Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company's Vice President of Product and Risk Management, Jeff Koch, announces retirement
Koch reminisces on a 37.5-year career with the company
At the age of 23, Jeff Koch walked into the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) state office on Hubbards Lane in Louisville for the very first time. It was 1984, and he had just been hired as a Mail Clerk Messenger through Olsten Temporary Services.
This was Koch’s first full-time job, and as a recent graduate with an accounting degree from the University of Kentucky, he didn’t have much knowledge of the insurance industry, and therefore, his career goals at KFB were a little vague. In those days, e-mail didn’t exist, so inter-office mail was crucial to the company’s success. Koch pushed around carts brimming with mail, stopping at most employees’ desks daily. It didn’t take long for him to start building relationships that would last a lifetime.
Within 10 months, Koch was promoted to an underwriter position. He quickly soaked up knowledge about the industry and realized there was real long-term potential for him at KFB. He took advantage of continuing education opportunities by completing 15 insurance classes in five years and earning his CPCU designation, an associate degree in underwriting, and a general insurance degree.
“I was an underwriter for three years, and I’ve really lived off of those three years for the last 34 years,” Koch said. “My time as an underwriter helped me gain a much deeper understanding of how insurance works and how Kentucky Farm Bureau operates. I got to know a lot of the agents and CSRs and what made their lives easier and what made their lives harder. I learned that we’re not like other companies. We have a kinder, gentler approach with our members than other big insurance companies.”
He has witnessed the company change, evolve, and grow over the past three decades in multiple roles. He’s led the rollout of new products, processes, and programs, including the implementation of ARMS (the company’s account review and maintenance system) in the early 2000s, which he notes was one of the biggest projects of his career.
“The idea was just born out of this innocent conversation between me and Earl Walther [a developer who has also since retired from KFB],” he said. “It became this huge project that I think really helped us transform our business. We were a much more confident company after ARMS was built.”
Fast forward to today, as Koch, now the Vice President of Product and Risk Management, prepares to pack up his office after a 37.5-year tenure with the company. Koch fondly attributes his success and happiness at KFB to those around him.
“I just owe a thanks to so many people for pouring into me and believing in me and pushing me ahead,” Koch said. “As I retire, I’ll miss the work, but that will pale in comparison to missing the people. 37.5 years and I can literally count on my 10 fingers the days that I dreaded coming to work, you know? Who can say that? I’ve been supported. We’ve made tough decisions, but I always felt like I had the support of people around me and my bosses. It gives you the confidence to do things that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s a very supportive environment. And when you experience it, you want to foster it as well. I think that’s what makes this place different.”
Koch says he has no doubt that his successor, along with the current leadership team, will continue to do great things.
“I hope that he or she can continue to move the company forward, come up with creative ways to make KFB different in the marketplace, and continue to hire people in all positions that are capable of advancing in their career,” he said.
Koch, 61, admits he was not planning to retire just yet. Due to the birth of a new grandson and a recent diagnosis, he felt it was the right time to make the transition. Koch is currently undergoing treatment for gastric cancer, which he was diagnosed with earlier in the year.
“The expectation is that I will make a full recovery,” he said.
He and his wife, Debbie, look forward to spending as much time as possible with their three children and four grandchildren. They plan to attend every youth league game the kids play and help them with their schoolwork – mostly because Koch is excited to learn “these new math concepts.” They also have plans to travel often.
Congratulations and best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement. Thank you for a lifetime of service to Kentucky Farm Bureau, Jeff!