Insurance companies are complex.
State Farm was founded in 1922 by retired farmer George J. Mecherle as a mutual automobile insurance company owned by its policyholders. The firm specialized in auto insurance for farmers, and later expanded its services into other types of insurance, such as homeowners and life insurance, and to banking and financial services.
The State Farm jingle (“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”) was written by American songwriter Barry Manilow in 1971. A cover was released by Weezer in 2011. In the 1960s State Farm’s first commercial jingle was originally created for The Jack Benny Program.
As of December 2013 State Farm had 65,000 employees and 18,000 agents. February 2014 figures show the group servicing 80 million policies in the United States and Canada, of which over 44,000,000 are for automobiles, 27,000,000 are for fire, 7,000,000 for life, and more than 2 million bank accounts.
All State is also in Canada.
In 1925, Sears held a national contest to decide the name of a new brand of car tires. After over two million name submissions, “Allstate” was chosen as the winner; the trademark was adopted the very next year. The tires’ success in both the catalog and retail stores prompted Sears Chairman General Robert E. Wood to praise the Allstate tire’s contribution to Sears’ retail store success.
The idea for Allstate Insurance Company came during a bridge game on a commuter train in 1930, when insurance broker Carl L. Odell proposed to Wood, his neighbor, the idea of selling auto insurance by direct mail. The idea appealed to Wood, and he passed the proposal to the Sears board of directors, which approved it. Allstate Insurance Company, named after Sears’ tire brand, went into business on April 17, 1931, offering auto insurance by direct mail and through the Sears catalog. This was in line with one of the objectives of a company to sell automobile insurance in the same manner as Sears sold its merchandise.
GEICO was founded in 1936 by Leo Goodwin Sr. and his wife Lillian Goodwin to provide auto insurance directly to federal government employees and their families. Since 1925, Goodwin had worked for USAA, an insurer which specialized in insuring only military personnel; he decided to start his own company after rising as far as a civilian could go in USAA’s military-dominated hierarchy. Based on Goodwin’s experience at USAA, GEICO’s original business model was predicated on the assumption that federal employees as a group would constitute a less risky and more financially stable pool of insureds, as opposed to the general public. Despite the presence of the word “government” in its name, GEICO has always been a private corporation not affiliated with any government organization.
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