Featured image: Tom Henning, Chairman, President, & CEO, Assurity Life, with his grandsons, enjoying a day of fishing.
Bluestone’s proprietary insurance policies are issued by Assurity Life, mutually held (owned by policyholders) and the only Certified B Corp life insurance carrier. Together, we deliver purpose by protecting family, community and the planet with Assurity’s financial strength and 130-year heritage.
Assurity’s Chairman, President and CEO is Thomas Henning, a highly respected and innovative business leader in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has more than 30 years of financial experience and many letters after his name. An active leader in many civic organizations, including serving as chair of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and the University of Nebraska Foundation, he’s also been an integral figure in Lincoln’s economic development as co-chair of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. Behind his achievements, there are some unexpected surprises. We had the opportunity to talk with him and see how this Nebraska insurer became a pioneer in the B Corp movement.
Q: You became a Certified B Corp in 2015 and I believe you are still the only life insurance carrier that is a Certified B Corp. You were also recognized by B Lab as a Best for the World honoree for the last two years. What sparked the interest in the B Corp community for you and why did you decide to make that commitment for Assurity?
A: I had been following the B-Corp movement for a number of years. I was taken with the movement and purpose of using business as a force for good. After consulting with my senior management team and my board of directors, I decided we should apply for certification. I’m pleased we did not have to change anything we were doing, and with our current practices we were certified. What I like about B-Corp certification is that it is independent verification that the company is about more than just the bottom line. We of course need to make money and properly serve our customers, but we are also mindful that we provide our associates a great place to work, be a phenomenal corporate citizen, and be a business leader in protecting the environment.
Q: I know your B Corp status is what led Nathan Irons, Bluestone Life’s founder to reach out to you. How did you first meet Nathan and what did you think of his vision for Bluestone?
A: I received a note from Nathan congratulating me on our B Corp certification, along with a copy of Yvon Chouinard’s autobiography, Let My People Go Surfing. Being a Patagonia fan, it got my attention. Nathan was going to be in Standing Rock as part of a veteran’s group, so he drove down to Lincoln from there afterwards and we met up in person. I was impressed with Nathan’s vision for Bluestone, and pleased we were able to ultimately partner.
Q: Assurity has been a leader in urban renewal and development in Lincoln. Talk about the positive impact your headquarters has had, and also your support of NeighborWorks Lincoln?
A: The Assurity Center, our corporate headquarters, was purposely located in an urban renewal area. Our property has been a catalyst for urban renewal in this former blighted area in Lincoln. In addition to building the Assurity Center, I’m especially proud of the partnership we formed with NeighborWorks to provide affordable housing in this neighborhood.
Photo Left: The Assurity Center
Q: Assurity is 130-year old mutual life insurance company. What would you like people to understand about what it means to be mutual in today’s world?
A: It means we are owned by our customers and everything we do reflects this reality. Importantly, it allows us to take the long view. We are not subject, like so many other stock companies to hit Wall Street’s quarterly profit objectives. We can invest in people and technology which positions the company for long-term success. Everything worthwhile takes time, and being a mutual affords us this luxury.
Q: Assurity achieved the 96th percentile worldwide in Gallup’s associate engagement rankings? What’s behind those happy, smiling faces at Assurity?
A: We are very proud of our long record of Associate Engagement. At its foundation, it is living our mission and 10 values every day. Our mission is to “help through difficult times.” Whether it is the death of a loved one, someone becoming disabled or contracting a critical illness we are there to provide funds when people need it the most. We can’t take away the pain, but we can help. I feel our mission and purpose really resonate with our associates.
It also involves a mindset of servant leadership by senior managers. As CEO, I believe my number one job is to take care of our associates who take care of our customers.
Q: From your recycling program to the LEED Gold certified building, and the locally sourced food, you’ve built a culture of sustainability at Assurity. Why is that important to you?
A: Sustainability is no longer just a good idea – it’s a matter of the self-preservation of humankind. Our planet is facing multiple environmental challenges from severe weather events caused by global warming to increased scarcity of natural resources. Being a B Corp – using business as a force for good, requires us to be a leader in practicing and promoting sustainable business practices.
Sustainable businesses are good for the environment. Because of this fact, companies should be concerned about sustainability strictly for ethical reasons. Caring about our planet should be enough motivation to adopt sustainable business practices.
Q: You’ve received many awards and honors in your career. Do any of them stand out for you or have special meaning?
A: I’ve been very fortunate to receive a number of honors and recognition over the years. As an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the College of Business, I remember walking down the hallway with pictures of all the Nebraskans inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame. At that time I never thought that I too would one day be inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame and have my picture on that wall, but in 2016 I was inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame. It was very meaningful to me.
Q: I understand you have personal passion for both land stewardship and wildlife. How do you fuel those passions in your life?
A: My wife and I operate a small farming operation. On one of our farms we have committed the whole farm to restoring the natural prairie for upland game birds. At this farm we are also restoring the hardwood trees which at one time were along the creeks. Working on the farm is a great stress reliever for me and brings me a lot of personal satisfaction. On our wildlife farm we also have a honey bee operation. We have attracted a lot of other wildlife to this farm including deer, turkeys, bobcats, fox and coyotes. A special thing happened to me this fall. I was working at the farm and the monarch butterfly migration was underway. Our pollinators were full of monarchs – it was spectacular!
Photos of wildflowers and pollinators above and right from Tom and his wife's farm in Nebraska.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
A: If I’m only working on things which will be accomplished during my life time I’m not thinking big enough.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Assurity feels fortunate to have this relationship with Bluestone. We greatly admire Bluestone’s commitment to using business as a force for good. It’s great to have a partner whose values line up so closely with ours.
Bluestone encourages the Practical Activist in all of us to get involved in your community and support organizations like Robinette Farms and NeighborWorks Lincoln that are creating solutions every day for more vibrant and healthy communities.
Learn more about how you can have personal impact with Bluestone’s Premiums with Purpose. All Bluestone Life policies are issued by Assurity.
Like hearing about Practical Activists?
We’ll share their stories with you monthly. (No email overload… we promise!)