Unitrin CEO Southwell Sees Growth, Value in New Kemper Name

By | August 17, 2011

Unitrin Inc. is counting on added success as it takes on a new name — the well-known and legendary Kemper name — for the future of the company.

Effective Aug. 25, Unitrin Inc. will officially become Kemper Corp. and Don Southwell, chairman, president and CEO, says the name change will set the stage for further growth and expansion at all levels of the company.

“Part of this rebranding is a re-emphasis on our core values and what we stand for,” Southwell told Insurance Journal. The new name — Kemper Corp. — will provide the company with a good platform for growth and expansion in the future, he says. “As we consider acquisitions or entering new geography we’ve got a good brand platform on which to build.”

That trust in the Kemper name comes from decades of brand recognition and value with both customers and agents, Southwell said.

The Kemper name was a permanent fixture in the property/casualty insurance until 2001-2002 when the insurer fell victim to a series of losses. Shortly after that, in April 2002, Kemper sold its personal lines business to Unitrin. Today, this segment 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,” said Southwell. “When we bought the rights to the Kemper business in 2002 we thought we would only have the rights to the Kemper brand for five years,” he said. But Unitrin negotiated an extension to keep the name and then just last year purchased the Kemper name outright.

Southwell said agents have repeatedly told the insurer how valuable the Kemper brand was to their business.

“They say this is a great brand, our customers love it, they recognize it, and you should do what you can to retain it. So we listened to our agents,” Southwell said.

While the insurer kept the Kemper name on the original Kemper book of personal lines business, other divisions under the Unitrin umbrella used the Unitrin name.

“We never changed this unit’s name. It was Kemper Auto and Home when we bought it. It became Unitrin Auto and Home briefly; it then reverted to Kemper, and now it will be Kemper Preferred,” Southwell explained.

But now all divisions of Unitrin, including Unitrin Specialty and Unitrin Direct, will be rebranded to the Kemper name within a year or so, Southwell says. Even Unitrin’s life insurance sector will become endorsed under the Kemper name.

Kemper’s strong name and brand recognition supported the name change, Southwell said. Research showed that while the insurer’s existing agents and customers held the Unitrin brand in high regard, prospective agents and customers didn’t recognize the Unitrin brand as well as the Kemper brand. “If we can make the sales process easier (for agents) by providing a trusted and recognized name, then that makes us more attractive to them,” he said.

Other than the new name, Southwell says agents should expect business as usual.

“I don’t really see any changes,” he says, “… other than it gives us a brand that we want to deliver on consistently, whether it be through agents or direct,” he says.

And don’t look for some of the old Kemper ways of marketing such as a golf tournament or Super Bowl ad anytime soon, Southwell says.

“We want to look to the future and we do not intend to revive some of the things of the old Kemper. We love the Kemper name, the Kemper heritage and the equity of the Kemper brand but we will try to modernize and build for the future.”

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