OLDWICK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A.M. Best has upgraded the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) to A- (Excellent) from B++ (Good) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating (Long-Term ICR) to “a-” from “bbb+” for the members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Group: Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Virginia Farm Bureau) and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Virginia Farm Bureau Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Virginia Farm Bureau Town and Country Insurance Company and Countryway Insurance Company (Countryway) (Syracuse, NY). The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) has been revised to stable from positive. All companies are domiciled in Richmond, VA, except where specified.
The ratings reflect Virginia Farm Bureau Group’s balance sheet strength, which A.M. Best categorizes as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, neutral business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.
These ratings actions are reflective of the group’s continued favorable trends in operating performance, which has resulted in improvement in overall balance sheet strength. These improvements follow a series of underwriting initiatives targeted at reducing and diversifying risk exposures. As a result, the group has reported consistently favorable operating results as reflected in its five-year average pre-tax returns on revenue and equity that compare favorably with the private passenger standard auto and homeowners composite. In addition, the group’s five-year average combined and operating ratios also compare favorably with the composite.
Offsetting rating factors are Virginia Farm Bureau Group’s geographic concentration of risk and elevated underwriting leverage measures. With over 85% of direct premium written in Virginia, the group is exposed to frequent and severe weather-related events, which have resulted in volatile operating results in past years. While risk-adjusted capitalization has improved, the group’s underwriting leverage ratios remain elevated compared with the private passenger standard auto and homeowners composite. Additionally, the group has a small amount of surplus note obligations remaining, although these obligations have been significantly reduced in recent years. Countryway, a wholly owned subsidiary of Virginia Farm Bureau, was purchased a few years back with the intent purpose to diversify business outside Virginia and gain access to the independent agency market.
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