PMI and Habitat: a mutually beneficial partnership
Roger Haughton was once collared on a Habitat work site by a stockholder. It would be unfair and inaccurate to characterize the owner of PMI shares as disgruntled—he was, after all, volunteering on a Habitat project, wherein seldom is heard a discouraging word. But he did wonder if the CEO could explain how PMI’s dedication of time, money and resources as a Habitat corporate donor benefited the bottom line of a company in which he held more than a rooting interest.
As for the money, PMI is a Cornerstone Society More Than Houses campaign partner. As such, PMI has made a minimum commitment of $5 million and, in total, all Cornerstone members have pledged 36 percent of the $475 million raised by the campaign to date.
Haughton recalled the shareholder with a laugh during a break from siding House #18 in Benton Harbor. “We are in the private mortgage insurance business,” he explained, “and there is much that we have learned from our involvement in Habitat over the years that has direct application for our business.”
For a start, California-based PMI has grown its role in pre-purchase counseling, especially of first-time homebuyers on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, buyers who play a large role in PMI’s business plan. The company has learned the value of owners contributing sweat equity in their dwellings, and it has learned that if commitment starts on day one, the chances of success improve exponentially, Haughton said.
All well and good, but perhaps not tangible enough for a curious stockholder. Haughton went on to note that PMI had grown used to spending fairly significant sums of money every year on team-building exercises for its 1,000 employees around the globe—retreats, for example, and the ropes courses that have grown so popular for developing trust among workmates. Now that money is invested, instead, in Habitat homes.
“There is no better way to promote the culture of teamwork than allowing your employees the opportunity to work together on a Habitat home,” Haughton emphasized, and more than a dozen PMI workers are on site in Benton Harbor this week. “And at the end of the day, in addition to the sense of renewal that everyone feels, you have accomplished something concrete, something real that is a real benefit to someone else.”
Those accomplishments define the corporate culture that PMI strives to preserve, says Brad Shuster, CEO of PMI Capital Corp., the international and strategic investment wing of the company.
And what does maintaining that corporate culture contribute to stockholders? Plenty.
“We have grown our involvement with Habitat internationally as we have grown our business internationally,” said Shuster, who was working on his sixth Jimmy Carter Work Project in Benton Harbor. The team of employees who established a PMI presence in Australia in recent years helped promote Habitat principles so successfully that they, and Habitat for Humanity International, won an award from the prime minister for their work. More to the point, they were successful in convincing other Australian business partners to join in. That led to greater networking opportunities, to a greater sharing of the sense of corporate social responsibility, to demonstrations and strengthening of teamwork. Ultimately, it led directly to enhanced business opportunities, Shuster said.
“As a company, we are very involved in affordable housing,” Haughton noted before heading back to cutting and fitting vinyl siding on the three-bedroom home being readied in partnership with Curtessa Bolton. “There are really two issues: availability and affordability. As a company, we work mostly on the affordability side. What we are doing here this week is lending a hand to the availability side. No one does that better than Habitat.”
And no one works with Habitat with more dedication than Roger and Judy Haughton, who celebrated their 25th, 30th and, this week, 35th wedding anniversaries working on homes with Habitat partners.