National Life of Vermont shows how good you can be

National Life of Vermont shows how good you can be

Berkenkamp, Lauri

National Life of Vermont may not be the very oldest company in the state, but it is certainly one of the most well known. Founded in 1848, at the beginning of the gold rush, National Life is now one of the 20 largest mutual life insurance companies in the United States, with 1994 sales of $518.5 million. National Life is also one of the Vermont’s largest employers: in 1994, 968 people were on the payroll.

National Life was one of the first life insurance companies established in the country, at a time when the western United States was still considered dangerous territory: in its first policy, issued in 1850, the insured party was required to notify the company for permission before crossing the Mississippi River. One of the original agents and first medical examiner of National Life was Dr Julius y Dewey, father of Admiral George Dewey. Dr Dewey is generally considered the founder of the National Life of Vermont company.

National Life is the only large life insurance company in the country to have been founded and remained headquartered in a rural area. The company now has 50 general agencies throughout the country, and also offers its customers annuities, disability insurance, pension planning services, and mutual funds and other financial products under its Sentinel Family of Funds.

How has a business that thrives on large populations and financial markets been so successful for so long in a place like Vermont? Frederic Bertrand, chairman of the board and CEO of National Life, said it has to do with Vermonters, themselves.

“An awful lot of our long-term success has to do with the work ethic of Vermonters. What happens here gets translated into challenging assignments and growth in the business. We have lots of company loyalty.”

According to Benrand, National Life is a company proud of its rural roots: “What I really take an amount of satisfaction in is seeing people in Montpelier work with people throughout the country. People in New York and Los Angeles, who are selling in very sophisticated financial markets come to rely on people here for service and advice.”

The people at National Life make it a point to maintain their commitment to the communities in Vermont; its corporate contributions program donates money to many nonprofit organizations throughout the state, ranging from the arts and education, to health and human services.

According to Donna Fitch, Director of Corporate Relations, National Life’s United Way campaign alone makes up 29 Mountain’s United percent of the Green Way budget. National Life matched $70,000 of employees’ donations dollar for dollar in its 1994 fund drive.

National Life also provides scholarships for local students to colleges in Vermont: the company offers a scholarship to Trinity College in a graduating Montpelier high school student each year. National Life also provides funds to the Vermont Institute for Math, Science and Technology, based at Vermont Technical College’s Randolph campus. The program, originally funded by the National Science Foundation, is dedicated to increasing math, science and technology skills in the state’s schools.

Copyright Lake Iroquois Publishing, Inc. d/b/a Vermont Business Magazine Jan 1995

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