GEICO headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland
Fort Worth, Texas, United States
|Founders||Leo Goodwin Sr.
|Headquarters||Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States|
|Tony Nicely (CEO)|
|Revenue||US$9.212 billion (2004)|
Number of employees
The Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO ) is an American auto insurance company headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It is the second largest auto insurer in the United States, after State Farm. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway that as of 2017 provided coverage for more than 24 million motor vehicles owned by more than 15 million policy holders. GEICO writes private passenger automobile insurance in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. GEICO sells its policies through local agents, called GEICO Field Representatives, over the phone directly to the consumer, and through their website. Its mascot is a gold dust day gecko with a Cockney accent, voiced by English actor Jake Wood. GEICO is well known in popular culture for its advertising, having made a large number of commercials intended to entertain viewers.
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.
In 1937, the Goodwins relocated GEICO from San Antonio, Texas to Washington, D.C. and reincorporated the company as a D.C. corporation after realizing that their business model would work best in the place with the highest concentration of federal employees.
An important figure in GEICO's history is David Lloyd Kreeger, who became president of the company in 1964 and helped steer it into a major insurance enterprise. In 1948, he formed a group of investors who bought into GEICO right before it went public that year. He became senior vice president and general counsel of the company. Six years after becoming president of GEICO in 1964, he was named chairman and chief executive officer. He retained those titles until he retired in 1975. He continued as chairman of the executive committee until 1979, when he was named honorary chairman.
In 1974, under Kreeger's leadership, GEICO began to insure the general public, after real-time access to computerized driving records became available throughout the United States, and it was briefly the fifth-largest U.S. auto insurer. By 1975, it was clear that GEICO had expanded far too rapidly (during the 1973-75 recession) when it reported a $126.5 million loss. To prevent GEICO from collapsing, a consortium of 45 insurance companies agreed to take over a quarter of its policies, and it was forced to issue a stock offering (thus diluting existing stockholders) to raise money to pay claims. It took five years (during which the company shrank significantly) and a massive reorganization to set GEICO on the path to recovery.
GEICO has also offered other types of insurance besides auto, including homeowner's insurance from 1962 to 1996. A sister company, the Government Employees Life Insurance Company (GELICO), offered life insurance from 1975 to 1985. Although GEICO has since focused on its core auto insurance competency (selling GELICO to Legal & General), it uses its established direct sales infrastructure to market homeowner's and other types of insurance underwritten by other companies.
GEICO generally deals directly with consumers via telephone and internet; however, the local agent program has more than 150 offices countrywide. GEICO is now the second-largest writer of private auto insurance in the United States.
After several years of denying claims and even canceling policies for policyholders that used their personal car for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, GEICO began offering rideshare coverage in select states in 2015, including in high-population states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Georgia. The policy, which is issued through GEICO's commercial department, has received praise from insurance experts and quickly launched GEICO as the largest insurance provider for TNC drivers.
GEICO has many well-known ad campaigns. In 2012 GEICO spent over $1.1 billion in advertising, or 6.8% of its revenue. All are made and produced by The Martin Agency, which is based in Richmond, Virginia. GEICO ads have featured several well-known mascots, including:
There are also GEICO ads that feature stories from GEICO customers about situations in which the company assisted them, but are translated by celebrities like Little Richard and Joan Rivers. Film trailer announcer Don LaFontaine appeared in one such ad, shortly before his death. The tag announcer for these spots was D. C. Douglas. GEICO is also an official sponsor of the National Hockey League and themed commercials for that always feature members of the hometown Washington Capitals.
GEICO has long been involved in motorsports sponsorships. Since 2008, the company has sponsored the Germain Racing team, first in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Mike Wallace, and later in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Max Papis and Casey Mears. Ty Dillon, grandson of racing legend Richard Childress, began driving the #13 GEICO Chevrolet in the 2017 season.
GEICO's major competitors include Amica Mutual Insurance, Liberty Mutual Insurance, State Farm, Allstate, 21st Century Insurance, Reliance Partners, Progressive, Nationwide Insurance, and United Services Automobile Association.
In December 2016, a federal Miami jury awarded $2.7 million to a family who sued the company, claiming the company acted in bad faith.
In November 2015, a jury in Miami awarded a family $14.5 million after they sued the company for bad faith.
In October 2015, the Consumer Federation of California successfully sued the company for $6 million after alleged discrimination based on occupation, education level, and other personal characteristics.
In October 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a verdict against the company for over $700k in a breach of contract suit.
In 2013, Tony Dane of Las Vegas successfully sued the company for breach of contract following the theft of his car in which GEICO denied his claim, accused him of stealing his own vehicle and put a private investigator on him. He feared he may have lost custody of his children. His original attorney dropped him, so he pursued the case pro se and won, gaining a verdict from a jury.
In December 2010, the family of John Potts, a man who was killed in a traffic accident by a GEICO customer, successfully sued the company for $8.48 million after the company refused to pay an adequate settlement following the crash.