Allstate Corp. Chairman and CEO Thomas Wilson assured investors this week that the insurer is working hard to improve its automobile combined ratio, which spiked six points to 101.4 in the 2015 second quarter. He was hard pressed, however, to give a precise time frame as to how long the process would take.
“It is hard to say,” Wilson said during a webcast of his company’s presentation at the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference. “If miles driven go up and people drive more, then the price [and time frame] goes up. If frequency flattens out, then it won’t take as long.”
“What I do know,” Wilson assured investors, “is that as frequency and severity goes up, we will raise our prices and figure out how to make more money. This is a blip here.”
He added he hopes to return the combined ratio to the “95-96 zone”–where it was before the number spiked earlier this year.
Allstate, the largest publicly traded U.S. auto and home insurer, took a big hit to its net income with its 2015 second quarter. Net income declined to $355 million, or 79 cents per share. That’s compared to $655 million, or $1.39 per share, over the same period last year.
That impact largely came from a surge in automobile coverage claims. At the same time, however, property/liability net written premium hit $7.9 billion, up 4.4 percent due to a jump in Allstate brand premium. Auto net written premium for Allstate also grew by nearly 5 percent, driven by higher average premium and an increase in policies in force.
Wilson argued that a variety of factors boosted the combined ratio, not all of them due to more drivers and accidents they cause.
“People have been driving more, and as they drive more there are more accidents. As there are more accidents, it costs more to repair cars, so your severity goes up a little bit,” Wilson said.
He added that the company also changed its pension plan over a year ago to make it more equal among employees, which left about 600 claim employees taking retirement. That had an impact, too, he said.
“A lot of people retired at the same time, we had to hire a lot more people at the same time [and] we got a bunch more accidents,” Wilson said during the webcast. “As a result of that, claims effectiveness deteriorated a little bit.”
He added that there are a few other expense-related issues that let to the results, but Allstate “will cut those extra expenses out.”
“None of those will have any impact on the long-term growth trajectory,” Wilson said. “We’re still earning a good combined ratio, and a good return on capital.”