Seventy five years later, Nodak Insurance has grown from a single-state, mutual company into a multi-state presence with an AM Best rating of A, multiple appearances on the prestigious Ward’s Top 50 Property/Casualty Companies list, and with a stock-holding company trading on the NASDAQ.

But at its heart, says CEO/President Jim Alexander, Nodak is still as quintessentially North Dakotan as its name. It still insures 25{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of the state’s farms and ranches, although the state’s overall number of ag operations is considerably less than in the 1940s.

Jim Alexander has been CEO and president of Nodak Insurance, formerly Nodak Mutual Insurance, since 2005. / Special to The Forum.

“The majority of the premiums we write and the clients we serve are here, our roots are here and they always will be here,” Alexander says. “Our corporate office, our staff, our employees will continue to be here and continue to be a major player in the insurance industry in North Dakota.”

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Nodak’s diamond anniversary date was officially April 24, although the pandemic interrupted plans for a large company celebration. The company does observe the milestone through a historic section on its website, which shares organizational highlights and historic images.

A review of the site’s timeline shows a company that continually evolved to meet customers’ changing needs, expanding from farm coverage to homeowners’ insurance in 1968. Commercial insurance was added in 1970.

Alexander says part of Nodak’s change was necessary in order to meet the demographic rural-to-urban shift occurring throughout the country. “If you follow the evolution and history of state, farming and ranching grew, but then maybe stabilized somehow, and you look at how urban areas have grown, the company had to evolve and grow to change with that,” he says.

Also during those first 20 years, Nodak moved from its original headquarters on the second floor of the Fargo National Bank building, now home to Fort Noks Bar of Gold, to a modern new building at 1101 1st Ave. N. in 1955. The company still remains there today, after completing various additions and renovations.

The 21st century kicked off a period of brisk growth for the company, as it began acquiring new out-of-state companies. The first of these occurred in 2001 when Nodak acquired American West Insurance, a multi-state licensed property/casualty company that actively underwrites in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Acquisitions picked up speed after Alexander joined the team in 2005. He guided Nodak through acquisition of Battle Creek (Neb.) Mutual Insurance Company, a domestic property/casualty insurer, in 2011; Primero, a South Dakota-based non-standard auto insurer that underwrites in the Dakotas, Nevada and Arizona, in 2014; Chicago-based auto carrier Direct Auto in 2018, and the Maryland-based Westminster American Insurance Co., in 2020.

The need to expand its footprint beyond state lines was a way for Nodak to minimize risk while shoring up stability, Alexander says. “The key to insurance is spread of risk. It goes back to what we do,” Alexander says. “You have to have some geographical diversification, so that – if something happens – you don’t put the company in jeopardy. If we were a single-state insurer, insuring all North Dakota properties, we could have three horrendous weather years in a row, which means a lot of claims being paid out as an organization.”

A “North Dakota only” business plan also limited the company’s growth. “There’s only 700,000 people here,” Alexander says. “We wanted to continue growing the organization, and that led us to diversify outside of the state to protect the company.”

Another major change for Nodak was transitioning from a mutual insurance company to a stock insurance company four years ago. Unlike a mutual insurance company, which is wholly owned by its policyholders, a stock insurance company also has shareholders and can distribute profits to them in the form of dividends.

The conversion to stock insurance company allows Nodak to raise capital to acquire more companies, which isn’t possible with a mutual structure, Alexander says. By selling off 45{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of the company to shareholders, Nodak was able to raise $100 million, which placed the company in a position to acquire more companies. Nodak’s stock holding company, NI Holdings Inc., is listed and trading on the NASDAQ exchange.

All these factors have helped Nodak move from a B+ (good) to A (excellent) rating on the AM Best list, which provides the marketplace with a quantified assessment of a company’s financial health. It’s also why the company has been listed for eight consecutive years on the Ward’s Top 50 Property/Casualty Companies list, which examines 2,900 property/casualty companies to select the top 50 in terms of financial stability, growth capability and ability to maintain strong capital positions and underwriting results

In short, the future looks bright for Nodak, with $314 million of premium writings and $283 million of policyholder surplus as of March 2021. Alexander attributes this not only to good business strategy, but also to the quality of the 109 employees on the Nodak team.

“We’ve got great people across the organization. The tenure here is incredible,” Alexander says. “We hire great employees and they work hard and like to stay with the company. That’s a lot of our success too. No organization is successful without great people.”

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