It has long been said that the "I" in F&I refers to credit insurance, arguably the first add-on product sold in dealerships' finance and insurance offices. One of the product's earliest providers, Central States Health & Life Co. of Omaha, is still well in the game after more than 80 years in business.
T. Edward Kizer remembers when his passion for the debt protection company, known as CSO, truly kicked in. Kizer joined the company in 1986 as a field rep in Denver. For the first year, he traveled Colorado and introduced himself to those at banks, dealerships and other clients that offered CSO's credit insurance.
"I stopped at a bank just outside of Denver, and the client said, 'Your company just paid a claim for us,' " said Kizer on a phone call from his Omaha, Neb., headquarters. "It was a very sad story. A young couple had just gotten married and came in for a loan on a mobile home. Before they even made one payment, the husband was killed in a car accident."
The couple had bought credit insurance from CSO, the company Kizer's grandfather, T.L. Kizer, founded in 1932. Its first product was the Thrifty plan, which the founder developed to take over loan payments for clients who were unable to make payments because of accident or illness.
The insurance made the difference between poverty and sustainability for the grieving, young widow, as it has for thousands of other borrowers. In addition to paying off the loan, it provided the widow with enough money to pay for her husband's funeral.
"You don't realize how important something like credit insurance is until you have some life experience and it impacts you," said Kizer, who now is CSO's president. "We receive claimants' feedback frequently along the lines of, 'I was temporarily disabled, and this protection helped me meet other obligations without worrying about someone coming to tow away my vehicle for nonpayment.' "