The recent growth of the Cedar Rapids-based insurance and investment group TrueNorth Companies hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the organization racking up recognition among Corridor Business Journal readers as a top insurance provider and investment group.

In 2011, the company announced plans to quadruple its overall size by 2020, and so far, TrueNorth CEO Duane Smith said growth is on target. Since that goal was established, the number of True North employees has increased from approximately 140 to 250 employees, most of whom are based in Cedar Rapids.

The company also maintains offices in the Des Moines, Nashville, Dallas-Fort Worth, Longmont, Colorado, Peoria, Illinois, and Moline, Illinois, where TrueNorth’s partner company, RJ Lee and Associates, is based.

The expansion of the company’s workforce, however, wouldn’t be possible without revenue, which has more than doubled for the company since 2011. At that time, gross sales at TrueNorth were approximately $260 million. That figure has since increased to $550 million, Mr. Smith said, and plans are in place to reach $1 billion in gross sales by 2020.

“What it forces you to do is get together a strategy to continue to attract more high-performing talent and grow internal talent,” he said.

To do that, the company has created about eight mid-level leadership positions and established a board of education that meets quarterly to promote internal and external development programming. In order to retain talent, Mr. Smith said the company strives to cultivate a positive culture, which is accomplished in part by philanthropic giving to dozens of nonprofits such as United Way of East Central Iowa. The company was last year named the Best Philanthropic “Giving” Company in the CBJ’s Best of the Corridor awards.

“Our goal is to be the company of choice for the people that work here and the markets we represent,” Mr. Smith said.

In addition CBJ readers voting TrueNorth the best local provider of life insurance as well as property/casualty insurance, TrueNorth Wealth Management was named the best investment services firm. Although a financial strategies division was part of the company’s structure when it was established in 2001 through a merger with Davis Jones Lamb Insurance, Insurance Service Corp. and Verhille & Associates, Mr. Smith said the 2013 addition of an investment group to the company’s financial strategies division was part of a larger goal of expanding into new areas.

That expansion was possible in part thanks to Russ Nieland, Kevin Welu and Charlie Weber, who approached TrueNorth about joining the firm before becoming managing partners.

“It’s a result of the structure that we built,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s a good example of our vision … to attract with entrepreneurial flavor.

The financial strategies division also includes retirement planning, employee benefit assistance, executive benefits and business continuation services and personal financial planning, in addition to investment management and wealth transfer to commercial and individual clients.

– Chase Castle

TIMES ON BEST OF LIST:
3 Time Best Investment Services/Firm (TrueNorth Wealth Management)
2 Time Best Life Insurance Provider
2 Time Property/Casualty Provider