Coming off of a record growth year, Sheboygan-based property and casualty insurer Acuity
is positioning itself to hire hundreds more employees over the next three years and continue expanding into new states.
The company is on track to hire 160 new employees this year, with plans to add another 200 in 2020, and 250 more in 2021, said Ben Salzmann, president and chief executive officer.
Acuity currently has more than 1,300 employees, about 1,000 of whom are based at the company's Sheboygan headquarters.
The company completed a $170 million expansion of its corporate headquarters in 2017, doubling the total building space to a total of 1.2 million square feet. This year, the company plans to add another 600 spots to its 1,300-space parking ramp at the campus.
Next year, the company plans to finish and occupy a wing of the headquarters that is currently unfinished, Salzmann said.
“That should last us another three years,” he said.
Eventually, the company expects to build two office towers on its campus.
“I would say five years from now, we’ll build one tower and 10 years from now we’ll do another one," Salzmann said.
In 2018, Acuity had record revenue of $1.54 billion,
a 7.2 percent increase from its 2017 revenue of $1.44 billion.
The company, which has grown over the past 14 years from writing insurance in eight states to now operating in 27 states, is on pace to expand its service territory by one new state each year, Salzmann said.
In August 2018, Acuity expanded to New Hampshire. This August, it will begin doing business in Virginia. After that, the company has its sights on Oregon, New York, Washington and California.
“That kind of geographic expansion in the property/casualty insurance industry is very, very rare,” said Wally Waldhart, vice president of sales and communications at Acuity.
Commercial auto is Acuity’s largest and fastest-growing line of business. Meanwhile, the company surpassed $400 million in written premium in personal lines last year. But the company's leadership prides itself on not setting sales goals.
“We don’t believe in sales goals,” Salzmann said. “Insurance is risk bearing. And if we say we as an organization want to grow 5 percent, that 5 percent gets assigned to everybody in each territory. But maybe there is some place where it doesn’t match, and then they start making bad decisions because they feel pressure … In some years, if it’s a recession, maybe we shrink and maybe that’s the right thing to do. So we don’t set sales goals. Where it can happen naturally, we make it happen.”
According to a Deloitte report, the national property and casualty sector enjoyed a strong fiscal 2018, thanks to sustained economic growth, rising interest rates and higher investment income. The industry saw growth in written premium of 4.6 percent in 2017, the highest percentage in the past decade, followed by a 12.7 percent increase in the first half of 2018.
Salzmann said Acuity is well positioned for growth thanks to its financial strength. It has received A+ ratings from both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s.
“We don’t have any debt; almost every business you look at has business loans that they have to pay as they go,” he said. “We’re very conservative and that gives us the ability to be, according to A.M., the strongest, so we can stand behind all of our claims, so we can protect our customers.”
Salzmann attributes Acuity's growth to the quality of its independent agents.
“We sell through independent agents and independent agents sincerely care about their customers. They make sure they’re getting the right protection, that they’re getting great value, that the insurance company will settle claims fairly and quickly,” he said. “Insurance is really a relationship, reputation business and we work very hard on relationships.”
Salzmann cited hiring and training enough employees as the biggest hindrance to the company's growth.
“You can only assimilate so many new employees,” he said.
Acuity often hires new college graduates - with education backgrounds ranging from business to computer science to liberal arts - and trains them in house.
The company has made a name for itself thanks to several unique design features at its headquarters, including a 65-foot indoor Ferris wheel, 27,000-square-foot fitness center, climbing wall and the world’s largest free-flying American flag.
In 2018, Acuity made Forbes’ list of America’s Best Mid-Size Employers, along with its Best Employers for Women list.