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Best Places to Work in Insurance 2014: West Bend Mutual Insurance Co.

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Despite being a large employer, West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. based in West Bend, Wisconsin, maintains a family atmosphere.

Chief Financial Officer Dale Kent says the company's heritage as a mutual insurer and simple geography help shape the unique familial vibe that appeals to its employees. The mutual organizational structure encourages a long-term company outlook and more relaxed corporate structure, while its home base in West Bend, which has a population of about 31,000, is conducive to a family-like atmosphere, Mr. Kent said.

“We're the largest employer in West Bend, and people in the community utilize our facilities all the time for banquets and charity events,” he said. “We are part of the community, and that adds to the atmosphere here.”

The company's leaders use the same lunch room and parking spaces as the rest of the staff and pride themselves on being approachable.

“The tone set from the top is very important,” Mr. Kent said. “The West Bend way is to say hi to everybody as you are walking around this place.”

Brian N. Kiley, a market research analyst, credited senior management with keeping channels of communication open with all employees irrespective of level.

“I'll see our CEO in the gym here three times a week,” he said. “They are totally accessible.”

This inclusive ethos is evident in the company's events. Summer picnics include associates, as West Bend employees are known, and their family members.

West Bend employees can avail themselves of the company's on-site fitness center, which includes state-of the-art equipment, classes and personal training. This year, the property/ casualty insurer added a perk for employees: an on-site health medical center that serves employees and their family members.

“Our approach here is to have above-average benefits,” Mr. Kent said. “With an on-site clinic, we want to avoid people having to spend a half a day of (paid time off) just to drive their kid to get a flu shot.”

The company's unique corporate culture affords a positive work/life balance, said Mr. Kiley, who cited discounted rates for food in the company cafeteria and an on-site fitness center as ways to keep employees happy.

West Bend also has generous bonus programs that reward employees for the company's financial performance.

Taken as whole, the benefits help the company retain employees, Mr. Kent said.

“Happy employees give good customer service; and if you give service over an extended period of time, you will start to outperform your competition,” he said. “Where it really reaps dividends for us ... is in a far lower turnover rate. It's tough to find good people today, and we have a much easier time than most because we don't have to replace as many people as our competitors.”