Before the year 2020 arrives, Iowa Mutual Insurance Co.’s prominent, 120-year physical presence in DeWitt officially will end, according to company officials.
The handwriting has been on the wall since last fall that the workforce numbers were continuing to decline at the office in DeWitt, where the company was founded in the year 1900.
In November, Iowa Mutual’s parent company, Motorists Insurance Group, announced that it would be “releasing” 19 employees in an effort to cut costs. The layoffs left 36 employees still working at the stately office building at 509 9th St.
Three weeks ago, Motorists announced a joint venture with BrickStreet Insurance, based in West Virginia, as well as a name change and a rebranding.
The company changed its name to
Encova Mutual Insurance Group and will be based out of same headquarters location in Columbus, Ohio, where Motorists was based.
Around the same time as the details of the rebranding and name change were being ironed out, it was rumored that the company was in the process of “transitioning” some of its remaining employees to work from home as opposed to working at the DeWitt office.
Casie Phillips, the director of corporate communications for Encova, recently verified the rumored transitions.
DeWitt office targeted
She also announced that three offices under the Encova umbrella — those in DeWitt; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin — would be closed by the end of 2019.
“We are still weighing our options in regards to our Iowa Mutual facility,” Phillips said in response to questions about whether the company plans to put the office building on the market. The assessed value for the downtown DeWitt building and the land where it stands is $1,977,805, according to Beacon’s online real estate records.
“Over the next few months, approximately 90 impacted associates who currently work at these facilities will transition to work remotely full time,” Phillips said. “Most of these associates were already working remotely at least one day a week, and no full-time positions will be eliminated because of this decision.”
She suggested that the insurance industry is trending away from large, centralized office buildings.
“Our associates have had more flexibility over the last several years to work remotely, and we rarely provide face-to-face service to our agents and policyholders at these locations,” said Phillips, who was referring to the three offices that will be closed. “Therefore, we have a low number of associates at these locations each day.”
Concerns about the company’s Midwest focus have been swirling since the November announcement of the 19 layoffs in DeWitt. The company said they were among a companywide total of 76 employees who would be laid off at the end of February. It did not say where the other layoffs occurred.
Phillips said “local independent agents” remain committed to not only supporting the policyholders and communities that Iowa Mutual has serviced over the years, but actually are growing the market share in the region.
She said the potential for cutting the company’s overall cost structure was a big reason why company management opted to pursue a significant transformation, but she noted that the potential cost savings also serves as a means to an end.
“In Iowa, we recently brought new products and resources to the workers’ compensation market,” said Phillips, who was making the case that another motivation was “to continue to provide competitive pricing for our policyholders,” as well as adequate innovation and technology to meet evolving demands.
Iowa Mutual Insurance Co. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Iowa American Insurance Company, are located in the same place they were founded. The firm was founded in 1900 by George Morris Smith, a farmer who had modest intentions to sell insurance policies to farmers in DeWitt and the immediate surrounding area, according to the company’s website.
Over the years, the company’s scope expanded to include homeowners, local industries and commercial businesses throughout Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.
Motorists acquired Iowa Mutual in 2003, but its geographic focus did not change. As of 2015, Iowa Mutual had 300 independent agents selling policies in the three states. It’s unclear whether the geographic focus will change under the Encova moniker.
The holding company, Encova, is composed of 22 insurance companies that employ more than 1,200 independent insurance agents, referred to as “associates,” who provide commercial and personal policies for auto-, home- and life-insurance coverage. Under the Encova umbrella, policyholders are located predominantly in the Eastern half of the U.S.