Three years ago, Allstate snatched up direct-to-consumer insurer Esurance, and made it a wholly owned subsidiary, in a bid to reach younger customers through its vast online self-directed consumer portal. To date, the results for the brand as part of Allstate remain mixed. Still, executives insist that they’re making progress.
“We’re happy with they progress they have been making but they’re not where they need to be yet,” Tom Wilson, Allstate’s chairman, president and CEO, said during the company’s 2014 first quarter earnings call on May 7. “That said, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to continue to invest and compete aggressively because the returns are still above our cost of capital.”
To be sure, Allstate is investing hard in growing Esurance. As of December 2013, for example, Esurance began underwriting homeowners coverage in Wisconsin with plans to expand to other states, adding to its far-reaching consumer auto insurance business already in place. During the 2014 first quarter, Esurance grew insurance policies in force by 21.1 percent over the 2013 first quarter, a move the company attributes to “profit improvement actions” and a new winter advertising campaign.
But Esurance’s combined ratio reached a whopping 127.1 in the 2014 first quarter (and an underlying combined ratio of 124.2), due to a larger investment in advertising and an “adverse impact of severe winter weather.”
Even so, “the combined ratio is about where we expected it,” Wilson said, though he notrf that Allstate wants all of its brands to make adequate returns on capital.
Don Civgin, president and CEO Allstate Financial, reiterated Allstate’s Esurance strategy, and said it fits in context with its combined ratio as it now stands.
“Our strategy with Esurance is to grow the business as fast as possible while maintaining positive economics over the lifetime of the business we’re running,” he said. “We’ve talked about this many times before, but that’s by definition going to be reflected in a higher GAAP combined ratio, which you saw again this quarter.”
Civgin said Esurance experienced “a pretty exciting quarter” and that it has built on a number of things it has been pursuing involving the “customer value proposition,” and has added to its advantage as a result.
“They continue to be the only direct multiline carrier with the addition of motorcycle homeowners. They continue to build out their features, which are making their products differentiated from their competitors and they continue to improve the ease of doing business,” Civgin said.
Past ad campaigns have focused on Esurance and which customers it serves, Civgin said during the earnings call. He added that the past quarter’s advertising campaign targeted Esurance’s ability to provide a coverage quote on its web site in 7.5 minutes.
“By all measures,” Civgin said, “the campaign has worked quite well.”