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Northwest Bancshares, parent of Northwest Savings Bank, said Wednesday that it has agreed to buy an Erie, Pa.-based insurance agency, pushing into insurance for the first time and expanding its customer base in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Warren, Pa.-based banking company did not disclose how much it is paying for The Bert Co., an employee benefits and property and casualty insurance brokerage that does business as The Bert Insurance Group. The agency specializes in commercial and personal insurance and retiree benefit plans, and serves an “extensive list” of manufacturing, nonprofit, education, municipality, service industry, construction and professional clients.

The agency will operate as a subsidiary of the savings bank, and former owner Douglas H. Bert will join corporate management as president of Northwest’s overall insurance operations.

This is the first venture by Northwest into selling insurance, and only its second foray into employee benefits. The company bought Amherst-based Veracity Benefit Designs in 2010, and executives said at the time that they wanted to acquire an insurance agency within five years. Officials cite the benefits of cross-selling the bank’s and insurance agency’s products and services to each other’s clients.

“The Bert Insurance Group brings another dimension to our financial services group, and we believe that strong synergies exist for the cross sale of insurance, investment, trust, retail and business deposit and lending products and services,” said Northwest Executive Vice President Gregory C. LaRocca.

“Their corporate mission and values are very similar to ours and they emphasize customer relationships over transactions, just like Northwest. We also believe that the strong management team at The Bert Insurance Group gives us the opportunity to expand their services throughout the Northwest footprint.”

Founded in 1994 by J. Boyd Bert Jr. and son Doug, the agency originally focused on estate liquidity needs and employee benefits planning, but acquired two agencies specializing in property and casualty insurance in 2002 and 2004.

Northwest, founded in 1896, has $8 billion in assets and 166 branches in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Maryland, including 14 in Western New York under the Northwest and Jamestown Savings Bank brands, and another four in the Rochester area.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com