible. It’s why we’re here!


Why are you in Montana?

Our roots are in Montana and our commitment to Montana is unwavering. More than 60% of our business and our people are here. Our focus on growing and serving our Montana friends and neighbors is as intense today as it was in 1921.


What do you like about Montana? Your community?

What’s not to like about Montana? Being able to live and work in this state makes it on our gratitude list each day! We operate in 14 communities in Montana – all very special in their own way. Helena, the Queen City of the Rockies, has it all – the best trails, our State Capitol, Carroll College and incredibly friendly people, to name a few.


Is there anything else you want us to know?

We recognize the responsibilities that come with belonging to a community and want to do our part in all the communities we serve. Every October, our 675 colleagues, across our 32 locations, put on their “PayneWest Giving Our Best” t-shirts and volunteer for various local organizations. A couple examples from last year: Our Missoula crews helped out at the Ronald McDonald House, with Missoula Aging Services and the Clark Fork Coalition. Our Bozeman crews helped out at the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and Community Café as well as the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter. The organizations served are those near and dear to our colleague’s hearts.

PayneWest Gives Billings Crew 2015

We also have a unique program to celebrate significant employment anniversaries that ties back to our communities. Instead of a pin or a watch we donate money to a colleague’s favorite charity to honor their time with our company. Check out our website for some great stories!



About the Publisher: The Montana High Tech Business Alliance is a statewide membership organization made up of more than 290 high tech and manufacturing firms and affiliates. Search for Montana career opportunities at


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