A legendary insurance company name is back in the headlines after a nearly 10 year hiatus.
Unitrin Inc. has taken the Kemper name, and effective Aug. 25 Unitrin will officially operate as Kemper Corp. with trading on the New York Stock Exchange as the KMPR ticker symbol.
The Kemper name seemed to be a permanent fixture in the property/casualty insurance until 2001-2002 when the insurer fell victim to a series of losses. Kemper’s capitalization declined substantially in late 2001 due to a reduction in surplus caused by adverse loss reserve development principally in asbestos reserves, adjustments driven by the new regulatory accounting principles and modest losses from the Sept. 11 attacks.
At year-end 2001, the group entered into a retroactive reinsurance agreement on its asbestos reserves and in April 2002 Kemper sold its personal lines business to Unitrin. Today, this segment of personal lines business represents Unitrin’s largest business unit with just under $1 billion in total earned premiums in 2010.
“Kemper is a legendary name in the insurance industry, and it offers an opportunity to create a unified brand for our family of companies and a strong platform for continued growth and expansion,” said Don Southwell, chairman, president and CEO. “Since the Kemper acquisition, we have looked for opportunities to leverage the value of the Kemper brand throughout our organization,” Southwell said. “When we had the opportunity to purchase the name outright in mid-2010, we jumped on it.”
For marketing purposes, the personal lines unit will be called Kemper Preferred, effective August 25, the company said. Kemper Preferred will provide auto, homeowners and other insurance products to individuals through a network of independent agents.
The Unitrin holding company will incorporate the Kemper name to other business units over time.
Despite its absence in the insurance community, the Kemper brand name remained strong, Unitrin found, noting that there was a 30 percent greater awareness of the Kemper name over Unitrin among consumers.
“The Kemper name fits who we have become as a company,” Southwell said. “It allows us to bring together all of our approximately 7,000 employees under one banner that reinforces our position as a straightforward company that delivers personal service and financial excellence in all of our interactions.”