FMH Celebrates 80-Year Partnership with Arkansas Mutuals

Farmers Mutual Hail is pleased to celebrate eight decades of partnership with Farmers Protective Mutual, Washington County Mutual, and Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Gentry.

All three Arkansas-based mutuals have been operating for 100 or more years – just one of the many similarities between the mutuals and FMH’s own history and culture.

“The relationships that FMH has with these Arkansas farm mutuals are beyond special. Together, through 80 years, we have seen each other’s best times and worst times, both from a business and personal level, which has created very strong bonds,” said Ron Kuethe, FMH Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer. “Their managers, boards of directors and staffs are very committed to their business. The success that these companies and FMH have been able to achieve together is a great example of what is possible when cultures align. These are special companies with special people, and we are extremely honored to have partnered with them over these past 80 years!”

Ron Rutledge, FMH President and CEO, added, “It’s pretty amazing to have had an 80-year partnership with our mutual friends when a lot of companies haven’t even been around that long! We’ve weathered a lot of storms and shared our success in the good years. I look forward to our continued relationship for the next 80 years and beyond.”

Each mutual’s company representative spoke about what makes a partnership with FMH unique, and why their companies have continued to choose FMH for generations.

Farmers Protective Mutual
Rogers, AR
Incorporated in 1896  |  Reinsured with FMH since April 1941

 “We consider ourselves a smaller company, so we stress the personal relationships and service,” said Brad Fortner, Farmers Protective Mutual Secretary and CEO. “We feel like we get that from FMH as well – the Reinsurance Department especially. We have those personal relationships with them, and we have those relationships with our policyholders. Making it personal – on the service side – it makes a big difference.”

He added, “That’s one thing that we’ve really enjoyed while working with FMH – the relationships and the confidence in whatever interactions we have. If I call Renée [Walters] for some help with a reinsurance question, I have that confidence knowing she and her team are going to put time into making sure the answer is right and understanding what’s going on.”

Fortner explained how that confidence and trust led to two century-old Arkansas mutuals – Farmers Protective (reinsured since 1941), located in Stuttgart, and Farmers Mutual, located in Rogers – to merge in 2013, becoming Farmers Protective Mutual. While on the map, the companies are nowhere near each other (275 miles apart), they shared common goals and principles. Both companies were reinsured by FMH at the time, and FMH helped to facilitate the merger. 

“We have two histories that are similar, and both shared the FMH relationship. That’s how the merger came about: we knew each other’s companies and board members, and we had the same operation and ideals as them, so we knew it was a good fit,” explained Fortner. “The merger was a huge undertaking, and FMH was the link that made it possible. It was a great thing for both companies and the insurance industry in Arkansas: Farmers Protective didn’t have to close its doors and those policyholders didn’t have to go without coverage.”

Just like how FMH helped to facilitate the merger, FMH’s services go beyond basic reinsurance support. “Our relationship with FMH has allowed us to grow our own business and focus on the areas that help our business plan,” said Fortner. “Knowing that we can focus on that and FMH can support us means we can focus on the larger things.”

Washington County Farmers Mutual
Fayetteville, AR
Incorporated in 1922  |  Reinsured with FMH since Oct 1941

When Washington County Farmers Mutual Secretary and General Manager Cynthia Carlton stepped into her role two years ago, she brought over 35 years of experience to the position but needed help navigating her new role after her mentor suddenly passed away. The team at FMH was there to help her.

“FMH is very dependable and has reliable people to work with,” she said. “When Christine decided to retire as assistant manager, I took her place and we hired a new member, Ashley. Shortly after that, Rusty, our manager, was diagnosed with cancer, so I took on his duties when he needed to focus on treatment. When I didn’t know what to do, I would call him. He passed away shortly after that, and the Board asked me if I wanted the position.”

Carlton said she was unsure if she was ready for the role, but took it knowing she would have support not only from the Washington County Mutual Board but from FMH as well: “When I started, Jim [Polish] and Renée [Walters] took me by the hand and taught me. They go above and beyond their jobs.”

Carlton explained how her company’s board has also become more involved, and together they are focusing on updating operational processes, like rewriting their forms. The FMH Reinsurance team is helping them with the form rewrite project.

“It’s that kind of service that makes this relationship special,” she added.

Dedication to service and a family-focused culture are values that both FMH and Washington County Mutual have in common.

“Listening to our board members and agents, they try to treat the policyholders like family,” said Carlton. 

She added that not only does family mean generations of employees from the same families work at the company, but the atmosphere in the office feels tight-knit: “We’re like a big family working together. FMH is like that too.”

Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Gentry
Gentry, AR
Incorporated in 1902  |  Reinsured with FMH since March 1942

When companies have been in business for over a century, there are bound to be interesting stories. Todd Stephens, Farmers Mutual Insurance Company Manager, offered one:

“I read through some of the old company minutes. One of them, handwritten, says, ‘motion was made to dissolve the company’ in the 1910s ‘because we didn’t have enough money.’ It didn’t get a second. The next motion was to fire the president, and that got a second and passed,” he laughed. “The next entry was that one of the board members agreed to sell a cow and loan the company that money to pay the claim. And here we are over a century later!”

Farmers Mutual Hail has a similar story from the 1950s. After one of the worst loss years in history, the company was struggling to pay claims. FMH board members sold their cars and loaned out parking spaces to make ends meet. Stephens reflected on these two similar stories and recognized that the shared commitment from both boards set the corporate values for generations to come.

“The word mutual in both of our names still means something here,” he said. “We partner with people on the front line. We are on their front line, and our policyholder is on our front line, and I think those relationships line up closely.”

Stephens recalled a time when FMH’s front-line service shined. “In 2008, we had severe weather events January through May. We just got hammered – we were in our aggregate in January. At that point, that solidified my trust in Ron [Kuethe], my rep at the time. There was never a question when I called and said ‘hey, I’m needing cash.’ It was wired within a few hours. He never asked for a report or said, ‘prove to me you need this.’ It was just ‘consider it done.’ That’s proof that there’s mutual trust in the relationship. 

“Eventually we did square up, but it was later. I needed it and it was there. It happened again in 2009 and 2011 – it saved us from having to go sell CDs and bonds. It provided cash flow, and with that cashflow, we were able to provide it to our policyholders – we were just the middleman. There’s value in that relationship. And how do you replace that? It would be impossible.”