Allstate Insurance Co. (ALL), a $25 billion insurer whose revenue grows at a steady if unremarkable 2-4% annually, is the largest publicly traded insurer in the United States. Like its contemporaries on the list of largest insurers, Allstate sells policies that cover multiple contingencies: homes, lives, cars, etc. About three-quarters of Allstate’s business is in homeowners’ and other property liability coverage.
People only rarely slip and fall on their neighbors’ lawns, but the fear of having it happen (or more precisely, of the American legal system impoverishing the lawn owner) is enough to generate $28 billion in annual sales for Allstate. There’s a reason why most of these policies are sold to people with plenty to lose. Such policies are considered “umbrella” insurance, which goes beyond, say, the property insurance that normally is sold with a house. Without umbrella insurance, a particularly motivated litigant could clean out your 401(k) and other assets. (For more, see: Should You Invest in Insurance Stocks?)
Only the Names Have Changed
Allstate is the parent company of Esurance Insurance Services, having acquired the discount auto insurance broker in 2011. That’s in addition to more than a dozen other sub-agencies Allstate owns, most of them branded with some variation of the Allstate name (Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, etc.)
For customers less beholden to brands, Allstate offers…two more brands. Encompass Insurance Company and Answer Financial Inc. are two other wholly owned subsidiaries of Allstate, the latter purchased as part of the Esurance deal. Answer Financial sells policies online like Esurance does, while Encompass is for that dwindling segment of the population that prefers doing business in brick-and-mortar offices whenever possible for some reason. Regardless of said measured preferences, 91% of Allstate policies still carry the Allstate brand. Esurance accounts for about 5%.
4 Types of Insurance Everyone Needs
Insurance and Then Some
Practically speaking, all of Allstate’s business falls into one of two categories: Protection (which is to say, most insurance except life), and Financial (life insurance, along with services such as retirement planning and banking.) Protection accounted for $30 billion in premium revenue last year. (For related reading on the life insurance industry, see: For Life Insurers, Making Money is a Numbers Game.)
Allstate might be the biggest publicly held company of its kind, but that doesn’t make it the largest insurance company, period. In the two major non-life insurance categories – auto and home – Allstate is either 2nd or a close 3rd. Usually State Farm Insurance is still America’s largest auto insurer with 18% of the market. Allstate is neck-and-neck with Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK-A) Government Employee Insurance Company, better known as GEICO, each at around 10%. State Farm holds 20% of the home insurance market, with Allstate right behind at 9%. (For more, see: How Insurance Companies Detect Insurance Scams.)
Allstate is primarily an American company, although it does sell some policies in Eastern Canada under yet another Allstate-branded subsidiary. Geographically, Allstate’s biggest markets correlate strongly but not exactly with the most populous states. The company earns 10.6% of its domestic revenue in California, 10.1% in Texas, making the latter the largest market for Allstate on a per-capita basis. (Unsurprisingly, the 3rd- and 4th- most populous states, Florida and New York, are next in line.) (For related reading, see: Why You Should Always Bet on Berkshire Hathaway.)
Allstate Financial’s biggest product is life insurance, but it also sells other, less publicized types of insurance, such as workplace life and voluntary accident insurance, or dental and hospital indemnity policies. Voluntary accident insurance closes the gap for employees who get incapacitated on the job, beyond the health insurance that ought to take care of their medical bills. Health insurance is a relief to have in such an instance, but it won’t pay for your mortgage nor your grocery bill. Rather than leave such vagaries up to chance, some employees opt for voluntary accident insurance instead. In 2015, the company started selling voluntary accident and health policies in Canada, too. (For related reading, see: Life Insurers and Millennials: Strange Bedfellows?)
Everyone assumes that life insurance is a big part of the Allstate product line, but relative to its competitors, life insurance isn’t that important to Allstate. (Which follows, given how much of Allstate’s revenue comes from auto and home insurance.) Allstate is only the 16th-biggest life insurer in the United States. (For more, see: Allstate's Good Hands Gone Bad?)
The Bottom Line
Companies such as Allstate can calculate with pinpoint accuracy how often its customers are going to crash into another car, die, be hospitalized, or suffer other related misfortunes. That’s why insurance will remain a viable business for a long time, and why Allstate has managed to spend generations as one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. (For more, see: Top 10 Insurance Companies by the Metrics.)