The general agency here for life insurance giant Northwestern Mutual Financial Network says it has been posting healthy growthincluding a 41 percent jump in new premiums last yearamid an industry that has been relatively flat for at least a decade.
The agency, Spokane-based Hubbell Financial Group Inc., employs about 100 people, including about 60 insurance agents, and operates branch offices in eight Inland Northwest cities in addition to its main office in the Marycliff Center here south of downtown, says Brian Hubbell, managing partner of the agency.
Hubbell Financial Groups insurance division, which primarily sells life, disability, and long-term care insurance, wrote $5.9 million in new premiums last year, Hubbell says. While that 41 percent jump was huge by agency standards, the group here has averaged new premium growth of 12.7 percent annually over the past five years, he says. Companywide, Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual has averaged about 5.9 percent a year in new-premium growth, says Hubbell.
Meanwhile, says Hubbell, the agencys investment division, which offers wealth-management services and sells such investments as mutual funds and annuities, is growing even faster.
That division grew from a fledgling unit in 1995 to having just under $1 billion in assets under management in 2007, he says.
We grew about 1,400 percent in 13 years, Hubbell says. Even when the market dropped, we still grew.
Investment products now make up 40 percent to 45 percent of Hubbell Financial Groups new business, he says.
He says Northwestern Mutual generally takes a conservative approach to investing.
We take the long view when it comes to investment planning, Hubbell says. We analyze the clients one at a time and try to match their risk tolerance and time horizon. Were not about hot investments. Our goal is to do well in the long term.
Despite the investment divisions rapid growth, the sale of insurance policies remains the Spokane-based agencys core business.
Hubbell Financial Group currently has about 60,000 life insurance policies in force, with a total face value of $8 billion, up from total face value of $6.6 billion in 2005, he says. Companywide, Northwestern Mutual had more than $1 trillion of life insurance protection in force in 2007, Hubbell says.
Across the industry, the total face value of individual life insurance policies in the U.S. has been flat, having risen just over 10 percent since 2000, he says.
Hubbell says the agency has gained customers as other companies have reduced their presence in Spokane.
Were filling a gap, he says.
The agency claims an insurance-client retention rate of about 97 percent on an annual basismuch better than the industry average, Hubbell asserts.
He says he cant predict that Hubbell Financial group will maintain the soaring growth in new premiums it had last year.
Weve enjoyed it, but I wont project it, Hubbell says. We would love to have 7 percent or 8 percent growth in the future. That would be enviable.
He is predicting, however, that the agency will see strong growth in the sale of long-term care insurance, in which interest is rising for both individual and employee-benefit plans.
Companywide, Northwestern Mutual posted a 19 percent jump in long-term care insurance premiums in 2007, compared with the year earlier.
Long-term care insurance will become an increasingly important product, Hubbell says. It is important to people who are closing in on retirement, and that sector is growing.
Although Hubbell took over the general agency here in 1995, Northwestern Mutual has had a presence in Spokane for more than 100 years, Hubbell says.
Some agents have been with the agency here for more than 40 years, he says, adding, What better confirmation is there of their love for this business?
About half of the agencys roughly 60 agents work in the Spokane office, which occupies about 15,000 square feet of space in the McCauley Hall building, at 705 W. Seventh. Another about six Hubbell Financial Group employees work in Marycliff Hall, another building in that business park. The agencys branch offices are in Coeur dAlene, Pullman, Moscow, Lewiston, Tri Cities, Walla Walla, Yakima, and Wenatchee.
Hubbell says hes confident the market here will remain strong for the agency.
Spokane people are family oriented and community oriented, he says. Consumers here really want good relationships, communication, and accessibility. That bodes well for what we do. We have great chemistry in this community.
As a company, Northwestern Mutual reported net income of $1 billion for 2007, up from $829 million in 2006. It had $157 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2007, up from $145 billion a year earlier.
Based on its 2007 results, the company approved a record $5 billion in dividend payments this year, which Hubbell asserts is the highest dividend payment of any insurance company.
A lot of the profit goes back in dividends, he says. Because its a mutual company, there are no stockholders. Our policyholders really own the company.
Contact Mike McLean at (509) 344-1266 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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