What a Year! Each year when I choose the theme for the annual report, I have an internal debate with myself over the exact right word or words to help describe that given year. That did not happen this year. I knew very early on that “Resilience” was the perfect expression of 2020.
In March 2020, when the first of hundreds of conversations with my team began, we knew that times such as these required a cogent plan with a lot of flexibility as the pandemic unfolded. I imagine that many companies did not have a clear blueprint for managing through these extraordinary events, including the social unrest that soon followed, and scrambled to react to the incoming obstacles. Thankfully, our guidance is very clear and led by our five Core Values. As we made decisions that would impact our employees, customers, agents, communities, and shareholders, we reflected on always striving to do the right thing given the circumstances. Through our newly created Apron Relief Program, a nod to our iconic apron that stands for hard work, progress, and protection, we provided support for our constituents knowing that every dollar of assistance would help to ease their burden.
It was clear early on that shelter-in-place orders would limit vehicle miles driven and we saw that happen in April when miles driven reached its nadir. Since then, miles driven have varied based on specific state restrictions and expansion and contraction of COVID-19 cases. That said, early on we knew that the right thing to do, following our Golden Rule core value, was to provide $1.1 billion of relief quickly in the form of credits to our personal auto policyholders. We normally like to be more surgical when approaching a problem, but we knew that time was of the essence. In addition, from April through December, we filed personal auto rate changes that averaged a decrease of approximately 3% in over 40 states that represent approximately 85% of our countrywide personal auto premium, thereby providing our customers aggregate annualized savings estimated at $800 million. Also, during the first couple of months of the pandemic, we granted billing leniency, where we did not cancel policies for nonpayments, and gave options to customers who needed our assistance with paying their premiums. I’ve heard directly from many customers regarding how appreciative they were with how they have been treated during this tumultuous time. I could go on and on, but I thought that sharing this email from a claim representative helps to show how we think about the customers that we are so privileged to serve.
“Good morning Progressive family! I recently had a claim where I had to total a car our insured was living inside with his young daughter and it broke my heart. After shedding a tear (many tears), it immediately reminded me of how important our jobs are here at Progressive. How every interaction we have with our customers is an opportunity for us to make a positive impact in our customers’ lives. While we couldn’t do anything about their car, we were able to walk them through a difficult situation they knew little about.
So, if you’re having a bad day, stressed out, or are going through something yourself, it is always good to stop… take a deep breath… and remind yourself about the golden rule to treat our customers like they are family.”
This email also reminds us that homelessness happens for many reasons and is always tragic, especially so during a global pandemic. Along with donating to causes to help curb homelessness, in 2019 we decided to partner with a non-profit organization, Humble Design, to address this societal issue.
This new relationship extends our community outreach platform to include furnishing homes for the homeless, in addition to our annual veteran vehicle giveaways through our Keys to Progress® program. Humble Design’s mission is to serve individuals, families, and veterans emerging from homelessness by furnishing empty homes with donated furniture and household goods. Statistics show that approximately 50% of homeless families placed in permanent housing return to shelters within 12 months. According to Humble Design, its transformation of empty houses into warm and welcoming homes has reduced that number to less than 1% for the more than 1,500 homes transformed since its inception in 2009. Humble Design’s dedication to helping homeless families move forward aligns very well with Progressive’s commitment to making progress and continuously striving to do better.
Despite the COVID pandemic and with our assistance, Humble Design established a Cleveland presence in 2020—setting up its fifth local operation (they also have locations in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, and Seattle). By mid-summer, Progressive employees were helping them fill the Cleveland warehouse with furnishings and household goods to enable Humble Design Cleveland to serve several local families through either curbside delivery of furniture and needed household items or a full home design experience (called “home decos”).
Humble Design is on pace to do at least one curbside delivery or full home deco throughout Cleveland weekly throughout 2021. Providing funding for expansion into other cities where Progressive operates is under consideration as we better understand the pandemic situation and the local needs of the homeless population in those communities.
As if a pandemic headwind wasn’t enough, as a country we encountered many tragic events during 2020 that highlighted the need for Progressive to make an even greater commitment to equality. I highlighted some of our initiatives in my third quarter letter to shareholders and thought it was important to reiterate our assurance that we will aggressively work on the following:
- maintaining a fair and inclusive work environment
- contributing to our communities
- reflecting the customers we serve
- having our leadership reflect the people they lead
We know that when people can bring their whole selves to work, we all benefit and it just makes work seem a lot less like, well work. Having been at Progressive for over 33 years, it has been a joy to be a part of getting the company to where it is with our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, and I’m thrilled to lead, alongside the entire Progressive leadership team, the next wave of objectives. Make no mistake that we still have much work to do, and our commitment has never been stronger.
Creating a better future for our employees, agents, communities, shareholders, and the millions of customers who trust us to protect what’s most important to them is very important to us. Recently, we published our inaugural Corporate Sustainability Report. We’ve made considerable progress over the years, and we believe now is the time to publicly share what we’ve accomplished and the work that lies ahead of us. Please take the time to view the report on our Investor Website at progressive.com/sustainability.