1921 With $30,000 in borrowed funds and three employees, Robert S. Pein established the first home office casualty company in Columbus, Ohio, writing business in a rented room at 257 East Broad Street. The fledgling company wrote only auto insurance in its early years. As one might expect, in the early '20s, the insurance industry left much to be desired in terms of rates and claims. Undeterred, Pein set forth to ensure that State Auto would be different. He pledged to State Auto policyholders reasonable rates, along with prompt and satisfactory service in the settlement of all claims. Pein also relied on independent agents to assure the best and most efficient policyholder service. Independent insurance agents are still today our one-and-only distribution method.
1925 State Auto had grown so fast in its first four years, it had to move twice to larger facilities. In 1925, State Auto began writing “non-assessable policies” wherein policyholders would not be assessed additional fees should losses become too great. This innovative policy required the company to deposit an amount at least equal to that required of a stock insurer incorporated for issuing full legal reserve policies.
1926 In order to facilitate better communications with agents and employees, a monthly publication called The Pein Tree was created. Leroy "Pop" Schnell was the first editor. During the late 1920s, State Auto adopted the Protective Giant advertising symbol, used on all policies and promotional materials. These were exciting years, but State Auto would soon face its greatest challenge. The 1929 stock market crash and Great Depression would test the very foundation on which this young, growing company was built.
At left: State Auto founder Robert S. Pein.