A New Vision
Dent’s vision combined the financial stability of an investor-owned stock company with the preferred-risk underwriting and lower prices of a mutual or policy-owned company.
Defying convention, and ignoring his doubtful peers, Dent started The General Insurance Company of America Corporation.
Based in Seattle, far from the center of insurance activity in the Northeast, “The General,” as it was known, was at first dismissed. But in the coming years it would earn praise for its competitive prices and superb service.
Safeco Enters the Scene
In 1953, the company began looking for new ways to compete with direct insurance writers. The answer was computer automation tools. These became the hallmark of the company’s new business: Selective Auto and Fire Insurance Company of America, or Safeco.
Just a few years later, Safeco entered the life insurance business. By the late 1960s, it also offered mutual funds and commercial lines of credit. Because of its success, parent corporation General America Corporation was renamed Safeco Corporation.
Moving Swiftly Forward
Safeco took a major step in 1997 by acquiring American States Financial Corporation. This doubled its agent force, increased its presence east of the Rockies, and became a leading writer of insurance for small- to mid-sized businesses.
The company also took center stage nationwide in 1998, when it purchased the naming rights to the Seattle Mariners ballpark. With its classic brick and ironwork design, modern retractable roof, and state-of-the-art video board, Safeco Field combines the best of old and new, setting the standard for ballparks around the country. It is rated by both fans and players as one of the best stadiums in the game.
After a tough financial period in the late 1990s, which led to a $1 billion loss in 2001, Safeco turned itself around by focusing on the tenets first set out by founder H.K. Dent: competitive pricing, disciplined underwriting as well as automated technology tools. In 2002, the company earned profits of more than $300 million.
In 2004, the company sold its life and investments operations, shifting the company’s full attention to property and casualty insurance, as well as surety.
In 2005, the company posted a record annual net income of $880 million. In 2007, the company delivered its second-best-ever annual net income, while also embarking on a journey to become the indispensable choice for customers, agents and shareholders. This push is built around two practices surprisingly uncommon in the insurance industry: customer focus and innovative thinking.
Recent proof points include:
- The establishment of a new research and development unit, Open Seas. This unit is responsible for designing products and services that move beyond the traditional insurance marketplace like Teensurance™–a package of tools and technology for parents of teen drivers. Open Seas is testing several new products for introduction in 2008.
- The redesign of the company’s Claims and Customer Care operation, including the introduction pro-active calling to customers in disaster zones to make sure they’re safe and to begin the recovery process as quickly as possible.
- Establishment of the Safeco Insurance Foundation with a $90 million endowment, thereby ensuring the civic and community leadership the company has demonstrated during its 84 year history.
- The people of Safeco aspire to make the company an essential part of customers’and agents’ lives. By looking beyond the ordinary today, they will create a different kind of insurance experience for tomorrow.
Liberty Mutual Group
In September 2008, Safeco became part of Liberty Mutual Group. With the addition of Safeco, Liberty Mutual Group becomes the fifth largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S., with more than $32 billion in direct written premium based on 2007 results for both companies.