Lebanon Valley Insurance (LVI) Company started writing fire insurance for businesses, farms and dwellings in Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County and beyond before the American Civil War— a span of service longer than the borough in which it is situated, Cleona, PA, has existed. It all began when chartered on June 18, 1856, as the Lebanon Mutual Insurance Company, with the transformation to LVI coming quite recently when it reorganized via unanimous vote of its board to become among the Tuscarora Wayne Group of Companies in November of 2010.

Lebanon Valley’s first home was in Jonestown just outside the limits of the county’s only city and seat of government, Lebanon, subsequently doing business in Lebanon itself for many years until moving to its current headquarters at 137 West Penn Avenue in Cleona in 1964. It was a sweet move, both literally and figuratively, being just a 10-mile drive on Rt. 422 from America’s chocolate capital, Hershey, in a building that was formerly a candy factory.

"Cleona retains a small town flavor, but with access to bigger city services and social life as a result of being close to Harrisburg, Lancaster and Reading," reports James Lyter, Underwriting Division Manager for LVI who has been with the company almost 25 years. Modest taxes and friendly residents ("Once they warm up to you," Lyter confides.) are among the pluses of living and working in Cleona.

Their years in Cleona, a borough of some 2,100 people whose name is derived from the Greek word for "Glory," were marked by controlled growth throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s and into the 21st Century. The types of coverage offered have also expanded over the years. This has allowed the company to remain stable and secure despite the demands and stresses of a changing economy and laws regulating the insurance industry. As an example, the company reported written premiums at over $12 million in 1996, with a policyholders’ surplus of just under $5.5 million. A decade later, with what was described as "a modest increase" in written premiums, the surplus, or amount remaining after liabilities are subtracted from assets, had almost doubled.

Lyter takes pride in his association with LVI and feels the company is as unique as its rural setting nestled away from, but accessible to, bustling urban centers and major interstate highways.

"It’s a small carrier with mutual roots, but we write both commercial automobile and workers’ compensation which most of our peers have shied away from," he explained. "With an underwriting staff that includes four experienced underwriters, three with CPCUs, we are well positioned to handle these lines, however, and handle most casualty business and commercial package accounts that come our way."

Property and liability lines, however, remain the heart of LVI’s coverage, as is the case with their partnering company, Tuscarora Wayne (TW) Insurance Company headquartered in Wyalusing, PA. In fact, their underwriting approach mimics the TW model and LVI’s Assistant Underwriting Manager John Pelka works out of the Wyalusing corporate offices, coordinating TW and LVI underwriting whose approaches and rural roots have made them very compatible from the outset. (See the We Cover... section to learn more about LVI coverage.)

The 2010 reorganization into a mutual holding company structure that changed the name to LVI, with the Tuscarora Wayne Mutual Group, Inc., becoming the ultimate parent, has revitalized the company and continues to be a work in progress.

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Did You Know?

$45 billion dollars were paid by insurance companies for natural catastrophes and man-made disaster claims around the world in 2013, says Swiss Re, a global reinsurance company.  Global insured losses for 2013 represent a big drop from 2012 when there were $81 billion in paid claims.