Michael Ahles, the new president and chief executive of Catholic United Financial, is pursuing next-generation technology improvements while continuing the 142-year-old organization’s charitable mission supporting Catholic and other community needs.
Ahles joined Catholic United as senior vice president and secretary/treasurer in 2012. He succeeds Harald Borrmann, who retired in June after serving as president and CEO since 2012, four years after joining Catholic United.
Ahles has been on the front lines of Catholic United’s joint technology venture — Conventus Now — created in August 2019 with Catholic Financial Life, based in Milwaukee. The partnership, described as a first-of-its kind in the fraternal insurance industry, is to incorporate a digital platform for administering policies as a way to attract and retain members when it launches in several months.
Catholic United, a not-for-profit fraternal association founded in 1878, offers life insurance and retirement products for 76,000 members in Minnesota and neighboring states. The organization topped $1 billion in assets in November.
Ahles, who has 30 years of insurance industry experience, previously was vice president of insurance operations for the Independent Order of Foresters. He also held leadership roles with Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America after beginning his career as a certified public accountant. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Q: What growth potential do you see in the Conventus Now joint venture?
A: There are a lot of organizations that are much smaller; their membership is very passionate but they don’t have the capital that they need to grow. The idea would be as Conventus grows to package it up and maybe sell those services to other fraternal benefit societies or some small mutual insurance companies.
Q: Why should someone become a Catholic United member?
A: In addition to taking care of our members as well as their family’s needs, making sure that a significant life event does not cause their family financial harm … we also look forward to supporting what they like to do in the community. We’re a Catholic membership organization but we don’t stop at supporting the Catholic community. That’s a large part of what we do, supporting Catholic education, Catholic schools and Catholic parishes.
But there’s a lot of things we do in the community as a whole, that we do to be a good community citizen. The motto that guides is we do things not because they’re Catholic but because we’re Catholic.
Q: What brought you to Catholic United?
A: The more I got into the fraternal benefit society model — I worked on the U.S. side of operations of a Canadian company, the Independent Order of Foresters — I started seeing the close relationship you can have with policyholders. You’re not just helping them on the insurance side of their life and protection and financial services but you’re [also] working with them in the community engagement efforts that they want to be part of. People love to volunteer and you get to be part of that part of their life with them.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.