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Allstate CEO not worried about Geico competition

By Noah Buhayar
Bloomberg News

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Allstate Corp. Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson, whose company lost car insurance market share in the last three years, said at an investor conference that competitor Geico could struggle to expand sales as it seeks to sell more policies at storefronts.

Allstate, which has regional operations based in Hudson, has an agency force selling its namesake brand, while its Esurance unit operates over the Internet.

Geico, the unit of renowned investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., won customers by focusing on direct sales and highlighting its low prices, then added agencies under its brand to boost sales.

“We’ve been there, done that,” Wilson said at the New York conference hosted by Barclays Plc. “It didn’t work for us.”

Wilson, 55, said Allstate’s purchase of Esurance in 2011 helped his business “box in” Geico by appealing to different groups of drivers with distinct brands and operations.

Investors have pushed the CEO to explain how he plans to maintain the company’s share of U.S. auto-insurance premiums as Buffett’s company and another Northeast Ohio-based company, Progressive Corp., expand.

Allstate’s share of the U.S. personal auto market slipped to 10 percent last year from 10.5 percent in 2009, according to data compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Berkshire climbed to 9.6 percent from 8.2 percent in the period.


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