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Founder and Chairman George Joseph leads 13-state, $4 billion operation with 'old-time' philosophy that's never been fresher.
Mercury Insurance sold its first policy in April 1962. The fledgling company had a very small office in the heart of Los Angeles, but its founder, George Joseph, had a very big vision of the future that still serves as a blueprint for today's insurance marketplace.
Joseph recognized that the insurance industry of the late '50s and early '60s wasn't fair for all drivers, and he thought it was time to start a company that provided affordable insurance for drivers of all risks. This simple concept sparked the inspiration for Mercury Insurance, as did Joseph's belief that if consumers were going to put their trust in a company, then they deserved the best service possible.
"The biggest change through the years has been that more and more is done electronically, which is great," says Joseph. "The business of insurance can be very complex and the digital era has certainly helped Mercury become highly efficient. But these breakthroughs and advancements are only the second most important part of our business. Number one is the way we value our customers and our agents' direct relationships with our policyholders.
"It's always been very important to me that we take care of our customers. At Mercury we establish personal relationships through our outstanding agents. They get to know families and become trusted friends and allies for many years. This personal touch is one of the things that elevate Mercury above our competitors."
Joseph's attention to personal service for the past 50 years has paid off as Mercury Insurance is now a $4 billion operation. Joseph, 90, still goes to the office every day, plays tennis twice a week and is Mercury's chairman of the board. And he still takes direct calls from policyholders when they have questions.
Book and music stores are nearly extinct, and good luck finding a full-service gas station, but in the business world – and throughout the insurance industry – Mercury puts people ahead of machines.
"Mercury was founded to provide lower rates by eliminating wasteful underwriting practices and insuring a wide spectrum of risks. We obviously didn't have computers to help us back when we started," says Joseph. "Our IT department consisted of two people. So the way we do business today has changed. Still, whether it's 1962 or 2012, one-on-one service and low rates are at the core of our success."
Mercury, named for the fast and nimble messenger of the Roman Gods, is still headquartered in LA and now has 6,700 agents in 13 states. Additionally, the company has been named by Forbes as one of America's Most Trustworthy Companies four times (including 2012) and carries A+ ratings from A.M. Best and Fitch.
"George Joseph is a true American success story," says Mercury CEO Gabe Tirador, who joined Mercury as an accountant directly out of college. "He grew up in rural West Virginia during the depression, flew 50 World War II bombing missions as a B-17 navigator, graduated Harvard on the GI Bill and built this company from scratch. He has risen from humble beginnings to become one of the most successful businessmen in the country, which is the embodiment of the American Dream.
"Some outsiders may think Mr. Joseph's philosophy of personal communications is antiquated in an era when so many personal services are being replaced by machines, but it permeates everything we do as a company. Mercury's 50th anniversary is a testament to Mr. Joseph's foresight, business acumen and tenacity. We still believe personal touches matter and this philosophy will continue to be a core principal in Mercury's future."