Before we get into everything we’ve accomplished in 2020 – and it’s a lot – I want to talk first about the values and mentality that I know with 100% certainty got us here. Early last year, in a matter of weeks, our worlds were forever changed. Nothing was certain and almost everything was scary. What I saw and felt during that time was one of the most special unspoken commitments I’ve ever witnessed. When I talk about the magic of Central’s culture, I don’t think it can ever be summed up better than that moment when we all made the same choice – to come together to solve, support one another and succeed.
The collective response of our 630 employees was led by a business continuity plan established around a decade ago that included plans for the event of a pandemic. We set this plan into motion well in advance of any federal or state health department mandates and had 85% of our company working from home within two weeks. We were committed to fulfilling our promise to our employees, agents and policyholders, and to do so we had to keep our people safe and our systems and our service top notch. We succeeded on all of those fronts.
Financially, our year was also a resounding success. We began the year in a position of incredible financial strength and ended the year in the same privileged position. We have built our balance sheet to withstand extremes and our conservative investment philosophy proved to be prudent throughout the year’s capital market volatility. I state with great pride that our overall ability to meet our obligations to our employees, agents and policyholders was not affected.
Despite the precariousness of 2020, we remained focused on our primary objective: fulfilling the promise. We stayed on track with our plans to transform our policy system. We continued our plans to realign our team to support our go to market strategy. We made huge strides in building out a world-class anti-fraud unit. We continued to hire new talent eager to join a company that values their contributions. And we created a team devoted to equity and inclusion to help us broaden our understanding and support of one another. That’s an incredible amount of progress and change in any year, not to mention a year of such extraordinary challenge.
Looking ahead, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to build on a foundation that is not only financially strong, but also has a culture of genuine care and extraordinarily high achievement. Together, we’re going to make Central better for the generations that follow us, because changing the world we touch for the better is part of what we do at Central. We’ve done this for 144 years, and we’re only just getting started.
Evolving our technology to exceed customer expectations is just one way we invest in our culture of excellence. This tradition of continuous improvement is what motivates people like our Vice President of Information Technology Matt Korte. “Knowing what is needed now is the easy part; predicting what will be needed in the future is more difficult. We recognize how we interact with our customers today is not how we will in the future. New technology will continually drive change in customer and agency expectations and ultimately our need to adapt.” It’s this mindset that is driving a multi-year project to reimagine our policy administration system for a better customer experience. “We needed a framework that allows us to more rapidly respond to change and we needed focus, teamwork and dedication to deliver this system. None of this would be possible without the talented people I’m working with. This is a group of people who want what’s best for our company, our agents and our customers. I’m very excited about the endless capabilities we can build together to continuously meet the challenge of keeping pace.”
Relationships are our greatest competitive advantage. We’ve aligned our go to market strategy to reinforce our commitment to these relationships through the products we offer and the service we provide. We’ve built a portfolio of bigger, better and smarter products for our agents to offer. Creating dedicated product teams to support this strategy allows us to leverage the specialized expertise of our people. "It’s an exciting evolution. Our go to market strategy aligns us intentionally with the people we do business with. We’re focused on how we develop products and programs, how we reach the marketplace, and how we build relationships with our agency partners. It’s creating meaningful opportunities for us,” says Jocelyn Pfeifer, Senior Vice President of Underwriting. Adopting this strategy won’t change our selective approach to our partnerships. “We’ve built an amazing depth of relationship capital over the years with our agency partners. Growth isn’t driven by the number of agency partners we have. It’s about the quality of the relationships we have with our existing agents. These partnerships are where we shine as a company. We won’t dilute those relationships, but instead protect this great foundation on which we’ll build future success together.”
We began 2020 with a renewed focus on fighting insurance fraud, delivering a best-in-class anti-fraud and recovery program. With Director of Anti-Fraud and Recovery Jeff Lieberman leading the charge, we built a high-performing team that utilizes cutting-edge technologies to revolutionize how we identify and investigate fraud. “When you look back to less than a year ago, we didn’t even have an established fraud investigation group. Today, we have a very sophisticated fraud group with a whole suite of innovative technology platforms to identify and examine fraud. We are doing very unique things that separate us from other carriers, and we’ll only continue to evolve.” While it was a year of incredible transformation, this group is focused on driving technology advancement and hospitality-focused service for years to come. “Look at where we are today, look at where we’re going, look at where we’ll be. Soon, we’ll have a top-shelf analytics program for both fraud and subrogation that will deliver unparalleled value to underwriting, our agents and our policyholders. We all pay the price for insurance crime. Central’s integrity is at the heart of our commitment to fighting fraud and providing protection, security and peace of mind.”
When you have a culture so firmly rooted in integrity, you can attract, develop and retain superior talent to transform your company for the future. Hannah Bowen first came to Central as a college student, but the culture of caring and supportive relationships she built during her internship are the reason she chose to come back to Central as a Marketing Strategy Analyst after graduation. “I couldn’t imagine having a more positive experience. Despite starting my first full-time job completely remote, I’ve been able to build strong relationships and take on exciting and transformational projects. And, I’ve never had to compromise my values.” Pairing fresh perspectives and a growth mindset with the knowledge and expertise of our existing talent pool allows us to build on past successes to perpetuate a strong future. Hannah is working closely with James Barto to leverage our partnerships and grow in the construction market, combining our culture of relationships with new technology and strategies. “I think I’m in a position to shake things up within the company. I’ve always felt empowered to think big, ask tough questions and believe in better at Central, even when I was an intern. My position is new, and the strategies and tactics we’re developing are new, but relationships are still 100% at the core of everything we do.”
Just days after the death of George Floyd, our President Evan Purmort sent a very powerful and heartfelt message to our company: since 1876, Central has been a bright light in the darkest times in peoples’ lives. We help, we fix, we protect and we pull together. We promise to make things better. In 2020, we worked to deliver on that promise by bringing together a team of diverse individuals like Rox McMillen to help us broaden our understanding and support of one another. “It’s what I was hoping Central would do. I wanted the opportunity to share my point of view. I was really excited because I knew I was going to be working with great people with similar ambitions. I’m young and not as experienced as others, but just having the opportunity to learn and build new relationships is so empowering and exciting!” There’s a lot of work to be done and much to learn, but when we open our minds to diverse perspectives, the possibilities for a better future are limitless.
Our agents are not just our partners, they’re family. And, like family, they deserve our undivided time, attention and investment. Marketing Manager Bruce Richardson approaches each relationship with this in mind. “The depth of the relationship that I have with Chris Paradiso and his staff at Paradiso Insurance is one of the best I’ve experienced in my 35-year career. I consider Chris a true friend.” When Bruce saw an opportunity to pursue parcel delivery program business with Paradiso, the strength of their relationship had already laid the groundwork. “Paradiso has a culture of fulfilling promises very similar to Central’s and that was a big reason why Chris wanted to do business with us.” Central promised Chris that we would make the modifications to provide the service and support Chris needed for his program and we delivered. “When Central says they’re going to do something, they do it. They were nimble enough to make this happen and that flexibility has allowed us to be able to move accounts to them. Transparency builds trust and that’s the key to the relationship. I know we’ll probably be one of Central’s largest agencies ever because our relationship is just that strong. We’re going to grow with Central in a big, big, big way.”
At our core, we are a hospitality company that just so happens to be in insurance. Our customer-focused mindset ensures we will be there to listen, respond and offer solutions. When Marketing Manager Rob Gudates received a call from Jeremy Werner at Apex Insurance Group late on a Friday afternoon asking if we could help someone in a tight spot, he didn’t think twice. “I immediately reached out to Personal Lines Services where Matt High and Tammy Pontsler were there to help.” Tammy was able to provide Jeremy with bindable numbers in just 45 minutes. “I’m just glad I was available to help as long as Rob needed me. It was a collaborative effort and shows how we can come together and put our agents and customers first.” Several hours and emails later, the customer had coverage and Jeremy had a new appreciation for our dedication to fulfilling the promise. “This says a lot about who Central is. I can assure you that not all carriers make this kind of magic happen. It gave me a chance to see what Central actually stands for. You are here not only for the clients but the agents as well. This was a great crash course on who Central really is for me.”
When accidents happen or tragedy strikes, Central is there, giving assurance, comfort and peace of mind. It’s the promise we make with each policy we provide and it’s a commitment Claim Representative Brian Deal takes to heart. When Brian was called in to assess a tornado claim, he made sure to focus on his number one priority: the policyholder. “One thing I’ve learned over the years is the importance of taking the time to really listen and hear the policyholder. We walked around the house together, not rushing, taking it step-by-step. Taking the time to answer her questions and understand her needs really helped alleviate her concerns and anxiety.” And the trust he established would prove valuable when the same customer experienced a large water loss just a few months later. “We had already built a rapport and she knew I would devote the same time and attention to helping her recover.” This culture of genuine care left a lasting impact on the policyholder and solidified a valuable relationship. “Thank you for your support during both of my experiences this year. 2020 has certainly not been easy on many fronts. Central Insurance is fortunate to have Brian on their team. He’s a true professional.”
As Central continues to transform, we draw on our past and these stories built around our values – integrity, relationships and excellence. In fact, it’s our standard of excellence that ensures we will always fulfill the promise and deliver world-class customer service. Our innovative technology and robust products continue to strengthen our relationships. And our team of diverse talent and perspectives perpetuate our culture of integrity. Central’s history remains our inspiration. Our future continues to be driven by excellence.
The lower the Combined Ratio is below 100, the more successful a company has been in managing its operations profitably. While Central has historically been a strong performer on Combined Ratio, 2020 was impacted by a volatile catastrophic weather season that saw a record 30 named hurricanes. Despite this, we have seen improvement in our Combined Ratio year over year as we continue to focus on operational efficiency and profitability.
The consistency of our Direct Written Premium and its growth over time represents the number of promises we have made to our policyholders and our agent partners. The pandemic presented growth challenges in 2020 for many industries, including our own. While Central’s Direct Written Premiums were down a modest -1.6%, this was largely in line with our peers and the property/casualty industry as a whole.
Central’s Policyholders’ Security Fund is an important measure of our ability to grow with our partners and deliver on the promise to our current customers. The Policyholders’ Security Fund has shown solid growth over the past several years. The Fund remained strong and resilient in 2020 despite the onset of the pandemic and the extraordinary capital market volatility, nearly recovering to an all-time high by the end of the year.
Central Mutual and All America Insurance Companies ('Central')
|Summarized Balance Sheet as of 12/31/2020||CENTRAL|
|Cash & Short-Term Investments||47,288,837|
|Agents' Balances & Uncollected Premiums||230,920,658|
|All Other Assets||82,784,918|
|Total Admitted Assets||$2,013,832,949|
Liabilities & Policyholders' Security Fund
|Losses & Loss Adjusting Expenses||$602,404,027|
|Commissions Payable & Contingent Commissions||21,877,354|
|Ceded Reinsurance Premiums Payable||6,723,228|
|Taxes and Other Liabilities||116,873,001|
|Unassigned Funds (Policyholders' Security Fund)||892,601,960|
|Total Liabilities & Policyholders' Security Fund||$2,013,832,949|
Select Performance Measures
|Total Central Assets||$2,013,832,949|
|Direct Written Premium||$767,164,055|
|Growth Rate in Direct Written Premium||-1.6%|
|Combined Ratio – Central||101.0%|
|Policyholders' Security Fund||$892,601,960|
|Premium to Policyholders' Security Fund Ratio||0.79|
|A.M. Best Rating||A (Excellent)|
This information is not intended to supercede, or be as comprehensive as, the statutory annual statement filed for each company with the appropriate state insurance departments. The statutory financial statements of Central Mutual Insurance Company and Consolidated Subsidiaries have been audited by Plante & Moran, PLLC. Complete copies of the statutory financial statements have been filed with the appropriate state insurance departments and are also on file at the Home Office of the Central Insurance Companies in Van Wert, Ohio.
E. P. Purmort, President
R. J. Coleman, Vice President – Central Regional Office
A. R. Dougal, Vice President/Treasurer – Accounting
P. J. Edwards, Vice President – Claims
B. S. Faurote, Vice President/Secretary – Human Resources & Facilities
A. M. Gibson, Vice President – Customer Services
T. C. Glenn, Chief Actuary
K. A. Goad, Chief Financial Officer
C. M. Hurless, Chief Operating Officer
M. P. Korte, Vice President – Information Technology
D. T. Lee, Vice President – Southeast Regional Office
J. L. Pfeifer, Senior Vice President – Underwriting
T. L. Rauch, Vice President – Southwest Regional Office
J. L. Ringwald, Vice President – Commercial Lines
C. E. Wasson, General Counsel
M. L. Zollner, Vice President – Northeast Regional Office
E. R. Buhl
J. L. Covington
B. S. Faurote
C. M. Hurless
T. B. Kearney
S. K. Moore
E. J. Noonan
E. P. Purmort
F. W. Purmort
R. G. Salam
D. D. Stripe
D. C. Ward