During an investor conference on Monday, the chief financial officer of Allstate confirmed that the company isn’t ready to ramp up its marketing spend to grow its personal auto book just yet, even though competitor Progressive is doing just that.
Speaking at the Raymond James Annual Institutional Investors conference, Allstate CFO Jess Merten declined to make a call on exactly when that would occur at his company, in response to a question from an analyst that did not identify Progressive by name as the competitor already moving in that direction.
“What I will say is we’re watching closely the way that actual results will emerge this year. When we start to see the whites of the eyes of auto insurance profitability, we’ll start to look to pivot toward growth,” Merten said.
Merten stressed that the future pivot back to growth mode for Allstate will involve a multichannel distribution strategy—a departure from the past. “When we start to see profitability, we’ll be able to turn things back on in a more granular way through our more robust direct channel. We’ve got the Allstate agents, [and] turning that system around takes a lot longer than it does in direct…And we’re building out in IAs as well,” he said referring to the independent agency channel as a complement to strong direct and Allstate agency channels.
“What I feel good about is when auto profitability is back to our target, we’re going to be able to move and grow market share more quickly. That would include, of course, investment in marketing. But we’re not going to pull the marketing lever until we feel good we’ve got the profitability where it needs to be…”
“That’s the priority for us right now—to get profitability at the right level. Then we’ll start to invest in marketing, which will drive the growth through all three channels,” he said.
“I just feel really excited that we have all those channels available in a different way than we’ve had in cycles [when Allstate had] other profitability challenges.”
The bulk of the financial officer’s prepared remarks centered on the financial strength of Allstate, explaining a $7 billion drop in capital position in 2022—$3 billion related to a sale of life businesses, $3 billion related to cash returns to shareholders (dividends and share repurchases representing a portion of prior-year earnings), and $1 billion related to the decline in statutory results (partly attributable to auto underwriting losses last year)—and the fact that Allstate Insurance Company’s $12.2 billion of statutory surplus remained at twice the company-action level from insurance regulators’ risk-based capital model.