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Allstate increases agency count for first time since 2007

By Alexandria Baca
Bloomberg News

Allstate Corp., the largest publicly traded U.S. home and auto insurer that has a large regional office in Hudson, increased its agency count for the first time since 2007 as the company targeted growth beyond the East Coast to diversify risk.

The insurer said it had 11,600 Allstate-exclusive agencies and financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada as of Dec. 31, an increase of 400 from a year earlier. Locations served by exclusive agencies increased to 9,300 from 9,000, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson has turned his focus to expansion after spending years reducing sales to homeowners in states such as New York and Florida. Allstate had as many as 15,000 exclusive agencies and financial representatives in 2007.

“They see opportunities now where there’s really parts of the map, or areas within certain regions, where they feel like that’s a good underwriting environment,” said Mark Dwelle, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Allstate plans to add 120 agency owners in Texas this year, including about 36 in the Houston region, where the company also intends to recruit about 240 people to its licensed sales staff, the insurer said Feb. 18. The insurer has also targeted growth in Utah and Nevada. Building business in such states may allow the company to increase sales in coastal regions where growth was constrained amid concern that risk was too concentrated, the company has said.

Allstate had 6.08 million homeowner policies in force at its namesake brand as of Dec. 31, the same figure as three months earlier. It was the first time the company avoided a quarter-over-quarter decrease since at least 2010.

Wilson sees agency locations as a way to build relationships with customers who need multiple insurance products and prefer face-to-face interaction.

For years Allstate lost market share in the auto market to Mayfield Village-based Progressive Corp. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico unit, which focus on sales through the Internet.

Wilson bought Esurance in 2011 to target customers who prefer to shop online.

Allstate also has been highlighting coverage for renters and commercial clients in its advertising.


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