In a time when homeownership in the United States is at a historic low, a small northeast Arkansas insurance company is experiencing growth.
In the years since a key merger with an Oklahoma firm in 2007, United Home Insurance of Paragould has expanded into new coverage areas and pushed into new states, including Missouri. It aims to launch in Kentucky by September, and now is licensed in Texas and Indiana.
"The best part is, we're doing it in our hometown," Matthew Miller, the company's vice president of operations and product management, said. Miller joined the company in 2010 and attributes growth in the past decade to finding its niche and strategically spreading risk.
The company now known as United Home Insurance was founded in Paragould in 1914 as an unincorporated farmers' mutual fire association. In 2007, it merged with United Home Insurance Company of Newkirk, Oklahoma, which was licensed to operate in Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. During the transition, the firm demutualized to become a privately held stock company and made Paragould the headquarters of the combined entity.
Owned by Kyle Harris and Kelly Ford of Paragould, United Home had gone through several reincarnations over the past 100 years. But its most significant growth occurred in the past decade.
"When I joined the team in January 2010, we were operating with approximately 11 employees, no web presence and generated about $12 million in revenue," Miller said. "Everything was manual with paper and Polaroids."
Miller said he saw the company's potential and urged its owners to launch the firm's first website, build an online platform for customers and agents, and add a personal auto program.
Now the company is writing about $53 million in premiums and operating with $13.5 million in capital and surplus, Miller said. The home office in Paragould has grown to 32 employees, and the number of independent agents has expanded from 280 to 500.
The firm says it ranks fourth in capital appreciation in all lines of business for companies writing in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, increasing 200 percent from 2011-15.
Miller said finding the company's niche has led to profitability. United Home specializes in coverage of older and middle-market homes valued between $80,000-$200,000. The company has strategically spread risk throughout its coverage area, even pulling back in areas such as Kansas. The company said it's seeing higher retention rates and loss ratios as low as 31.5 percent in some states.
"We've been very fortunate in the strategy and team we've put together, to be a rare company that has grown successfully, but also achieved consistent profitability," Miller said.