A culture of innovation at Mutual of Enumclaw prevents millions in natural disaster losses

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Mutual of Enumclaw’s bet on promoting a culture of innovation is paying off to the tune of millions in savings due to reduced fire losses, fewer snow-related claims and less customer attrition.

It has also garnered the 400-employee, Enumclaw, Wash.-based P&C insurer nationwide recognition. The firm received the 2018 Award in Innovation from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) for three of its programs – wildfire mitigation services, rooftop snow removal and a new loyalty app.

“During the past decade our CEO Eric Nelson has encouraged all employees to think and act innovatively,” explains Enumclaw brand director Michael Cousins. One of the outcomes has been these three original programs.

In the wake of two consecutive years of extreme wildfire activity in 2014 and 2015, Enumclaw partnered with Wildfire Defense Systems (WDS) to supply its property owning policyholders with no-cost wildfire monitoring and, if threatened, on-site structure-saving services ranging from property hazard removal to sprinklers and fire-retardants.

“Although other insurers offer similar programs, ours is free of charge to our members on an opt-out basis,” says Cousins. “Very few of our members have opted out and we’ve saved millions in wildfire claims.”

WDS provides a real-time wildfire monitoring dashboard that allows Enumclaw to contact customers proactively. “WDS technology integrates with our systems by overlaying our policyholder information onto their real-time fire maps,” Cousins notes. “Visualizing threatened properties enables our customer service team to contact members and offer assistance.”

The WDS technology integration has also allowed Enumclaw to narrow the scope of its fire underwriting moratoriums from large geographic regions to much smaller, extremely high-risk areas.

Fire and ice
Then, when the winter of 2016-2017 brought unusually heavy losses from commercial roof collapses, the wildfire program’s success prompted Enumclaw to develop a commercial rooftop snow removal program with WDS. Following the pilot program’s full roll out in January, there were no collapses during the 2018 season.

Like the wildfire monitoring, the snow removal services are free to policyholders, but on an opt-in rather than an opt-out basis. “That enables us to ensure the property meets program criteria,” Cousins says. WDS promotes the program among insurance agencies, he adds, which has generated more interest in
working with Enumclaw.

As for the insurer’s perks program and loyalty app, it was developed to offset the sting of premium increases and reduce customer churn.

“We wanted a loyalty app with national benefits,” Cousins says. “When we publicized it with our most recent annual report, hundreds of members and agents signed up.”

Inspired by the success of this first round of innovation, Cousins foresees the insurer pursuing more of the same. “These three programs were deemed to offer the greatest impact,” he says. “But it’s not just these three that we’re working on.”

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Natural disasters Property and casualty insurance