Long-serving Progressive CEO dies

Long-serving Progressive CEO dies | Insurance Business

Long-serving Progressive CEO dies
The man who helmed Progressive Insurance for 35 years died Saturday at the age of 80. Peter B. Lewis passed away in his home in Coconut Grove, Fla., the company confirmed.

Progressive President and CEO Glenn Renwick will take over as chairman of the board in addition to his other duties.

Progressive was just a small-time operation running out of Mayfield Village, Ohio when Lewis took the helm at age 45. Today, it is one of the largest auto insurers in the country and made its leader a billionaire.

“The history of Progressive is very much the history that Peter Lewis laid down,” Renwick said. “He really was a special person, there’s no doubt about that.”

Lewis was appointed CEO of Progressive in 1965, taking over from his father, who co-founded the company in 1937. Renwick said a willingness to take risks in order to grow was the hallmark of Lewis’s time with Progressive.

When he retired in 2000, Lewis had helped Progressive implement many of the services that would later lead to its huge market share: direct selling online, concierge claims services, a telematics program, using clients’ credit histories in underwriting, and the industry’s first website featuring rate comparisons.

Lewis wasn’t just popular with his own company. In 2012, he was named one of the 25 “Living Legends of Insurance” by National Underwriter Property & Casualty. His philosophy was that because auto insurance consumers disliked their insurers, quality customer service and easily accessible agents would give Progressive a competitive edge.

While Lewis predicted the end of the independent agent and broker business, he allowed that producers still have an important role in the auto insurance space.

“The independent agent today has something to offer and still produces over half our business,” Lewis told National Underwriter. “They are more efficient in certain circumstances than a direct writer can be, and there is something about auto insurance that makes people like having an agent in between them and [their carrier].”

When Lewis died, he was worth an estimated $1.4bn and was helping to back legislation for the legalization of marijuana.