Message to Policyholders
“There’s a plaque on our wall that says we’ve sold over 65 million albums, and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I feel like I’m just getting started.” --Eddie Van Halen
Founded in 1842 on the principles of mutuality, Harford Mutual Insurance Group readily welcomed 2020 from that unique position of strength. Unaware of the challenges that would unfold in the year ahead, we moved forward with our VISION 2027 strategic plan of extending mutuality to all policyholders and quickly found ourselves not only beneﬁting from that foundational principle but embodying it. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our approach at nearly every turn, we stayed committed to our path. By remaining steadfast, the year would reveal the resiliency of our employees, reafﬁrm years of strategic decisions dedicated to conservative and stable growth, and prove once again that mutuality promises opportunity and success for all.
The stellar results I will share from 2020, surpassing many of the record numbers set in the prior year, are more than a great year realized during uncertain times. They speak to the talented team we have assembled to carry out our initiatives. In early March, thank you treats of leprechaun “gold” sat untouched on employee desks as the Governor of Maryland enacted emergency measures that had us deploy 98% of our workforce home. With the timely implementation of the Microsoft Teams platform just months before and subsequent adjustments and adaptations throughout the year, we never missed a day of service to our policyholders or our agency partners.
As the second quarter began and the pandemic lingered and worsened, we shifted our response from reactive to proactive in anticipation of what might come and the goal of not only surviving but thriving with mutual success. While we faced the emerging challenges, we focused on maximizing opportunity. For our policyholders, we suspended all cancellations for non-payment and withheld all interest, late fees, and penalty charges. We refunded $1.3 million in premium to our commercial auto policyholders because of reduced exposures and responded to requests for lowering premiums for businesses with affected payrolls and receipts due to enforced lockdowns and safety measures.
Acknowledging that we may all be in the same storm, but not in the same boat, we released 2019 employee incentive bonuses ahead of schedule, provided a stipend to help employees outﬁt their new home workspaces, and reinforced our commitment to managing productivity and not desk time as the schedules of spouses and children became a new variable. We implemented virtual channels to keep the water cooler conversations going and stay in touch with our work families and planned COVID-safe virtual and in-person events to nurture our unique employee culture and connections.
Lastly, we reached out to our community non-proﬁt partners and reafﬁrmed our donation pledges of $285,000 for the year, regardless of how their programming might have to change. As the effects of the pandemic became clearer as the months wore on, we committed another $250,000 to non-proﬁts focused on COVID relief, working with our agents to direct the funds at the state and local levels where we write business.
These efforts proved critical in creating what was to become the best year in the company’s 178-year-old history. We surpassed our 10-year Direct Written Premium goal of doubling our premium revenue to $240M by 2024 four years early, achieving the mark in April and ending the year at a record-setting $261.1 million. We brought in $46.6 million in new business, appointed 16 new agencies, 11 with only a virtual visit, and increased premium retention to 93.1%.
Employee engagement surpassed 90% in our Employee Engagement Survey, exceeding the previous year’s high mark by 11 points and earning Harford Mutual a “Top Performer” recognition from the global survey vendor DecisionWise. We virtually onboarded four interns when many companies canceled their intern programs due to the pandemic and were named a 2020 Winner for the Rising Insurance Star Executives (RISE) Elite 50 Internships. We celebrated the industry and educational achievements and milestone anniversaries of many more employees (see page 8) and added 14 new team members to our family.
With processes in place, productivity unaffected, and work-from-home measures still enforced, we surpassed $600 million in total assets for the ﬁrst time in the company’s history as we ended the second quarter and looked ahead.
The third quarter was no less remarkable as we excitedly, albeit virtually, celebrated the completion of multiple VISION 2027 initiatives—the reorganization of Harford Mutual into a mutual holding company (MHC), our subsequent renaming and rebranding, the formation of our third underwriting company, 1842 Insurance, and the release of our upgraded RapidWrite online rating/submission platform, policy administration system, and agent portal.
In November 2019, our Board of Directors unanimously agreed to the MHC reorganization proposal and our policyholders provided approval by vote at their May 2020 Annual Meeting making the new Harford Mutual Insurance Group effective October 1, 2020. This change expands our capabilities for innovation and growth while extending the beneﬁts and principles of mutuality to all policyholders. Our founders would certainly be proud. To communicate this reorganization and better illustrate our inter-dependency on our agents, our policyholders, our employees, and our community, we created and released a new logo design along with our new name. In a year that proved we are more than a building, moving away from the clock tower as a symbol of our company, which represented our brand for almost 70 years, could not have been more meaningful.
The upgraded RapidWrite platform and the new agent portal replaced aging legacy systems over 25 years old. The cross-departmental work of this behemoth task cannot be underestimated. This was huge! To add to the challenge of launching a completely new system, was the task of bringing our agency partners and employees on board in a completely virtual environment. All “hands-on” training. All training manuals. All agent demos and introductions—were all conducted virtually. And to what end? Our goal of increasing straight-through-processing (STP) from under 10% to over 20% resulted in a current level of over 50% to go along with increased production and agency satisfaction.
The third quarter came to a close with total assets growing $10 million to $630.5 million and underwriting proﬁtability driving policyholders’ surplus past the $300 million mark to $305.6 million—another ﬁrst in our company history.
As the year played out with political discourse at its ugliest, fear and uncertainty over the pandemic rampant, and social injustice issues making headlines daily, Harford Mutual Insurance Group stayed committed to our values. We created the employee-led Inclusion, Diversity, and Opportunity Committee who will review our policies, recommend educational resources, and direct our giving to ensure equity—and opportunity—in all aspects of our business. We ended the year giving over $1 million in community support, including over $12,000 in employee donations from unused paid leave. We awarded nine new professional designations and celebrated 29 team members with 505 years of service—including my own 35th anniversary. In a year where we couldn’t be together, we came together more profoundly for each other, for our agency partners, and for our policyholders than ever before. It is this commitment to mutuality that deﬁned us in 1842, redeﬁned us in 2020, and we now enthusiastically embrace for the future.
Steven D. Linkous
President and Chief Executive Officer