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Madison-based CUNA Mutual Group posted a fourth straight year of earnings growth in 2014, with a net income rise of 26.8 percent due to strong results from its core business lines and company investments.

Revenue and capital levels also increased over 2013 — despite a rise in claims across the board — according to an annual report released this week by the company.

The company’s earnings picture has become more complex in recent years, as CUNA Mutual, long one of the area’s largest employers, steadily broadened its core business of insuring credit unions and their members, after recession-related losses of $149 million in 2008.

Starting in 2009, a diversification strategy directed by former CEO Jeff Post added non-traditional enterprises to the company’s portfolio, including crop insurance for farmers and benefit plan management for employees of companies outside the credit union sector.

However, as the economy has improved in the past few years, focus has shifted back to CUNA Mutual’s core business lines, including products for credit unions and their members such as life insurance, health insurance, fidelity bonds and property/casualty insurance.

As part of that return to core products, CUNA Mutual last year sold off a mortgage insurance joint venture and, earlier this year, divested the crop insurance side business.

Before it was sold to a Texas company for $110 million in cash, the crop insurance business produced losses in four out of the five years that CUNA Mutual owned it, turning a profit only in 2010, according to annual company reports.

The losses continued last year, when crop insurance revenues fell by $39 million.

But also last year, strong investment and operating results, especially in business protection products such as fidelity bonds, drove growth in net income, the report said.

CUNA Mutual increased net income to $206 million in 2014, up from 2013’s earnings of $162 million.

The company also saw a 3.6 percent rise in total revenues last year, at $3.1 billion compared with $3 billion in 2013, the company said, driven in part by growth in its direct-to-consumer TruStage brand insurance products.

The company also posted higher total capital, at $2.7 billion compared with $2.4 billion.

On the other side of the ledger, total operating expenses last year rose to $1.23 billion, up from $1.21 billion in 2013, while policyholder dividends fell — from $29.4 million in 2013 to $24.9 million last year.

CUNA Mutual also paid more in life/health insurance claims last year, at $894 million compared with $871 million, while claims on property/casualty insurance rose to $451 million, from $419 million in 2013.

But premium revenue earned off insurance policies also grew — for property/casualty insurance, it rose to $713 million, up nearly 8 percent from $661 million in 2013. For life and health insurance, premium revenue rose to $1.36 billion, up about 1.5 percent from $1.34 billion.

Founded in 1935, CUNA Mutual currently employs about 4,500 people worldwide, including some 1,760 people in the Madison office, about the same as last year’s tally, CUNA Mutual spokesman Phil Tschudy said Friday.

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Karen Rivedal is the education beat reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.