The Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO /ˈɡaɪkoʊ/) is an American auto insurance company with headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It is the second largest auto insurer in the United States, after State Farm. GEICO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway that provides coverage for more than 24 million motor vehicles owned by more than 15 million policy holders as of 2017. GEICO writes private passenger automobile insurance in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The insurance agency sells policies through local agents, called GEICO Field Representatives, over the phone directly to the consumer, and through their website. Its mascot is a gold dust day gecko with a Cockney accent, voiced by English actor Jake Wood. GEICO is well known in popular culture for its advertising, having made a large number of commercials intended to entertain viewers.
In 1974 under Kreeger’s leadership, GEICO began to insure the general public after real-time access to computerized driving records became available throughout the United States. At this time, GEICO was briefly the fifth-largest U.S. auto insurer. By 1975, it was clear that GEICO had expanded far too rapidly (during the 1973–75 recession) when it reported a $126.5 million USD loss.
To prevent GEICO from collapsing, a consortium of 45 insurance companies agreed to take over a quarter of its policies, and it was forced to issue a stock offering (thus diluting existing stockholders) to raise money to pay claims. It took five years (during which the company shrank significantly) and a massive reorganization to set GEICO on the path to recovery.
GEICO has also offered other types of insurance besides auto, including homeowner’s insurance from 1962 to 1996. A sister company, the Government Employees Life Insurance Company (GELICO), offered life insurance from 1975 to 1985. Although GEICO has since focused on its core auto insurance competency (selling GELICO to Legal & General), it uses its established direct sales infrastructure to market homeowner’s and other types of insurance underwritten by other companies.