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Allstate execs: Insurer prepping for growth after auto improvement plan success

Allstate Corp. intends to focus on growth now that it has more or less curbed the impact of the heightened frequency that its auto insurance business experienced over the previous months, executives said during an earnings call.

Chairman and CEO Tom Wilson II touted what he said were positive results of Allstate's auto improvement plan. That plan was put into place to stem potential impacts of deteriorating loss cost trends. He partly attributed the favorable results in the insurer's property-liability insurance business to the successful execution of the auto profit improvement plan.

Allstate's property-liability insurance premiums increased to $7.90 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016 from $7.68 billion in the prior-year quarter. In addition, the recorded property-liability combined ratio improved to 89.9% in the fourth quarter of 2016 from 92% in the year-ago quarter. The segment's underlying combined ratio in the most recent quarter was 87.7%, compared with 87.4% in the prior-year period.

"Auto profit improvement plans over the last two years have enabled us to focus in our growth for 2017, while being able to react to further auto loss cost increases," Wilson said.

President Matthew Winter said Allstate's rates in most states where it operates have finally caught up with the increased auto frequency that it experienced over the last 18 months.

"So, we don't know what this year will bring or next year, but we're now positioned very well in order to be able to react quickly and to keep up with trends as they emerge," the president said.

Regarding Allstate's growth plans, Winter said the insurer will now work on expanding its agency network. While executing its strategy for business growth, the insurer will also seek to limit retention losses that were caused by significant rate increases that were implemented in the second quarter of 2016.

"While we took a fair amount of criticism or questioning for reacting quickly about 18 months ago, I think that has been to our benefit. I think most, if not all of our competitors, have talked and recognized some increased frequency, and in many cases, are reacting only recently from a rate-taking perspective," Winter said.