Local Hero: Ruth Donkersgoed
Hailing from the village of Elora, Ontario and heading up the team at Edge Mutual in Drayton, Ruth Donkersgoed is the Ostic Group’s Local Hero for the month of February. We sat down with her this week to learn more about her role at Edge and what the organization does within the Drayton community. Here’s what we found out!
Ruth moved to the Drayton area when she was 12 and lived on a dairy farm during her teen years. She started working at the Edge Mutual Insurance Company after high school, learning about the organization from her sister-in-law, who was already an employee. She wanted an office job, so she joined Edge and started working her way up through the company.
After 35 years with the business, Ruth has gone from the mailroom to become the new CEO of Edge Mutual, in January of last year! When we asked her why she joined the insurance business, Ruth laughed and proceeded to tell us about the industry’s best-kept secret.
“Few people plan to go into insurance, but it is a huge industry with many different career opportunities; it will always be there,” she confided. This is a piece of advice that she always gives to young people: consider the insurance business as a career option—as it’s often overlooked.
Throughout her career with Edge, Ruth has seen the company grow dramatically as they’ve expanded throughout southern Ontario. Annual premiums have grown from 1 to 23 million dollars during her tenure at Edge Mutual! She’s been a witness to significant technological advancements as well: the general automation of rating and policy issuance, online portals for brokers, and an overall switch to a paperless system. At the same time, she has an appreciation for the history of the organization.
The History of Edge Mutual
Edge was formed in 1887 by local farmers in the Drayton area, who wanted to obtain affordable fire insurance for their farms. They formed a true “farm mutual” whereby every policyholder agreed to share in the cost of any losses that occurred each year. This was done by issuing premium notes (essentially a cash call) at each year end.
The collection of premiums has changed with the times and now policyholders can even pay online with a credit card. But in many ways, the company has stuck to their roots over the years by providing local insurance protection through a dedicated staff of home-grown insurance professionals.
For over a century, the company was known as Peel Maryborough Mutual—until they rebranded as Edge Mutual in September 2015. They still specialize in insurance policies for farms and rural living. They’ve also stuck to the mutual insurance model: they are owned by the policyholders of the company, not stockholders.
Edge Mutual is a member of the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association (OMIA), an association of 40 other mutual insurance companies, based in Cambridge. In fact, Ruth sits on the Board of Directors for OMIA, after being elected to the role by the mutual company membership. Through a unique agreement called the Farm Mutuals Guarantee Fund, every mutual is backed by the assets of all the other Ontario Mutuals, creating one of the strongest insurance networks in the world. That’s true peace of mind for policyholders that might wonder if a small company would have sufficient capacity to pay all the claims from a catastrophic event.
Community Involvement in Drayton
For Ruth, the mutual insurance format is a big part of giving back to the community, a way of providing everyone with a share in the company’s success. Besides this, Ruth and the team at Edge Mutual are proud to sponsor one of the most renowned organizations in the community: Drayton Entertainment.
Drayton Entertainment is an award-winning theatre company that operates six theatres in Drayton, St. Jacobs, Penetanguishene, Grand Bend, Waterloo and Cambridge! The organization is a big claim to fame for Drayton—and for Edge Mutual as well, who’ve been sponsors since it’s foundation in 1991.
Edge Mutual also supports a number of other organizations such as the local arena, local hospital foundations, the school breakfast program, and the amazing youth group, 4-H Ontario. For Ruth, this breadth of involvement is about finding ways to help the community thrive. Edge Mutual has looked to do this in other ways as well. For example, in the last year they built a new addition to their office, doubling its size. Ruth explains that this is all about being able to provide local employment and self-sustain the community.
“There’s a sense you get being in a smaller community,” Ruth reports. “You can just walk around town and feel good.”
Partnership with The Ostic Group
Edge Mutual have been partnered with The Ostic Group since before Ruth’s time. Edge has continued to work with The Ostic Group for a number of reasons: they’re local, progressive, and astute in the business. The two organizations have often partnered to test new technologies as well.
Most importantly, The Ostic Group shares Edge Mutual’s customer service-oriented approach. According to Ruth, great customer service is what defines Edge Mutual. It’s also what sets them apart and gives them an ‘edge’ over bigger competition..
“We’re always looking to partner with brokers who share this,” Ruth explains.
Here at the Ostic Group, we feel the same way about Ruth and Edge Mutual—we’re always looking for partners who share our commitment to great customer service and community involvement. Ruth’s dedication to both is the reason she’s our Local Hero for February!
To learn more about Edge Mutual policies, ask one of the insurance brokers at the Ostic Group or visit their website.