Church Mutual Insurance kicks off 2019 on a high note
Mitchell A. Skurzewski
While 2018 threw its share of formidable obstacles at Church Mutual Insurance Company, the Merrill area’s top employer has rebounded well and is off to a strong start in 2019.
As Executive Vice President of Operations Kevin Root explains, mother nature proved to be the company’s arch nemesis last year, and was the catalyst for CMI’s estimated $77 million net loss.
“Without a doubt, 2018 was a very challenging year for us. The good news for our customers is that we have a strong balance sheet and we were there for them in their times of need,” Root said. “But this isn’t extraordinary by any means. The weather has been unpredictable, and it’s not all that unusual to have a down-year after several consecutive profitable years. Experiencing our first net loss in six years isn’t the end of the world, but the best news is that we have come back strong with a profitable first quarter in 2019.”
From a powerful polar vortex through January and February of 2018 to California wildfires and hurricanes over the summer and fall months, Church Mutual customers across the country certainly felt mother nature’s wrath. The company paid out $25 million in large severity fire claims, $15 million in winter-freeze related claims and $55 million in damage claims from Hurricanes Florence (September 1, 2018-North and South Carolina) and Hurricane Michael (October 10, 2018-Florida).
While those figures may appear staggering, there was a bright side to Church Mutual’s 2018; a 7.3% growth in gross written premium. Root credits the company’s reputation in the marketplace, commitment to its customers, and new, innovative products and ideas for helping the company remain the leader in its niche.
“Our solid reputation and continued diversification in the marketplace, in addition to turmoil amongst our competitors, is largely responsible for our top line growth in new business and customers,” Root said.
The company has seen almost immediate reversal from its 2018 woes so far this year, and the trend has continued steadily since January. Through mid-April of last year, Church Mutual had already processed over 2,000 weather-related freeze claims. During the same time frame in 2019, the company has processed approximately 350 weather-related freeze claims. Root attributes a great deal of the success to several innovative, proactive practices the company has pursued over the last year. This includes equipping 8,800 client churches nationwide with ambient temperature sensors to detect temperature fluctuations and excess water, armed intruder education events at schools and churches around the country, and partnering with a vendor to apply flame retardant foam, which can be used to coat buildings and prevent them from catching ablaze.
The company has been busy with upgrading internal practices as well, including investments in technology system upgrades and launching its first web app. The web app offers clients a “one-stop shop” of sorts, complete with risk control information, and necessary forms and webinars, all in an easy to use, easily navigated web-based portal.
A telltale sign of the company’s strong start this year can be found by visiting Church Mutual’s website https://www.churchmutual.com/ and clicking the employment tab. There, over 30 open positions can be found, not only at the Merrill headquarters, but at the company’s offices nationwide. While Church Mutual offers a broad range of employment positions, one field that particularly jumps out to the naked eye is that of Information Technology (IT).
Senior Vice President of Shared Services and Chief Information Officer Scott Names, said that Church Mutual’s IT staff has grown from 85 employees just a few years ago to 140 today, with demand for new systems and hopes to provide quality customer service 24/7. As a result, Names and his management team are continually seeking talent to fill positions on the IT staff.
Despite recent challenges, Church Mutual Insurance Company and its foundation, CM CARES, have remained dedicated corporate citizens of Merrill and Lincoln County.
“In just the last three years, from 2016 through 2018, we have donated more than $700,000 to causes and organizations in our area. We think it’s important to support the communities where we live and do business,” said Rich Poirier, president and CEO.
“Given that Merrill is the company’s birthplace, Church Mutual will always stand strong with the community. Since 1887, we have been committed to Merrill. As we continue to protect the greater good, we’ll look out for our hometown, too,” Poirier stressed.