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A Closer Look: Tim Nelligan


Tim Nelligan joined Continental Western Group as its president in October 2020. Based in Urbandale, Continental Western Group is an operating company of W.R. Berkley Corp., one of the largest commercial insurers in the United States. Nelligan has a track record as an accomplished leader of both a large agency, Ansay & Associates in Wisconsin, and the underwriting divisions for a major property and casualty insurance carrier — the Hartford. He brings 30 years of experience in underwriting, sales, operational planning and execution to CWG, with a talent for corporate strategy development and implementation. “He is a dynamic leader with a strong track record of outstanding results,” said W. Robert Berkley Jr., president and CEO of W.R. Berkley Corp. Continental Western Group offers a broad array of commercial insurance products for businesses in 13 states from the Great Lakes to the Rockies. In November, Continental Western Group was named one of the 100 Best Places to Work in Insurance by Business Insurance magazine. 


What has it been like onboarding as president during a pandemic? 

It’s been interesting, but it’s also been an extremely good challenge that I would not have anticipated — taking over leadership of a dynamic organization, and having to do it in a virtual environment. However, we have found some very creative ways for me to get in touch with the organization in large groups, and actually in very small groups. We’ve had talks with three to five employees where I can get to know the people of Continental Western on a much more personal level. I will probably get through all of our 250 employees by about the first week of February. 

Tell me a little more about Continental Western Group. 

It’s a dynamic organization with a long history. It came together from basically three companies — TriState Insurance out of Minnesota, Union Insurance out of Lincoln, Neb., and of course, Continental Western in Des Moines. Those companies were acquired by W.R. Berkley Corp. in the mid-1970s, and they were combined under the Continental Western brand in the mid-1980s. 

How have things been with the company during the pandemic? 

I think every company has been impacted, and every person, in some regard with COVID. We are no exception. We did a very good job of establishing a work-at-home, fully functional operation in our teams, because of the spike in COVID across most of our states. It is mitigating, and we’re going to be transitioning back to our work environment in a very conservative, safe manner. But we do have a vision to have our operations back in our physical locations as we can. It’s been a very good story of team resilience. 

This is your first role as a company president. How are you approaching that? 

It is the first title I’ve had as a president, but some of my prior experience had a similar scope of scale and responsibility. I spent 30 years in the industry with a very large national insurance company, and managed essentially a big portion of the Central time zone. So that was a good foundation in taking the next step in leading Continental Western Group. Also, [having been] the chief operating officer for the past three years with a very large agency with four locations in the state of Wisconsin gives me, quite honestly, excellent experience in running an insurance company. 

How do you see yourself as a leader?

I’m very much a leader that enjoys building high-quality teams. I’m very engaged with developing people as part of that process. I put a lot of time and effort into attracting and developing the best talent possible for a team, and being very engaged with the team. I also like to get to know people personally. I like the terms “hustle,” “humble” and “hungry” in terms of engaging with people on a very candid basis and working with them. As a leader, it’s very important to be a good communicator, not just internally, but certainly with clients, agents and the general community as well. 

What’s the outlook for growth for Continental Western? 

The history of Continental Western is that we make sure that we’re looking at growth the right way. … We’re coming off of 2020 as a very successful year, even though many businesses were impacted by the severe derecho event that hit Iowa particularly hard. We’re looking at 2021 to be a continued strong performance for Continental Western. We’re very optimistic.

What kind of civic involvement do you bring to Des Moines? 

We [the company] have a good history in terms of being involved with the community. My past brings quite an emphasis on giving back in the communities we’re in, whether it’s time, talent or treasure, as the saying goes. … We have been doing quite a bit of mentorship and volunteering. I’ve always enjoyed giving back — everything from building Habitat homes to being chairman of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s southeast division, which was headquartered in Dallas when I was there. I was on the board for four years, chairman for the last two. I’m involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters — that’s more on a personal level. I’ve also done some things earlier in my career with the Special Olympics and Miracle League.  

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

We are an outdoors family — we like a lot of sports and outdoor activities. Personally I like woodworking; I did construction to put myself through school, so I can be pretty handy with projects. I do like biking and golf. So yeah, we stay very active. I’ve done a lot of international travel and that’s how I picked up Italian as a language.  



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