American Family Insurance boosts its minimum wage by $5

Raise intended to help attract tech talent

American Family Insurance chief executive officer Jack Salzwedel.
American Family Insurance chief executive officer Jack Salzwedel discusses the company's new $5 minimum wage increase at BizTimes Economic Trends 2020 event on Friday. Photo by Arthur Thomas.

Last updated on January 27th, 2020 at 09:29 am

American Family Insurance increased the minimum wage of its employees by $5 to $20 an hour to help it attract new talent as its workforce becomes more technology-oriented, American Family Insurance chief executive officer Jack Salzwedel announced at the BizTimes Economic Trends event Friday.

The event drew approximately 500 to the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee, where Salzwedel and other executives and experts discussed their economic outlook for 2020.

The increase in minimum wage will result in raises for nearly 1,700 employees across all American Family group companies. The raise will impact employees in a variety of roles including customer service, claims, administrative and others.

“The impetus of the whole thing was the (corporate) tax break but then looking at this shifting of the workforce and the employees that are needed with this technology skill set that’s required, we felt we needed to up it to $20,” Salzwedel said in an interview with BizTimes.

The wage increase became effective Jan. 1 of 2020, about a month after the property and casualty insurance company announced plans to build a downtown Milwaukee office that would move 250 jobs downtown and create another 150 jobs – part of the company’s strategy to retain diverse and tech-savvy employees.

All American Family Insurance group companies will be impacted by the wage increase including Madison-based American Family Insurance, Homesite Group in Boston, The General in Nashville, Main Street America in Jacksonville and other companies.

The wage increase also applies to American Family Connect Property and Casualty Insurance Company, the proposed new legal name of a De Pere, Wisconsin-based insurer (Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance) that American Family acquired last October.

In addition to a wage increase, the company has also discussed repayment of loans and adding to American Family’s scholarship program, which provides continued education for employees and their families, Salzwedel said in the interview.

“As an organization committed to exceptional customer service, it is essential we invest in our employees who provide that service,” said Gerry Benusa, enterprise chief people officer for American Family. “Offering competitive wages not only helps ensure we attract and retain customer-focused employees, it also allows them to invest in their careers, dreams and communities.”

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Brandon Anderegg
Brandon covers startups, technology, banking and finance. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.