Brian Lopata named President & Chief Executive Officer for Farmers Alliance Companies

Brian D. Lopata has been named President and Chief Executive Officer for the Farmers Alliance Companies, effective August 27, 2018. The announcement was made by L. Keith Birkhead, Chairman of the Board.

According to Birkhead, “Brian brings extensive experience in the insurance industry to this position, combined with a clear vision for the future of Farmers Alliance. Most of all, he is committed to the family-oriented culture, and is enthusiastic about developing the strong relationships with our employees, agent partners and policyholders.”
As President and Chief Executive Officer, Lopata will have day-to-day responsibility for all functional areas of the companies, working directly with members of the Executive Management Team.

Brian Lopata family

The Brian Lopata family
(Brian is pictured second from left)

A native of upstate New York, Lopata has held leadership positions in Underwriting, Marketing, and Customer Relations for two mutual insurance companies during his 27-year career. Since 2004, he was with Preferred Mutual Insurance Company, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President for Profit Center Operations and Customer Relations. His responsibilities have included day-to-day company operations, as well as strategic planning.

Lopata received his Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from the State University of New York at Oswego. He also holds the Associate in Underwriting and Associate in Insurance Services designations.

He and his wife, Betsy, have two adult sons. Brian and Betsy will relocate to McPherson in the near future.

Bluetooth Security Tips

There are billions of Bluetooth devices on the market today. In fact, it is almost harder to find a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth. Over the last several years devices with Bluetooth show up in the following:

  • Phones
  • Cars
  • Computers
  • TVs
  • Headsets
  • Gaming consoles
  • Tablets

 

Due to implementation of millions of Bluetooth devices in use, malicious security violations are now common events these days and expected to increase in the future.

 

The increased usage of Bluetooth devices makes security concerns even more alarming. Like any other wireless communication system Bluetooth transmission can be deliberately jammed or intercepted. False or modified information could be sent to the users by the attacker.

 

Some important common vulnerabilities are listed below:

 

  • Blue jacking: Blue jacking is the process of sending unsolicited messages to Bluetooth-enabled devices.
  • BlueSnarfing: is the illegal theft of information from Bluetooth enabled devices.
  • BlueBugging: is an attack in which the attacker exploits Bluetooth enabled in a device to get unauthorized access of the system and manipulate the target device to compromise its security.

 

Depending on your specific device, you’ll have different Bluetooth options and settings available, but the same general advice applies to all. If your Bluetooth device is not paired with another Bluetooth device at any time, turn its Bluetooth capability off to avoid an unknown device from trying to connect to it.  Even if you are paired with a device, you should still turn off Bluetooth discovery (so other devices can’t see your phone) as well as auto pairing (which can allow a device you’re not familiar with to connect to your phone without your approval).

 

Policyholders who suspect they are victims of fraud should contact Farmers Alliance at 620-241-2200 to find out how they can work with a fraud specialist to help manage and protect their identity.

Employee Spotlight – Morgan Estep (Customer Service)

Morgan Estep is a Customer Service Representative. She began her career at Farmers Alliance on January 2, 2018.

“My whole life has consisted of being on the back of a horse. From a young age I would ride around with my dad at his roping’s. My dad was actually the one who got me started in rodeo. He was in the rodeo scene when he was younger. He competed in bull riding, saddle bronc and team roping. He actually participated in rodeo while serving in Germany. Now he decided to pass on his passion to me. I got my first horse when I was about seven years old. When I hit the age of ten I started competing in junior rodeos, amateur rodeos and 4-H. After my first competition I was hooked!

Rodeo has taught me a lot growing up and I have made so many friends through it. Growing up I participated in the Harvey County 4-H horse project and qualified to compete in barrel racing, pole bending and the flag race for 8 years at the Kansas State Fair. I was also involved in the Heartland Youth Rodeo Association out of Kingman, Kansas and competed there all through middle school and high school and qualified for finals every year. In college I was a member of the Fort Hays State University Rodeo team and traveled all over Kansas and Oklahoma to compete against other schools.

Now that I am out of college I travel around the area to different barrel racing jackpots and bought my membership to be a part of the Central Plains Rodeo Association and will be traveling to rodeos around Kansas to qualify for finals in October. My next rodeo will actually be held in McPherson, Kansas on June 22nd-23rd!

Right now I compete on two horses. My younger horse I bought when I graduated from high school and have been training him on the barrel pattern. He is the bay pictured and his name is Cash. My other horse I am competing on is Tee J and he is the sorrel pictured. I had Tee J when I was in high school and decided to start getting him back in shape for the summer. Which I am glad I did because he has been getting me second place at all the jackpots I have ran at so far.

I am looking forward to competing with my boyfriend who steer wrestles in the same association and traveling with my dad and horses this summer.”

Good luck Morgan during your rodeo season!

Wellness Committee hosts National Walk at Lunch Day.

The Farmers Alliance Employee Wellness Committee hosted the National Walk at Lunch Day, with 57 employees signing up for the walk — including field staff from Iowa and Kansas City! Participants enjoyed a great lunch and fellowship, as well as a drawing for t-shirts.

“Let’s make everyday a walk day!”

 

For more information on National Walk at Lunch Day, visit: https://www.bcbsks.com/AboutUs/Community/Walk-at-lunch/

myFAMI – our customer’s online connection to all things Farmers Alliance

myFAMI, our online portal for policyholders has new options! Through myFAMI, customers can now choose to Go Paperless! — accessing policy documents electronically, and stopping the mailing of paper documents. While it won’t be the choice of all customers, we know that many of our customers have asked for this capability, and will be glad to see it is now available.

 

As a reminder, there are 3 primary functions within myFAMI — myBilling, myClaims and myDocuments. Go Paperless! is the latest addition. The attached overview flyer highlights each of these areas, as well as providing a step-by-step guide for getting started. We’ve also provided some very short video tutorials for myFAMI.

All policy types (other than bonds and some specific commercial lines policies) can be accessed through myFAMI, and all a customer needs to get started is the policy number and bill account number (find these on a recent invoice or the policy Declarations). As they establish their myFAMI account, the system is designed to verify identity and ownership through specific procedures, so all policy access is secure.

myFAMI Flyer

 

 

Farmers Alliance Holds 130th Annual Policyholder Meeting

The 130th annual Policyholder Meeting was held on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, at the company’s home office in McPherson, Kansas. Attended primarily by the company’s Board of Directors, executive management team and several policyholders (others represented by proxy), the group heard from Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer L. Keith Birkhead. A Treasurer’s Report was provided by W. Paul Taliaferro, Chief Financial Officer.

Birkhead and Taliaferro reported that in spite of an average year for storm losses, the company experienced very good results in all areas during 2017, and continues to be positioned for steady, profitable growth in its target markets — farm and ranch insurance in the eight-state marketing territory. Policyholder Surplus and Admitted Assets reached new high levels, and the Combined Ratio, a key indicator of profitability, was reported at a healthy 99.08. The company continues to carry an A- (Excellent, Stable) rating from the A.M. Best Company, another strong indicator of financial strength.

During the meeting, two new Directors were elected to the Board, I. John Cholnoky and Donald W. Schwegman, and two current Directors were re-elected for new terms, Eric J. Larson and Brett A. Reber. They join continuing Directors Robert M. Alexander, Vincent Amanor-Boadu, R. J. Breidenthal, Jr., Marilyn Pauly, and Mr. Birkhead. Also during the meeting, three retiring directors were recognized for their service to the Farmers Alliance Board of Directors. Each was recognized with a Board resolution acknowledging their contributions to the organization, and thanking them for their dedication:
Sheila Frahm — 16 years of service. Resolution presented by Marilyn Pauly.
Joseph W. Jeter — 12 years of service. Resolution presented by Eric Larson.
Joe F. Jenkins, II — 47 years of service. Resolution presented by R. J. Breidenthal, Jr. Mr. Jenkins’ service ranks second in all-time year of service to the Farmers Alliance Board of Directors.

Birkhead concluded the meeting thanking all directors and employees, and noting that the successes we are now experiencing are because of the hard work and dedication of the Directors and staff throughout our long history.

L to R: Keith Birkhead, Joe Jenkins, Jay Breidenthal

L to R: Eric Larson, Joe Jeter, Keith Birkhead

L to R: Marilyn Pauly, Sheila Frahm, Keith Birkhead

The Customer Service Department Goes Back to the 80’s for Customer Service Week.

Customer Service Celebrated at Farmers Alliance

The Farmers Alliance Customer Service Department celebrated Customer Service Week in October with an 80’s theme. Various activities were held throughout the week, including a decorating contest, 80’s charades, an 80’s dress up day, 80’s word find and an 80’s Name that Tune competition! Customer Service Representatives assist in underwriting and servicing all types of policies, and provide critical assistance to agents and policyholders. Their work touches new business, renewals and policy changes — for farm lines, commercial lines and personal lines. There are 35 employees in the Farmers Alliance Customer Service Department.

Congratulations to Amanda Vance (4th from right), Molly Anderson (2nd from left) and Susan Anderson (1st from right)! They really rocked their 80’s outfits and won the dress up competition!

What is Customer Service Week?
Customer Service Week is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. In 1992 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, celebrated annually during the first full week in October.

The five core goals of Customer Service Week are:
1. Boost morale, motivation and teamwork.
2. Reward front line reps for the important work they do all year long.
3. Raise company wide awareness of the importance of customer service.
4. Thank other departments for their support.
5. Remind customers of your commitment to customer satisfaction.

At Farmers Alliance, we are proud to celebrate the work of our professional and dedicated customer service professionals. Thanks for all you do for our agents, policyholders and fellow employees!

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Equifax Breach

Article from CyberScout.com

What happened?
Equifax, a consumer credit reporting company, discovered a breach in its online systems that could impact 143 million consumers.

When did the breach occur?
The breach occurred from mid-May to July and was discovered on July 29. Equifax alerted the public on Sept. 7.

What information was involved?
Hackers gained access to files with names, birth dates, Social Security numbers (SSN), driver’s licenses and addresses. They also stole the credit card numbers of 209,000 consumers.

Why should I care?
The Equifax breach has been described as “massive” and “epic.” Adam Levin, chairman and founder of CyberScout, calls it a watershed event—one of the largest and worst breaches ever—because of the number of people affected and the type of information exposed. Impacted consumers are now vulnerable to a number of identity theft crimes and are often on their own to repair the damage done.

How did the breach occur?
Hackers exploited a vulnerability in Apache Struts, a kind of open-source software that companies like Equifax use to build websites, according to The New York Times. The security weakness was identified in March and a security patch to fix it was available. That means Equifax could have installed the patch two months before the breach but didn’t.

Who was behind the breach?
A group of hackers called “PastHole Hacking Team” claimed responsibility and demanded 600 Bitcoin in ransom or they’d release the data. Intelligence officials say it’s too early to confirm who’s behind the breach, but one theory is that a nation-state hit the company.

What is Equifax doing about the breach?
The Atlanta-based company set up a website where consumers could find out if their information was exposed. Consumers were asked to provide their last name and six digits of their SSN. Once submitted, they would receive a message saying if they were affected. Equifax also said it was offering one year of free credit monitoring and included terms of service language that barred enrollees from participating in class-action lawsuits. Public reaction was swift, and the company has since removed that language.

How has Equifax handled the breach?
Equifax has been surprisingly inept in its response. Consumers, privacy advocates, lawmakers and regulators all have expressed outrage. U.S. breach notification laws require notification in 30 days—sometimes 45 days in exceptional circumstances—after discovery of a breach. During that time, any company would be scrambling to analyze the damage, but it appears that Equifax gave short shrift to how to notify consumers whose information was violated long after the damage had been done.

What is the fallout from the breach?
A slew of class-action lawsuits claiming personal harm to consumers have been filed since the breach. We can also “expect commercial class actions claiming potential harm to businesses and other organizations,” that depend upon credit bureau data to verify identities and determine credit worthiness, according to Eduard Goodman, CyberScout’s global privacy officer.

State and federal government initiatives have begun and may lead to regulation. In the long term, it’s likely that a replacement for the Social Security number as a unique way to verify identity will be needed. Alternatives may arise in the marketplace, through regulation or a combination of both.

What should Equifax do for consumers?
Ideally, Equifax should offer five years of credit monitoring to consumers. That would be ideal, but unlikely.

What should consumers do?
CyberScout recommends these steps for consumers:

1. Contact providers. Ask your insurers, banks and employers if they offer identity management services, which often are a low-cost or free addition to existing services and will protect you going forward for the long term. Identity management services look for signs of fraud and provide access to specialists who can help you recover from identity theft quickly.

2. Review credit reports for any unusual activity. Visit annualcreditreport.com, the government-mandated source for free annual credit reports. Investigate suspicious activity and monitor it until it’s resolved. Also, look for signs of fraud in your medical files, on your Social Security statement, in insurance claims, and in public records.

3. Place a fraud alert on your credit file. An alert placed with one of the three major credit bureaus (yes, that includes Equifax) signals to potential creditors that you could be a victim of identity theft. Initial fraud alerts last for 90 days and require potential creditors to confirm the legitimacy of your identity before granting credit. Extended fraud alerts last for seven years and are available to consumers who are confirmed identity theft victims with a valid police report.

4. Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. This may be necessary if you’re experiencing fraud as a result of the data breach. A freeze locks access to your credit, so no one will be able to open a new account in your name. To determine whether a freeze is right for you, read more here.

 

Insured’s Testimonial: “I’m So Thankful for Equipment Breakdown!”

In the very small township of Springfield, South Dakota, lies Koch Insurance. There are other Koch Insurance offices in South Dakota — the main office in Tyndall with two more branches in Tabor and Yankton. Kim Bierema is an agent that works in the Springfield office. Not only is she a Farmers Alliance Agent, she and her husband, Myron, are Farmers Alliance policyholders.

Back in July, their air conditioner wasn’t cooling their home properly. “Something’s just not right here,” Kim explained. Kim called her local plumbing and heating company, and had a guy come out to look at it. He explained to the couple that the copper tubing in the air conditioning unit burst. They needed to replace the whole unit with a new one. The new unit was ordered and was installed.

Kim thought to herself, “I believe I have Equipment Breakdown coverage on my homeowners policy. I wonder if this would qualify for this situation.”

Kim contacted Farmers Alliance’s Claims Department and, sure enough, her air conditioner was covered under Equipment Breakdown. The claim was paid within a week’s time. The amount paid was $8,900 for the new air conditioner. She paid her $500 deductible.

“I’ve had this coverage since it was first introduced. I thought about getting rid of it several times, but I’m so thankful that I didn’t! Wow!”

Equipment Breakdown Coverage responds to the cost to repair or replace mechanical, electrical or pressure systems equipment that suffer a breakdown.

Your Farmers Alliance agent is the best source of information regarding these coverages. Talk with them about your specific situation, and they’ll know just what you need!

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