NCMIC on a growth spurt

By Sarah Bzdega
http://www.businessrecord.com

Once tucked within the quiet country club neighborhood on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Jordan Creek Parkway, NCMIC Group Inc.’s building is gaining as much attention from the increase in traffic passing by as it is from the growth in its business.

Since the 1990s, the company has been aggressively seeking to increase its insurance and financial offerings, with its greatest growth in staff and revenues during the past five years.

The company currently has $750 million in assets and employs 156 people. It has added 15 positions since Jan. 1 and expects to add another 15 by the end of this year.

With this growth has come a focus on increasing awareness of the NCMIC brand in Greater Des Moines and nationally.

“We are looking at different ways to market the agency and focus on the service aspect,” said Jonathan Roth, NCMIC’s chief marketing officer, who joined the company a year ago to focus on its branding efforts.

One way it has strengthened its local presence is by launching www.iowabiz.com, a blogging Web site that brings together experts in a variety of topics, including business law, insurance and leadership. The site is intended to be a service to the public, especially owners of small to medium-sized businesses who might also be interested in NCMIC’s new insurance products, as well as generate dialogue that the company can be a part of.

Nationally, the company is ramping up its advertisements in trade publications and direct mailings under the brand image of “One-stop insurance and financial services that impact a professional’s business,” Roth said.

These efforts are also designed to raise awareness of the company’s new products, which have expanded beyond its foundation in chiropractic malpractice insurance since the company was formed in 1946. In addition to its flagship company, NCMIC Insurance Co., the company also owns Professional Solutions Insurance Co., which offers malpractice protection to a range of professionals, including dentists and physicians.

Around 2000, it added NCMIC Insurance Services, a brokerage unit that provides a variety of insurance products for business owners and individuals, including automobile and homeowners insurance and umbrella coverage to certain professionals. This area is where Rod Warren, president of the insurance division, sees the potential for growth in the local market, because of the wide range of people it can serve.

The division with the greatest growth in the entire company has been NCMIC Finance Corp., which was founded in 1991 as an industrial loan corporation. Gregory Cole, its president, said the division is five times larger than it was when he joined it six years ago. With more than 20 years of experience in commercial banking, Cole joined NCMIC with the “the intent to grow the company significantly,” he said.

With products directed towards businesses rather than consumers, the company has expanded its scope to offer business credit cards and credit processing and equipment leases, two areas that have the greatest profit.

NCMIC has become one of the top 60 credit card processors nationally and will clear more than $200 billion in transactions this year, Cole said. It is in the process of moving this unit, which started out as a joint venture with a Milwaukee company until NCMIC purchased the entire operation, to its West Des Moines headquarters.

Rapid growth in the finance division could continue as the company pursues a bank charter, which could expand its services beyond commercial clients to consumers.

On the insurance side, Warren said the insurance divisions are focusing on increasing their presence in new markets and NCMIC is looking into hiring a broker who would work with current or prospective clients directly in Ohio and Kentucky. If people respond well to the in-person customer service, he said, he might consider adding more agents in other parts of the country.

Many of the products added over the past 10 years have been part of the company’s focus on customer service, offering professionals, especially chiropractors and other health-care professionals, nearly all of the insurance and finance products they need.

Though the company has diversified its product base, it also has been conscientious about maintaining its niche in the marketplace. It still provides malpractice insurance to about 50 percent of U.S. chiropractors. The company has sold operations that have proved unsuccessful, such as an annuities division it started about six years ago.

Being based in an insurance capital has also been an advantage, company leaders say. Some of the insurance products it carriers are from local companies, including Allied Insurance, Hawkeye Insurance and EMC Insurance Group Inc., which are easier to meet with in-person. The Des Moines location also has made it easier to attract talented employees who already have experience in insurance and finance.

Within Greater Des Moines, the company changed locations several times to accommodate its staff growth. The new building, designed with employee input and completed about five years ago, is intended to be as employee friendly as possible, with walking trails along the lake, a fitness center and lots of windows and open space.

The building also was built much larger than NCMIC’s current needs with the intent that the company would grow into the space. “With the continual growth like we’ve experienced,” Warren said,” it’s designed to add a pod if needed.”
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