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  • Powerhouse Q&A with Jimmy Parnell

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    Explain how Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation intersect.
    In 1921, the company was formed as an organization to represent the political interests of Alabama farmers. Twenty-five-years later, those same farmers were struggling to find insurance; nobody was providing it for rural homeowners. They pooled their money and petitioned the state insurance commissioner to insure themselves. At that time, we were called the Alabama Farm Bureau. The name was later changed to Alfa. That’s the history of the insurance company, but we still also function as a farmers’ organization, now the Alabama Farmers Federation. It is made up of local Farmers Federation chapters in each of the state’s 67 counties.
    What does your job entail?
    I do some of everything. I tell people I really have three jobs. One, I represent farmers and do that in some way every day. I may be talking to someone interested in doing business with area farmers or be representing them on political issues. Two, I’m looking out for agriculture interests by doing anything from serving as a “coach” for a candidate who might want to run to to helping candidates we endorse and working against candidates we do not endorse. Finally, as leader of the insurance company, I’m very engaged in everything that goes on. We have revolutionized this insurance company. When we came in, our systems, both our computers and our process, had gotten badly out of date. We have modernized the system with state-of-the-art technology, and I am very proud of the results we’ve gotten from embracing the digital age. We’ve also changed our culture, and gotten our people working more together as a team, and that’s been extremely successful too. We have a real focus on leadership development, and we’ll keep that to ensure that Alfa has a bright future.
    What do you love about what you do?
    The purpose of Alfa, both the insurance company and the Federation, is to help people, and that is very fulfilling. When people have a problem, they call us. When our farmers have a problem, they call us. It’s a great position to be in to help people, and I think I am doing that every day here. But it’s not just me, it’s the entire team we have here. It’s very rewarding to see what we together can accomplish. I’d get up and come to work for nothing more than that.
    What is your impression of Montgomery’s current direction?
    We’re in pretty good shape today, though we do have a lot of challenges as community. We need more jobs, and we need more engagement from the community into the job market, and part of that is our need for better education. But there are a lot of positives, like the great group of leaders we have here. They are attacking these challenges and working on solutions. I would give Mayor Todd Strange an A+ on the job he’s done to keep folks together. And that’s key. We have so many good people here.
    Why support the Chamber the way you and your company do?
    We believe the Chamber is vital; it is the bridge between the business community and the city and county governments. And our Chamber leaders do a good job of getting the right people in the room to discuss issues and find solutions. The great Chamber leadership we enjoy is a large part of Montgomery’s success.
    What are your interests outside of work?
    I’m a workaholic. I love my family, so time I’m not working is time I spend with them. I’m my happiest at home, getting outside on my farm. Working with and managing our cattle is my relaxation. That’s my real interest. And my kids are into farming too. My son is back on the farm now, and my daughter is studying animal science at Oklahoma State University. Some families do sports together; our family does livestock shows.
    Today, Alfa Insurance is the No. 1 life insurance company in terms of market value in the state. It is No. 2 in both auto and property insurance. And the company’s recent transformation of its technology systems was, at the time, one of the largest IT projects in the world.
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