Nestled in the scenic high plain of the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, one of the few Indian business success stories outside of gaming quietly continues to expand its vision of “Tribes Protecting Tribes” across Indian Country.
AMERIND Risk was incorporated as a Section 17 federal corporation in 1986 when more than 200 tribes contributed $18 million to capitalize a risk pool. The intent was to self-insure member Tribes’ low-income housing against fire, flood and other damage and disaster. Prior to AMERIND's founding, American insurance companies believed that Indian Country was too high a risk to take on due to its lack of risk management infrastructure, fire stations in particular. Indian Country needed an alternative to paying outrageous premiums for poor coverage.
But as important was the founding member Tribes’ other objective: to keep money in Indian Country. They accomplished this by creating the first and only wholly-owned Tribal insurance company in the United States. AMERIND’s corporate structure fosters Indians buying from Indians, and keeps hard-earned revenue in Tribal coffers to control while spreading risk over 36 states. Beyond that, as a sovereign, Section 17 corporation, AMERIND saves Tribes money on their insurance policies—cutting premium payments by up to 15 percent of what non-Tribal insurance providers charge.
Contributing to its vision of Tribes supporting one another, AMERIND employs a 59% Native American staff, and it does business with Native vendors and businesses whenever possible. What’s more, its concept promotes the principle of “Buy Indian” when a tragedy does occur. AMERIND recommends Tribal or Native-owned contractors to repair property damage or to rebuild in the event of total loss.
Governor Lawrence Montoya of the Santa Ana Pueblo, AMERIND’s home base, not only appreciates the frequent business that AMERIND drives to the Pueblo’s hotels, restaurants and golf courses for its Board of Directors meetings, semiannual meetings, and annual charity golf tournaments over the years, he believes AMERIND is leading a pivotal movement—empowering the economic sustainability of Indian Country. “I think that’s an important component. They are a 100% Tribally owned entity,” Gov. Montoya said. “AMERIND is circulating money in Indian Country.”
AMERIND Risk has expanded well beyond its original vision in 1986. Today AMERIND delivers a diverse line of products and services, including property, liability and workers’ compensation insurance for Tribes, Tribal governments, Tribal businesses, as well as individual property coverage and employee benefits.
AMERIND manages risk through careful corporate management, prudent investment of member Tribe funds, and the purchase of reinsurance. That makes AMERIND financially healthy, solvent and sustainable. AMERIND increased its revenue by 15% in 2016 over the previous year, bringing in $49.5 million—and return of $3.5 million in excess reserves to member Tribes. Also last year, AMERIND paid nearly $34 million in direct claims expenses—the most in its 30-year history. AMERIND purchases catastrophe protection to cover up to $60 million, and it has additional liquid assets to cover a monumental event. And AMERIND regularly invests in educational safety outreach. Complementing its worldclass management strategies, though, are AMERIND's world-class corporate values. AMERIND actively practices its corporate philosophy of giving back to Tribes. Plus, AMERIND regularly invests in educational safety outreach.
AMERIND's latest endeavor, AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI), kicks off its next 30 years. Aware that the Internet revolution has largely bypassed Indian Country, AMERIND launched its groundbreaking new business line in 2016. ACI aims to provide low-cost capital financing along with professional management and design services to Tribes seeking to bring comprehensive, high-speed broadband to Indian Country. The project can deliver secondary funding via “social investment” contributions to assist qualified Tribes in meeting federal matching requirements. In June, six New Mexico Pueblos received $8 million in subsidies via the federal E-rate program to deploy highspeed, broadband Internet to their Tribal libraries and communities through ACI. “ACI wasn’t designed to make money,” said Derek Valdo (Acoma Pueblo), AMERIND Risk CEO. “It was designed to make an impact on the economies of Tribal communities.”
Above all, AMERIND exists to protect Indian Country and help Tribes obtain and sustain sovereignty.