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For 108 years, Warner and Company, now known as Bell Insurance, has been a large part of the story of Fargo, N.D., sharing in the excitement of growth and persevering together through tragedy.
We were there on June 6, 1926, when Fargo was termed a "thriving city" on the 33rd anniversary of the 1893 fire. We were there when oil was discovered in North Dakota in 1951, bringing many new people to the state. And we were there June 20, 1957, when a devastating tornado ripped through town. In paying out $2.5 million as a result of the storm, we were able to help the community rebuild.
“Because of the prompt and satisfactory manner in which our losses were handled, we made many lasting friends,” Raymond D. Warner, the agency’s founder, is remembered as saying.
More than a century of caring for customers as friends is part of what led to Warner and Company receiving the National Jeffrey Butland Family Owned Business of the Year award by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber’s Choice Business of the Year, both in 2012.
Innovative practices the company implemented, such as being the first agency in the nation to write a single business policy combining multiple coverages, were another reason for the recognition.
One of the area’s pioneers, Raymond D. Warner was active in the community from the beginning. He was part of the original Chamber of Commerce group in 1911. And we have records dating back to 1922 of corporate and personal donations from employees to what is now the United Way.
“They had 100 percent employee participation, even back in the 1920s,” remarks Brian Hayer, Bell Insurance managing director and the fourth president in Warner and Company’s more than 100-year history.
That tradition of community involvement is one that continues today. With fewer than 30 employees, the insurance company made the United Way’s 2019 list of the 50 most generous workplaces. And in the 1990s, Brian chaired the United Way’s fundraising campaign.
A culture of corporate giving and community service is part of what made Warner and Company such a great fit for Bell Bank (which is also on the United Way’s 50 most generous workplaces list).
“There’s such perfect alignment of what we value and what Bell values,” Brian affirms. “Our teams already share the values of community involvement and ethical decision-making. We treat employees like family. Our core values haven’t changed since the beginning, and it’s the same with Bell.”
Bell announced its acquisition of Warner and Company in January, uniting the two longtime Fargo institutions. Bell also purchased two of the company’s other full-service agencies: Schiller Insurance in Detroit Lakes and Thompson-Schaefer Insurance Agency in Grand Forks.
“Warner has a century-long commitment to building our community and treating people the right way. It’s a fantastic culture fit for our two companies,” comments Michael Solberg, Bell president and CEO.
Patrick Chaffee, Bell’s executive vice president of banking and wealth management, says expanding into the insurance arena complements all the other financial services we provide at Bell.
“Being able to do that with the expertise of the team at Warner and Company is exactly what we were looking for,” he remarks.
Zack Dawson, who has 10 years of experience in insurance and 10 years in banking and financial services, has also joined the team. As Bell Insurance director, he will be focused on insurance operations, as well as developing and executing the Bell Insurance growth strategy.
“I’m excited about the incredible opportunity we have to build this insurance operation,” Zack comments. “Our customers have chosen to work with Bell, because of the service they have received or the company’s values. Now we can offer them another service with a company they already know and trust. While insurance is a new line of service for Bell, the people who make up Bell Insurance have been in the industry a long time, so our customers are going to get the level of expertise and support they would expect from Bell.”
Many independent insurance agencies are being purchased by large, national firms. Warner and Company had received other offers, but Brian says he wanted to make sure his employees would be taken care of.
“I am excited about being part of a local, growing company,” Brian notes.
Insurance is an important part of a solid financial plan. Find an insurance professional today.
Products and services offered through Bell Insurance are: Not FDIC Insured | No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value | Not A Deposit | Not Insured by Any Federal Government Agency
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