Don Simon, CEO of Farm Bureau Insurance, and Sherry Martin, vice president of Farm Bureau Insurance, refuse to believe that the insurance industry is uninteresting.
“It’s important to us to change the messaging that insurance is boring,” Martin said. “We rebuild families, homes, businesses. Every day there’s something new and exciting. We are here to help and we want that message to be carried throughout the community.”
Simon and Martin strongly believe in this cause, and it’s why Farm Bureau Insurance has been supporting Olivet College’s insurance and risk management program since 1987. As Olivet’s largest insurance program corporate donor, Farm Bureau believes in promoting the future. By supporting the program in both a hands-on and financial manner, the company is grooming students for a quality career in insurance.
Developing Quality Students
Farm Bureau chooses to support Olivet’s insurance and risk management program year after year for a variety of reasons.
“Olivet has dedicated support to the insurance acumen,” Simon said. “They’re the first in the state year in and year out that develops quality students. Another thing that calls us to want to participate with Olivet is that they seek input about class curriculum and what is important to employers. They ask for feedback. Students come out ready and aware of the industry. They also benefit from student-focused professors.”
Martin appreciates the transparency that Olivet’s program offers.
“They welcome insights and operate in a transparent way,” she said. “The program asks what Farm Bureau needs and they deliver every time.”
One of Farm Bureau’s most important goals is to increase insurance knowledge in young people.
“What Farm Bureau does is important, and it’s something no other industry does,” Martin said. “We want to help literacy in industry preparedness. Students rarely have competency in finance and insurance in school, and it’s such a pillar of financial security.
Simon notes that 30-40 percent of the industry is retiring within the next five years, which means there is a high demand for up-and-coming students. Both Simon and Martin look forward to the contributions of these young professionals.
“The energy that youth brings, the innovation — that’s what we get out of students,” Simon said. “How the students see the world is changing. Having students here getting involved puts it into perspective.”
Martin echoes that sentiment. “We need to continue to look outward and bring people inward,” she said. “We need to innovate as much as millennials are innovating. These students are ready to contribute.”
Fostering Industry Preparedness
Tom Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC, director of the Olivet College risk management and insurance program and assistant professor of insurance and risk management, speaks highly of Farm Bureau’s ongoing assistance.
“Farm Bureau as a company and its leadership have been tremendously supportive,” Humphreys said. “They are one of our closest partners both financially while also providing resources for students. What they do and what they have done has made an impact on a lot of people entering the industry.”
Olivet College President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., agrees.
“Olivet College is grateful to Farm Bureau Insurance for the 30-plus years of support it has given to our insurance program. Without question it is because of our sustained partnership with Farm Bureau, Don Simon, Sherry Martin and former CEO Jim Robinson, and so many others affiliated with the organization that the Olivet College insurance and risk management program remains one of the top programs in the country,” Corey said. “For decades, we’ve graduated young men and women who enter the insurance workforce prepared to work and prepared to lead, and this is thanks in large part to the support of Farm Bureau Insurance.”
Humphreys witnesses the distinct impact funds have on the insurance and risk management program from year-to-year.
“Farm Bureau’s gift provides us the flexibility to be able to direct funds that can impact student achievements and experience,” Humphreys said. “Our use of the funds changes from year to year. It moves as the market moves, but we send students to conferences. Funds provide programmatic support to allow insurance professional designations licensing and professional development.”
Education for the Future
One way the company is supporting the growth of the insurance industry is by sponsoring a high school insurance program, hosted on the Farm Bureau campus. Based on performance, students are offered summer internships at the company upon completion of the class. Students are also offered nine credits for use at Olivet College.
Greg Brown, adjunct professor and high school program instructor, believes the program prepares students for professional and personal success.
“They learn the basic insurance principles and policies, both personal and commercial,” Brown said. “They also learn soft skills in the business environment. This class is a great opportunity for those interested about insurance.”
One of the hallmarks of the high school course is hands-on learning. Brown notes that students know Simon by his first name and enjoy frequent visits from the CEO. Simon believes it’s important to be available to talk about why he and others got into the industry.
“We believe in education and talking about what’s going on in the industry,” Simon said. “We believe in re-investing in the community. We want to make a difference. It just makes sense to give back.”
Humphreys has seen former class participants express their gratitude for the program.
“Students that come to Olivet do have an appreciation of what Farm Bureau did for them,” he said. “They look back on it and say, ‘Wow, I really had a head start against my peers and competitors for employment.”
For Farm Bureau, their reason for support is simple.
“We are reinforcing Michigan for Michigan,” Martin said. “At the end of the day, the insurance and risk management program benefits the community, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”