Safeco Eyes Direct Sales Plans

Safeco Corp. is looking at alternative ways to market and sell policies as part of a plan to help turn around the struggling Seattle insurer. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Wednesday that Safeco could move into direct marketing.

According to the paper, Mike McGavick, who took over as the company’s top officer in January, made the comment responding to a question after a speech at the Association of Insurance and Financial Analysts annual conference in San Diego. McGavick emphasized, however, that agents would still be the main sales force driving the 78-year-old company, the paper reported.

“We are committed to the independent agency system,” the Post-Intelligencer reported him as saying. “It’s also in the best interest of Safeco to pursue alternative distribution. …Ten years from now – even if every distribution system we explore is wildly successful -I believe agents will sell more than 90 percent of our insurance products.”

During his speech, McGavick also said Safeco has limited its exposure to earthquake claims by issuing fewer policies and raising the deductibles on those it does sell. At present, he said, only 8.5 percent of Safeco’s Washington state customers with homeowner’s insurance, or 19,000 homes, have earthquake insurance policies.

The company announced today that it has extended its moratorium on writing new earthquake policies from 10 to 30 days for its personal insurance customers.

“This matches the moratorium currently in effect for our SAFECO Business Insurance enterprise,” said Claudette Kenmir, SAFECO’s regional manager of personal insurance. “We believe this is a sensible and responsible business decision in line with peer companies in our marketplace.”