State Farm Insurance may be staying in Columbia, but the company is closing it doors in other areas of Missouri.
As part of the company’s consolidation plan announced Wednesday, Missouri will lose 14 of its 17 claims offices, including one in Columbia. The three remaining offices will become larger field operation centers located in St. Louis, Springfield and Independence.
Across State Farm’s Central Zone, which includes Missouri and four other states, 76 claims offices will be consolidated into 27 field operation centers.
The closing of one of the Columbia location means the city could lose a handful of jobs. Gary Stephenson, State Farm spokesperson, couldn’t say how many people will be affected by the Columbia closing but said most offices scheduled for closing employ fewer than 20 people.
Stephenson said some employees will relocate while others may qualify for early retirement or severance packages. Others may choose to look for options outside of State Farm, he said.
The consolidation will take place gradually over two years and is expected to be completed by the end of 2006.
Section Manager Chuck Henderson said the main claims office in Columbia will continue to handle claims from all across the state. Currently, the department handles 80 percent of the claims in Missouri and Henderson expects that percentage to increase after the consolidation.
The new field operation centers will handle more complex claims that require personal service, he said. There will also be mobile workers around the state who will work as estimators to evaluate claims.
Henderson said the offices being closed handle more localized claims and do not have the same technology as the Columbia office.
State Farm’s yearlong internal review was intended to identify more efficient ways to conduct business, including the way claims are processed.
Changes in technology over the past decade have enabled the company to handle claims faster and from fewer locations, Stephenson said.
Today, claims representatives are able to evaluate claims from their computers using digital photography. Policyholders contact an agent when they have a claim, and can receive claims services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Henderson said the closing of these offices will not affect the policyholders.
“It is to keep our products as affordable as possible while still providing outstanding service,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”