Employers Mutual Companies,
In a city full of top-notch insurance executives, the nickname “Mr. Insurance” belonged to Robb Kelley. He earned it. He was a man of passion who worked hard for what he believed.
Born in Des Moines in 1917, Kelley had a passion for sports in high school. He demonstrated his athletic prowess in 1934, winning the state championship in tennis doubles.
After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1939, he joined Employers Mutual Casualty Company, the company his maternal grandfather had helped found in 1911. He started as an underwriter trainee in the Wichita Kansas branch office and worked in a number of cities around the country. During this period he also spent twenty-seven months in the U.S. Army serving as a 2nd Lieutenant. In 1952, while working in Philadelphia, Kelley took insurance courses at the Wharton School of Economics and earned his CPCU designation.
He moved back to Des Moines in 1955 when he was elected to the board of directors. In 1963 he was named president, treasurer, and chief executive officer of EMC. During the next 30 years he built it into one of Iowa’s largest property casualty insurers. He oversaw the founding of Employers Modern Life Company, the acquisition of numerous insurance companies and the creation of EMC Insurance Group Inc. By the time he retired as chairman of the board in 1992 the company had mushroomed from $63 million to $1.1 billion.
Kelley received the nickname “Mr. Insurance” because of his efforts on behalf of the insurance industry. His work was recognized at the local, state, and national level. He was committed to raising professional standards and served as president of the National CPCU Society in 1970.
He was 80 years old when he passed away on September 1, 1997, the 58th anniversary of his employment at EMC.