Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company
Generations of Service
In the 98-year history of the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company, there have only been four Secretary-Managers. Bill Chisholm is the fourth and he's related to two of the other three. In fact, the Chisholm name has been synonymous with this Farmers' Mutual since 1919.
"This is what happens with an awful lot of Farm Mutuals because of their small size. In a lot of cases you end up with family members continuing on with the work," says Chisholm. He was hired in 1975 by his father who had run the company after his grandfather retired in 1961. "When you have an office of only one or two, you're pretty well chief cook and bottle washer. You wear a lot of hats."
The Antigonish, Nova Scotia-based company is locally owned and operated and offers a broad range of policies for residential and farm properties. They currently serve two-thirds of Nova Scotia, mostly in the province’s eastern regions and in Cape Breton. Most of the ten staff and nine agents have been with Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual for over ten years, a fact that makes Chisholm proud. "This has been very positive for us," he says. "We believe that good people make a good company."
Founded in 1910 by concerned local citizens who wanted to ensure reasonably priced insurance for rural dwellers, the history of the company is rich. So rich, in fact, that its history is currently being written and will be published to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the company in 2010. One fascinating detail that will surely find its way into the record is that the company's first president, A.S. MacMillan, later became Premier of Nova Scotia in the 1940s.
Although the festivities are still a couple of years away, Chisholm and his colleagues are already hard at work on plans for the centenary. "We've tentatively set aside four different important times during that year to celebrate," he says. One event will be hosting the Maritime Mutual Convention in June. Others will be their Annual General Meeting taking place on the company's actual birthdate, April 6, and possible open houses or banquets. But the event closest to Chisholm's heart will be the "giving back" piece. The lucky recipient is yet to be determined, but he wants to use the centennial to support a cause in Antigonish. "In relation to our celebrations, we think it would be nice to make a few bucks for a worthy cause."
This kind of generosity is second nature to the company. In fact, it was their central founding mandate. "We were established to support community," says Chisholm. "So, we make every attempt to do that through the donation of money and other services." The company regularly gives to both the Regional Hospital and the Coady International Institute. They also donate their boardroom to local groups who need a space to meet. Up to 20 different associations or organizations use this room year round.
There's also another way that the company has been able to help the people of their community. For most of the late 1990s, the Farmers' Mutual was able to provide a premium refund to their policyholders from surplus profits. "That created a very positive feeling," says Chisholm. "We feel that we have a good name in the communities that we serve."
Indeed. The Antigonish Farmers' Mutual has done very well for itself and the 8,000 member policyholders who own the company. This relatively small operation has grown from underwriting $60,000 worth of premiums back in the 1970s to $4.3 million today. In addition, their surplus has ballooned from $344,353 to $9.75 million.
"We are very solid and secure financially," says Chisholm, who notes that most Farm Mutuals are in the same boat. "This makes our policyholders feel comfortable because they know if they have a claim, we'll be there for them."
Customer service is one of the things that Chisholm believes sets his company apart from the others. "We feel that we service our customers better than anyone else and in a more hands-on fashion," he says. "We also pride ourselves on our speed in looking after our policyholder's needs when they have a claim."
In this day and age, it's no small miracle when you encounter something that has remained the same over time. Chisholm claims the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual is one such example. "We really haven't changed our focus for 98 years," he says. "We still support community and our Directors are all local community people who have an interest in making sure that support is as good as it can be."
After close to a century, the mission statement on the wall of the frequently shared boardroom, remains the same: To provide quality insurance products to our policyholders at a competitive price which we support with strong service and underwriting standards.
"There may be more zeroes on the end of the balance sheets," says Chisholm, "but the bigger picture is that we haven't changed."