This year’s five inductees into the Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame include three well-known names in Greater Des Moines, and represent many decades of dedication to the profession and their communities.
Among the Greater Des Moines professionals named to the hall of fame are Richard Keith, president and CEO of The IMT Group; Susan Voss, former Iowa insurance commissioner, and Clark Bening, founder of Bening Financial, who will be awarded posthumously.
Also named to the hall of fame are Susan Haack, an executive with The Motorists Insurance Group in DeWitt; and Merle “Bud” Ross, a retired career insurance agent from Dyersville.
Bening, who passed away in January, began his career in life insurance sales in 1957 when he joined his brother’s agency in Topeka, Kan. In 1974 he formed Clark E. Bening & Associates, now Bening Financial Organization Inc., which now has more than $1 billion in life insurance in force. In August 1982 he joined Bankers Life, now Principal Financial Group Inc., as a career agent specializing in the nonqualified deferred compensation market. He earned 17 total sales-based club qualifications, including Principal’s national Agent of the Year award six times.
“He was the type of agent all of us agents should aspire to be,” wrote Stephen Sypal, an agent who worked at Bening’s agency for 14 years before going out on his own. “He combined knowledge, skill, empathy, and the ability to bring planned order to the process of reaching financial goals.”
Richard Keith was first exposed to the insurance industry working as a part-time claims adjuster for IMT during summer breaks while he was a high school biology teacher. In 1978, he joined the company full-time as the reinsurance claims manager. He later held several roles in the marketing department and in 1991 was promoted to assistant vice president. In 2003 he was promoted to chief operating officer and a year later was named president and CEO. In 2011, Keith was elected chairman of IMT’s board of directors.
Under Keith’s leadership, IMT increased revenues by 47 percent to more than $161 million in 2012, while growing the company’s capital and surplus by 59 percent to more than $120 million.
“His direction and innovation of products and pricing has resulted in IMT’s leadership role within the insurance industry,” wrote James Middendorf, president of Middendorf Insurance Associates in Clive, who has known Keith since 1982. “I admired his passion for the insurance business and hoped to emulate his success in sales in our own agency.”
Susan Voss, who served as Iowa’s insurance commissioner from 2005 until stepping down earlier this year, began working for the Iowa Insurance Division in 1993 as a project manager; one of her roles was to coordinate the division’s flood insurance efforts following the 1993 floods.
With a degree in history from Simpson College and a law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Wash., Voss worked in several state agencies as a staff attorney before joining the insurance division. While insurance commissioner, she served as an officer for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and was named president of that association in 2011.
“Iowa has become the model state for insurance regulations during her tenure,” wrote Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, Inc. “She has walked the delicate line between under-regulating and over-regulating the insurance industry,” he said.
Susan Haack began her career with Iowa Mutual Insurance Co. in DeWitt in 1999 and served in various positions before being elected president in 2002. In 2008, she assumed her current position as senior vice president, corporate secretary and chief risk officer at The Motorists’ Life Insurance Co. headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. She is active in a number of industry and community organizations, among them the board of the Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Insurance and Risk Management at the University of Iowa and the federal affairs committee of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. While she was living in DeWitt she volunteered as a Junior Achievement teacher for more than 10 years.
Merle “Bud” Ross began his career in 1955 as a partner in the Showalter and Ross Agency, and quickly became a top-selling agent. He held a number of leadership positions with the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa and received several awards, including the President’s Citation (for) Outstanding Service to Industry/Agency System in 1995. He served as mayor of Dyersville and chaired the Western Dubuque Community School District, which he helped form in 1965. He retired in 1998.