Diversified Financial Services of Omaha celebrated its golden anniversary in 2019. For 50 years, Diversified has helped farmers get the irrigation and equipment they need. Over that time, they have provided financing for more than 121,000 growers for a total of more than $6 billion.
While many things have changed about the way business is done over the last half-century, one thing has remained unflinchingly unaltered with DFS — the personal relationship factor.
“Agribusiness is relationship-driven,” said Gus Ray, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for DFS. “We are relationship driven. Our focus is on our personal connections with producers. They are our priority.”
Ray has been with DFS (a subsidiary of First National Bank) for more than 20 years. He said when he first started, center pivot irrigation financing and insurance were the only products offered.
With the four largest irrigation equipment manufacturers in the world all headquartered in Nebraska — Valmont (Valley); Lindsay Manufacturing (Zimmatic); Reinke Manufacturing; and T-L Irrigation — it just made sense. Since then, DFS has expanded to include financing of new and pre-owned farm equipment.
Back in the day, Ray said, loan applications would come through the mail with a few by fax. They would arrive from all over the United States, get reviewed, approvals/denials mailed back and then checks mailed if necessary.
“The mailing process would take days, if not weeks,” Ray said. “Now most applications are filed online.”
The loan files are all on their website. The auto-appraisal software gives producers answers in minutes. The change has meant a dynamic modification in DFS business.
“It’s crazy how the application process has shifted in the last 20 years,” Ray said. “From 15 days to 15 minutes.”
While farm equipment is now their number one product, DFS is still the largest insurer of pivot irrigation systems in the world, with an exposure of $2.5 billion, he said.
They cover the pumps, generators, electrical systems and pivots against tornado/wind events, flooding, theft and vandalism, hail, fire, collision and lightning strikes.
Surprisingly, collision is the most common incident. While lightning strikes are numerous, they don’t cause significant damage, Ray said. Floods are a concern, but they are a small percentage of claims.
“Typically, floods aren’t too bad for irrigation systems unless the river changes course and destroys a swathe of territory,” Ray said. “We may need to replace gear boxes if they are submerged for extended periods. Overall, hurricanes are much more damaging.”
The way DFS handles claims sets them apart from other insurers, as well. First, DFS will provide funds to replace equipment they insure with the amount necessary to purchase new equipment. This applies even to 20-year-old systems, Ray said. The second is irrigation dealers are their claim representatives.
“We have the local irrigation systems dealer act as our adjusters,” he said. “They are the ones who will be replacing the equipment and they know the systems.”
This way, that distinctive bond is maintained. Things may have sped up and the business may have grown, but the focus is still on the individual.
“Automation has changed the process,” Ray said. “But we don’t want to lose sight of the personal relationship aspect.”
Jon Burleson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.