Insuring Crops & Planting Seeds

Insuring Crops & Planting Seeds
Issue 13 // 1st Quarter // 2016 Category:Business By: Mark Whitaker

Much of our nation’s heritage is tied to agriculture and the crops that our fertile land is able to produce. It’s not uncommon to have family farms that are run by third and fourth generation family members. Although they may be planting and harvesting the same land as their forefathers, the farmers of today must contend with global markets and commodities prices that change daily as opposed to yearly as they did 30-40 years ago. A twenty-cent per bushel drop in corn or soybean prices in a day can mean a drop of $32,000 for a 1000-acre farm. For a catastrophic event, such as a hailstorm, damages can reach over $200,000. For the Silveus Insurance Group, giving farmers peace of mind and protecting their livelihood is more than a business; it’s their passion.

A Heritage in the Making

Grover Sims started a small crop insurance business in Warsaw, Indiana in 1940 after realizing how vulnerable the local farmers were to crop damage. Hail insurance had been offered in other parts of the country but had not been available in Indiana. He saw not only a great business opportunity, but also a chance to protect the farmers in his area, many of whom were friends and family.

Two generations later, grandson Steve Silveus became one of the top sales producers and took over the company. He expanded the business to a few other types of peril insurance for farmers and expanded the customer base. His three sons started working for the business and began using analytical and computer models to analyze risk and recommend products. 

Steve retired from the business and left it in the capable hands of his three sons. Oldest son Scott is the president and has been with the company for 25 years. Middle son Cameron is the vice president and has been with the company for 18 years, and youngest son Tyler is the CEO and has been with the company for 15 years.

Insuring Livelihoods

The crop insurance business is different from most other types of business. Cam explained, “Farming is a very personal business. More often than not, we conduct meetings with our clients in their kitchens with family members present. It makes us keenly aware that we are not only helping to protect the farm business but the farmer, his family, and their future. It’s very humbling and something we take very seriously. “

Today, the Silveus Insurance Group is the largest independent crop insurance agency in the country. They insure over seven million acres of our nation’s precious farmland, writing over $150 million in premiums in 40 states. They have maintained an average of fifteen percent growth in the past seven years, with the goal to maintain that growth, even through the great recession. Scott said, “During the recession, while other businesses were shrinking, we were adding people. God blessed our business so much during that time. We were able to be very deliberate and selective in the people that we brought on, and we feel we have the best team in the business. We look for people who relate well with others, seek to decrease conflicts rather than cause them, and are great collaborators.” 

Managing Financial Risk

They have invested a significant amount of resources into producing sophisticated, proprietary software to forecast trends and analyze risk for a variety of scenarios. Though complicated, their suite of applications is easy to use and is an educational resource for their clients. “As part of the service that we provide to our clients, we feel that it’s critical that we educate them on all of the risk factors that affect their agriculture business. We want to give them all of the tools necessary to make informed decisions,” Tyler added.

Silveus Financial was started to partner with farmers to help manage their complex financial resources and to address structured cash sales, futures, and options, not just during planting and harvesting season, but year round.  In 2006, Craig Snow was added to the management team as Chairman of the Board. “We differentiate ourselves from others in three ways: our innovative culture, the analytical approach we take to our clients’ financial needs, and the service we provide.

"People matter to us, and we do our best to enrich their lives as a result of doing business with us.” Craig Snow

Intentional Faith

Faith has always been an integral part of their business and family heritage. While growing up as believers, walking with God has been such a part of their lives that it wasn’t until recently that they realized that they needed to be more intentional about reaching people who didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. “We loved God, loved our families, and worked hard to serve our clients. What we weren’t doing was telling people about the grace and mercy that God has to offer through His Son Jesus,” Scott explained.

“God has blessed our business, families, and employees for generations, and we felt the need to make it a priority to actively communicate that to our employees, agents, and clients.” Scott Silveus

Last year they created a new position in the company to function as a corporate chaplain and brought Steve Longbrake in to fill the need. His role is to not only help the business grow, but to help build God’s kingdom. He leads company Bible studies as well as meets with employees who need spiritual counseling. Craig said, “Steve is very vocal about his faith and has no reservations about bringing up God or interjecting a pertinent piece of scripture in a meeting.” 

Managing Eternal Risk 

Steve added,

“Our business is to help farmers manage financial risks to provide peace of mind here on earth. We also want to address an infinitely larger risk: where they will be spending eternity. We want to make sure that every opportunity we have, we are planting His seeds. Although I belong to a church and go to church weekly to be filled and fed, it is in the marketplace where I live out my faith, where we all live out our faith.” Steve Longbrake

“When we apply the principles that God gives us through His Word to our roles in the workplace, we all benefit. Following the Holy Spirit’s direction allows us to foster the gifts that God has given each of us and allows us to reach collaborative greatness! When we interview prospective employees, we look at their character, and we conduct personality assessments to make sure that we match roles and responsibilities that are consistent with their personality, talents, and passion. Add a person who fits a position for which they are well suited, and allowing them to pursue their passion makes our team greater than the sum of its individuals.”

Being a faith-based business doesn’t mean that you’re insured against trials and difficulties. Sometimes it magnifies them. “We haven’t always made the right choices for our business,” Scott explained. “When we make mistakes, we learn from it so that we don’t repeat the same mistake. For example, when we prepare contract documents with our clients, we include an arbitration clause through a Christian arbiter rather than using litigation as the first step to resolving a disagreement. There are many instances where people would rather pursue that option, and it works out best for all parties involved.”

With over 60 years of combined experience under their belts, the management team at Silveus Insurance Group has a solid reputation of being trustworthy experts in their field. They embody the time-tested philosophy of caring for the people they work for and with. Scott added, “It’s been a privilege for us to be able to maintain our family relationships while growing the business. For us, it’s all about relationships; it’s what drives us.” They all echoed, “Like our dad taught us, ‘Don’t just go out and make a sale, make a friend.’”


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