Five years ago, Darwin Copeman was seriously considering early retirement. Then he was approached by a recruiter for the CEO position at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company. A 40-year veteran of the insurance industry, Copeman had learned of Jewelers Mutual while still president and CEO of a regional insurer near Kansas City, Missouri. The opportunity was one of several from specialty insurance companies expressing an interest in Copeman’s services—but as the recruiter made clear to Copeman, Jewelers Mutual offered something different. “They had phenomenal financial strength, a strong niche, and jewelry is a unique product line to be involved with,” Copeman says. “Plus Jewelers Mutual is based just south of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I’m an upper-Midwest guy at heart.”
Once on board, Copeman realized there was work to be done if Jewelers Mutual was to be well-positioned for future growth. It started with a technology overhaul. “We basically tore the entire guts of the IT infrastructure out,” Copeman says. In the process, Copeman and the leadership team recognized the need to make some organizational changes.
A strategically diverse board of directors includes representatives from the insurance and investment industries, as well as the jewelry trade itself. Copeman finds it a microcosm of a balanced company, positioned better than ever for success. “When I first got here we did a lot of talking, but not a lot of listening [to our customers],” he says. “Now it’s the other way around. We want to hear what they need so we can better define what makes a great customer experience.”
Customers directly informed the creation of an important division of the company. Jewelers Mutual offers Perfect Circle Jewelry Insurance, a consumer product sold directly to individuals to protect their personal jewelry. “The idea for our personal lines product actually came from one of our jewelers,” Copeman says. “We’re always looking for the next idea to better serve the jewelry industry. Our focus is what makes us unique.” Other changes brought by Copeman have allowed for better alignment of sales and marketing efforts between the two major divisions of the company: the consumer brand, Perfect Circle Jewelry Insurance, and a commercial line that insures retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers in the jewelry industry.
Protecting jewelers, their facilities, and their inventory is a mainstay of Jewelers Mutual. Today, criminal activity has replaced on-site fires as the most important reason to get insured. Still, Copeman encounters many family-owned businesses that resist. “They’ll say, ‘I’ve got a great safe and I lock everything up at night,’ but when a criminal points a gun at a jeweler, the situation escalates very quickly,” he says. “Of course, their safety is our primary concern, so we counter that the reason to buy insurance is so jewelers don’t have to risk their lives protecting inventory.”
Jewelers Mutual has always worked closely with the Jewelers Security Alliance (JSA), which actively collects, tracks, and distributes jewelry crime information nationwide. Since 1987, Jewelers Mutual has provided JSA memberships for its commercial policyholders. This offers several benefits, including security alerts from JSA and various law enforcement agencies, which are important because jewelry thefts are often gateway crimes to even more serious infractions. With Jewelers Mutual serving as the leading jewelry-insurance provider across the United States, partnerships with organizations like JSA can make a real impact in the safety and protection of jewelers. “We get a great deal of feedback from customers saying, ‘Thanks for sharing that crime alert; those people were just in my store yesterday,’” Copeman says.
With a legacy of over a hundred years and Darwin Copeman at the helm, Jewelers Mutual is looking forward to another century of supporting and protecting its valued policyholders and their assets.