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Madison, WI Region: Growing Financial Services Hub

Learn why financial services firms in Madison, WI, such as American Family Insurance, are drawn to the region.

By John Fuller on May 18, 2017

The Madison Region has become a center of financial services activity, headquarters and major operating base for a diverse group of firms that includes insurers, third party administrators and student loan processors. American Family Insurance, WPS Health Solutions, Total Administrative Services Corp., Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. & Affiliates, CUNA Mutual Group, QBE Insurance Group and National Mutual Benefit are among the companies with headquarters or substantial operations in the region. These and many other companies are attracted to the Madison Region’s exceptional quality of life, outstanding public and private institutions, and a pool of skilled talent stocked in part by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

U.S. News & World Report has named the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s undergraduate business school one of the 15 best in the nation, and its Risk Management and Insurance program placed fourth in the nation in U.S. News’ latest rankings.

Fully Insured 

Founded in 1946, Monona-based Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corp., doing business as WPS Health Solutions, is the state’s leading not-for-profit health insurer. WPS offers individual health insurance, family health insurance, and high-deductible health plans, as well as group health plans and benefit plan administration for businesses. Madison-based American Family Insurance is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks 332nd on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, through its exclusive agents in 19 states.

The region also benefits from a number of organizations that support entrepreneurial growth in financial services and other industries in the region and beyond. One of those is AmFam Ventures, a subsidiary of American Family Insurance, that invests in early stage companies. AmFam Ventures makes investments, typically from $500,000 to $2 million, in companies primarily focused on insurance innovation, data and analytical solutions and digital connectivity.

“We are supporting companies that are impacting our business and policyholders as well as the insurance industry as a whole,” says Dan Reed, managing partner of AmFam Ventures.

Reed said the Madison Region is ideal because of its high concentration of intellectual and business talent.

“There is also a great spirit of collaboration in the community that helps our companies in their development,” he says. One of the Madison firms that AmFam Ventures has supported is ABODO, which has developed a platform that makes it easier for apartment renters and owners to connect. The company is now expanding across the country. Alec Slocum, ABODO co-founder and CEO, says establishing the business in Madison was more capital efficient and offers a number of competitive advantages for startups.

“The Midwest is much cheaper than Silicon Valley. If we were based in San Jose, there’s no way we could have afforded our old offices as a young startup,” says Slocum. “The Midwest is much cheaper than Silicon Valley. If we were based in San Jose, there’s no way we could have afforded our old offices as a young startup,” says Slocum.

Slocum said his company received tremendous support from groups based in the region like 4490 Ventures, AmFam Ventures and a large number of successful entrepreneurs.

“We truly value the relationships with all of our investors and the community support. It’s extremely motivating to know that so many great people support our business,” says Slocum.

Serving Students

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, based in Madison, is one of the country’s biggest student loan servicers. The organization has been in business since 1967 and services federal loans for millions of students, working with 6,000 schools and 1,100 lenders. Total Administrative Services Corporation, a third party administrator of employee benefit accounts, opted in the 1980s to relocate to Madison, from elsewhere in the state, to be closer to the intellectual resources offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, other higher education institutions and the regional transportation hub.

“With UW and a strong technical colleges in the area, this greatly enhances the labor pool of skilled workers,” says Cliff Mason, president of TASC, who moved to Madison from out of state two years ago.

“The quality of life in Madison is second to none,” he says. “Madison is also a very philanthropic community and the spirit of cooperation among public and private institutions is excellent.”

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