While Progressive Corp. generally performed well in Q3, Glenn Renwick, chairman, president and CEO of the Ohio property/casualty insurance giant, was starkly unhappy with the 14 percent drop in new agency auto applications compared to the same period in 2013. He didn’t mince words in a letter to shareholders that attempts to explain what happened.

The word “blunt” comes to mind.

“Agency auto growth is flat out disappointing. New applications that started this year well have fallen off notably since that early month or two, and retention has lagged the levels of improvement seen in the Direct auto product,” Renwick wrote. “We are acutely aware of the contributing reasons and are responding with product design, underwriting and ease-of-use modifications where it makes sense to do so.”

Renwick was quick to caution, however, that the changes will take time to produce results.

“Few of these changes will have dramatic short-term influence, but our commitment to this channel, and winning this channel, should not be underestimated,” Renwick said.

Progressive’s Agency Snapshot telematics program in Massachusetts offers a partial template of what might help turn things around – a device that drivers can install in their car to monitor their driving habits. Customers are promised discounts in exchange for safe driving habits.

“Last quarter, I reported that Agency Snapshot acceptance in Massachusetts, our recent state entry which continues to gain momentum, was notably higher with the product design changes we had been planning and chose to “in-market” test there,” Renwick noted in his letter. “We expect to roll-out changes modeled on that design to other states, starting late this year and throughout 2015.”

Declines in new agency auto applications aside, Progressive generated an impressive $296 million in net income during the 2014 third quarter, versus $232.4 million over the 2013 third quarter. Net premiums earned surpassed $4.5 billion, up from $4.3 billion in the same year-ago period. Investment income came in at $101.7 million during the period, but that’s a dip from $107.4 million in the 2013 third quarter. The combined ratio hit 92.5, versus 94.2 last year.

Here are further details from Progressive’s Q3 2014 results:

Personal Lines

Net premiums written came in at nearly $4.27 billion, up from over $4 billion in the 2013 third quarter. Net premiums earned landed at $4 billion, compared to over $3.85 billion last year. The combined ratio hit 93.8, slightly worse than 94.1 in the 2013 third quarter.

Commercial Lines

Net premiums written surpassed $463.4 million, a slight uptick from $437.6 million generated in the 2013 third quarter. Net premiums earned are at $456 million for the quarter, compared to $446.8 million over the same period last year. The combined ratio hit 81.4, versus 94.1 in the 2013 third quarter.

Topics Auto