In recent months, the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center (NEI-SBDC) has been connecting its clients that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 virus with area marketing professionals, providing no-cost assistance to help business owners get their companies back on track. Several clients have taken advantage of this unique program and have provided positive feedback about the services received, according to NEI-SBDC Regional Director Wes Shie.

The center announced it is adding no-cost accounting assistance and strategic planning consultations as additional forms of help available to pandemic-impacted businesses. Clients seeking assistance with any type of accounting-related issue are being referred by NEI-SBDC business advisors to a local partnering accountant who is available to provide help at no cost to the client. For clients impacted by COVID-19 who are seeking direction with the “big picture,” strategic planning assistance is available through a local business consultant who specializes in helping entrepreneurs recover from the pandemic and re-establish themselves as successful small businesses.

These services, available only to clients of the NEI-SBDC, are funded in part through the U.S. Small Business Administration and the federal CARES Act to enable the center to increase its no-cost counseling services for businesses that were in operation before COVID-19 and have been impacted by the pandemic. The goal is to support long-term economic recovery for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

NEI-SBDC business advisors also are available to provide clients with other no-cost services, such as assistance with business plans, financial projections, market research and the development of marketing materials. In addition, the center offers low-cost workshops in partnership with the Division of Continuing Studies at Purdue University Fort Wayne. The online courses are available through the Purdue Fort Wayne website.

For more information on NEI-SBDC services, or to become a client, area small business owners and entrepreneurs should contact the NEI-SBDC at 260-481-0500 or visit www.isbdc.org.

Lincoln 4Q and 2020 financials

Lincoln Financial Group recently released results for the fourth quarter and full year 2020 including net income for the fourth quarter of $143 million, or $0.74 per share and adjusted income of $346 million, or $1.78 per share.

Net income for the full year of 2020 was $499 million, or $2.56 per share, and full-year adjusted income was $865 million, or $4.45 per share.

According to president and CEO of Lincoln Dennis Glass: “Underlying earnings power remained strong in the fourth quarter with both an increase in operating revenues and expense ratio improvement across all our businesses. Though the pandemic continues to impact our financial results, the health and economic environment is showing signs of improvement. When combined with our confidence in our ability to build sales over the year, execute on expense initiatives, accelerate digital capabilities, and continue to return capital to shareholders, we are optimistic about our ability to drive shareholder value.”

Other key points include:

• Operating revenues increased in all four business segments from 4Q 2019

• Total general and administrative expenses, net of amounts capitalized, declined $100 million in the year

• Annuities income from operations of $289 million was up 7% and average account values rose 9% from 4Q 2019

• Retirement Plan Services reported income from operations of $49 million, up 4% from 4Q 2020, and positive net flows of $340 million in the quarter drove positive flows for the full year

• Life Insurance reported income from operations of $144 million compared to $179 million in 4Q 2020 and total life insurance in-force of $894 billion grew 8% from 4Q 2020

• Group Protection insurance premiums increased 1% compared to the prior-year quarter and 4% for the full year, and sales were $450 million in the quarter compared to $297 million 4Q 2020

• Resumed share repurchases with $50 million completed in the quarter

First Merchants elects two to board

First Merchants Corporation, a $14.1 billion financial holding company, has elected Susan Brooks and Mark Hardwick to the Board of Directors of First Merchants Corporation and First Merchants Bank, which has 16 banking centers in Fort Wayne.

Brooks represented Indiana’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Hardwick is chief executive officer of First Merchants Corporation and First Merchants Bank. Both Brooks and Hardwick will be on the ballot for continuing terms at the corporation’s annual shareholder meeting in May.

Cindy Larson is a longtime Fort Wayne journalist and is a Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly reporter. To submit items, send email to clarson@kpcmedia.com or call 260-426-2640, ext. 3369.

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