POCATELLO — Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho has a new executive vice president and CEO, but although he’s a newcomer to Idaho, he’s not new to the Farm Bureau family.
Todd Argall comes to Pocatello via Wisconsin, where he worked for Rural Mutual Insurance Company — a Farm Bureau Insurance company — for 24 years in Madison, helping transform the way that company runs and holding various positions, including vice president of information systems and senior vice president of customer acquisition and service.
While the move is a big one for Argall and his family, it’s one he’s excited about.
“I think the company as a whole is just filled with great people, and the community, I’m getting a feel for it,” he said. “I’ve only been here a little while. I like what I see, and I like the town, so I’m excited to be here.”
Argall officially started at Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho on Nov. 13, taking over for Paul Roberts, whose retirement is effective as of Dec. 31. Roberts served in the executive vice president and CEO position since July 1, 2014, and worked for the company in various positions for a total of 29 years.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Argall grew up in Wisconsin and went on to play baseball while attending Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and earning his bachelor degree in business management and economics. Later, he moved to southern Florida so his wife, Amy, could pursue a graduate degree. While there, he worked as a consultant for a company called Accenture helping companies implement large computer systems. After Argall’s wife earned her degree, they decided to move back to Wisconsin, and Rural Mutual made an offer to Argall, telling him they wanted him to make a one-year commitment.
Argall said, “All right. I’m in.” That one-year commitment turned into nearly 25 years.
For Argall, Rural Mutual offered value and a chance to find his own path, supporting him as he pursued his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin.
“I made it almost 25 years there before accepting this opportunity,” Argall said. “I think in any company that values people, you can always find a path for yourself to contribute and add value. I found my path, and now I’m just on a little bit of a different journey.”
During his time at Rural Mutual, Argall helped transform the company into what it is today, earning it an A+ rating by AM Best, an organization that rates insurance companies worldwide. Argall felt that he could use the skills he learned helping transform Rural Mutual to improve Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho as well.
“In my years in Wisconsin, and even before I joined that company almost 25 years ago, part of that I did was help companies transform and use technology effectively,” he said. “Probably for the first 13 years of that experience, that’s what I was doing. The second part of that experience, I was responsible for sales, marketing, customer service and personal lines underwriting functions, and that was about aligning agents with the directions of the company and making sure that our agents, who are the front end of our organization — they’re at the front lines, taking care of customers — have a productive and a great opportunity as they’re doing that job, and that the two are in alignment. And those sort of focus areas, in addition to just the transformation of that company to sell and become very profitable, those experiences I think play well here and will make a difference here.”
Because of his familiarity with Farm Bureau and his past experiences, Argall is optimistic he’ll be able to lead Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho in a good direction.
“I’m familiar with this company just through the Farm Bureau family, the federations and the insurance companies, and I knew it was a strong company that had a couple of issues that needed to be corrected, and I thought there was a skill alignment between what I could offer and what the company needed,” Argall said. “So I threw my hat in the ring and participated in the interview process that the Board of Directors conducted, and I was delighted and excited to be selected for the opportunity.”
‘WE’VE STUMBLED A BIT’
One of those issues Argall would like to see corrected is Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho’s current rating from AM Best. In March, the company was downgraded from an A to an A-.
According to businesswire.com, “The rating downgrades reflect a revision in AM Best’s assessment of the group’s operating performance to marginal from adequate. This action is in response to adverse trends in the group’s underwriting performance over the past five years. Overall operating results have been volatile over the last five years and the group’s five-year average combined ratio lags the private passenger standard and auto homeowners composite. The group’s adverse performance was driven by increased catastrophe losses in recent years coupled with an ERM program that fell short in identifying the full exposures of the group’s book of business.”
That downgrade is a primary issue Argall hopes to fix in his new position at the company.
“Fundamentally, as a company, we’ve stumbled a little bit, and it was reflected by the fact that an agency called AM Best that evaluates all insurance companies downgraded us in terms of our rating,” he said. “We’re still financially strong but not as strong as we once were. So my goal, my mission in this role, is to return the company to that strong financial state so that we are always here to meet the promises we are making to our members and our customers at time of claim and that we’re positioned for the future. I didn’t walk in the door with all the answers. That could never be the case, and I would never try to give the impression that I have all the answers and that I have all the silver bullets in my belt. It’s not about that. It’s about us coming together as a team.”
To make that happen and get Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho onto a better trajectory, Argall said he has three short-term goals for the company:
• “One is profitability from the insurance operation and how we do things.
• “The second is making it easier to do business with the company, involving both our agents and our customers because that can be challenging right now. We have a lot of things going on, and sometimes that can create some confusion and make it more difficult to work with the company than it needs to be.
• “And the third thing I want to make sure that happens in the near-term is that our agents, who are so valuable and important to our company and what we’re doing in this organization, that there’s alignment between the two — that we’re on the same page and that we’re both moving forward with an understanding of what we need to do to be great.”
As the company is working on those short-term goals, Argall said he will be coming up with a long-term vision. As part of that vision, he wants Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho to become the best place to work in the Gate City.
“I want to get there so that we have a company that not only our agents are thriving and selling around the state but the folks in this building know that we’re doing everything we can to make them successful and they enjoy working here,” Argall said.
For now, Argall’s biggest personal goal is to get a feel of the company and what he can do to help its employees and contractors.
“Part of what I’m doing is just trying to get out in the field and connect with agents, connect with team members, and get a feel for what the issues are and what the opportunities are,” he said.
‘SOME GREAT THINGS’
While Argall thinks there are some things Pocatello’s Farm Bureau operation needs to do to get back on track, there are some things he says are exceptionally positive — namely the approximately 140 agents across the state the company contracts with and the products it sells.
“We have great products, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “That’s why we’re the No. 1 insurer of farms in this state with the best products. As a Farm Bureau Insurance company, that’s key, and we’ll always be the best at that. I think it’s very, very important. We also have great personalized products and a great group of agents who are selling those products. So our agents not only sell just the product, but they are focused on taking care of our members and our customers for all of their insurance needs. That value proposition is very important is very important to us and very important to customers, and that’s something that we do very well as well.”
Argall said the company will be looking to hire more agents in the near future.
“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “ … We definitely will continue to be a very big presence in the state of Idaho. As I look longer term, we’re going to look at what is the best way for us to be successful as a company, and if that involves us growing in new and different area, we’ll pursue those and be successful doing that.”
Advancement in technology has also been a bright spot for Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho, and Argall says the company can continue to build on that.
“This company is doing some great things with technology, but there are some opportunities to really improve that to really benefit the organization,” he said.
Because of his deep roots in Wisconsin, there are some things about Argall’s life there that are going to be hard to give up.
“I think it’s going to be more difficult to get to Packer games,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a Packer season ticket holder, so I don’t know how that’s going to unfold. In fact, when my family and friends knew I accepted this position and we were going to relocate out here, at first they were like, ‘Are you concerned about relocating?’ and then their next question was, ‘What are you going to do with your Packer tickets?’ I said, ‘Those are off limits.’”
On a more serious note, he added, “Wisconsin is a beautiful state and obviously I have a lot of friends and family and history there. Again, there’s a lot about the state that I love. It just will require more effort on our part to stay connected with family and friends.”
Regarding his former job, Argall says what he’ll miss most are the people.
“I knew everybody, not only the people in the home office building but the people in the field as well,” he said. “Through that period of time, I was able to develop some really strong relationships on a professional level and even on a personal level. We went through a lot together. ... It’s the people that make companies successful. Sometimes you can look at a company and say, ‘They’re very successful.’ Well, that company is successful because of the great people in that company who are committed to the success of that organization.”
In an effort not to jostle his family around too much, his wife and kids won’t be joining Argall permanently in Pocatello until after the school year ends.
“I have four kids,” Argall said. “One is on his own already, but I have a son who’s a senior, a son who’s a freshman, and then a third-grader. We’re going to let the school year unfold in Wisconsin instead of moving them, and then in the meantime I’ll look for a house, a home, for us and then next summer we hope that everybody will move here. … I’ll do my best to get out there on most weekends and get them out here a couple of times. It’ll be good.”
When his family does join him, he thinks they’ll all enjoy living in the Gate City.
“I think the people are so welcoming. It’s just been great,” Argall said. “As an outsider coming in from Wisconsin, the people, whether it’s in this building or people I run into in a restaurant, for example, the people have been great. I was able to spend this last weekend here, and I was driving around school districts and driving into different areas, and I think this community is just beautiful. The views are remarkable.”