Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:21 pm
Dale Kent, executive vice president and chief financial officer of West Bend-based West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., will retire July 1.
Heather Dunn, vice president and controller, will be promoted to replace him as vice president and CFO. Three other leaders will also take on parts of Kent’s role.
Mike Faley, senior vice president of human resources and administration, was hired in October to take on Kent’s human resources responsibilities.
Rick Fox, senior vice president and chief actuary, has also been named chief risk officer to take on Kent’s risk duties.
And vice president Derek Tyus last year was named chief investment officer, a new role for West Bend, to take on Kent’s investment work.
“We’re growing tremendously, and all (four) positions need to be standalone, really,” Kent said. “It was getting to the point where it was too much.”
Kent, along with president and chief executive officer Kevin Steiner and the West Bend board, has been grooming the leaders for years as he approached the end of his career. The board asked him on several occasions to stay on another year.
“We brought (Dunn) in eight years ago with the idea that she would someday be my successor,” he said. “In theory, I’ve been working with her for eight years to transition the role.”
Kent, 64, described Dunn, who is 38 as talented, outgoing, personable and a great leader.
“She’s running circles around me already,” he said. “She is extraordinarily talented at a very young age.”
Dunn will lead a team of about 35 people.
“In my 15 years here, we’ve grown five-fold,” Kent said. “We will most likely continue to grow at an above average pace, so with growth comes more focused activities.”
The five-fold growth came in West Bend’s net worth, which grew from $200 million to $1 billion, he said. West Bend’s revenue has increased about three-fold from what it was when Kent started there. And premiums have gone from $400 million to $1.2 billion in the past 15 years, he said.
That growth has been driven by three new companies West Bend formed over the past 20 years: Middleton-based NSI, which offers specialty lines; Waukesha-based Argent, which provides worker’s compensation insurance; and Michigan Insurance Co., which it later sold.
West Bend has about 1,300 employees, and focuses on commercial, personal, specialty and worker’s compensation insurance.
“When we started the succession plan, I thought my career horizon was only going to be a couple of years,” Kent said. “And then the board kept asking me to stay longer and I kept saying yes because it’s such a fabulous company. Really the only reason I’m retiring now is I owed it to all these people to get out of their way.”