When Robert F. Driver started in the insurance business in downtown San Diego in 1925, he didn't even have a desk to call his own. Fast-forward 80 years and the situation is radically different.
Driver Alliant Insurance Services Inc. now has more than 700 employees, about 280 of which are in San Diego County. The company has grown organically but also as a result of mergers and takeovers. There have been more than 10 buyouts in the last 10 years, the latest being the merger of Robert F. Driver Co. with Alliant Resources Group Inc. in June 2001.
The merger expanded the business's scope, but the CEO and chairman Tom Corbett remained firmly in control. "We have assumed all the operations of Alliant," Corbett said.
Driver Alliant has its headquarter offices at 1620 Fifth Ave. in San Diego. The firm also has about 20 offices around the country as far east as Washington, D.C. Closer to home are satellite offices in Carlsbad, Escondido, Fresno, Irvine, Lodi, Newport Beach, Ontario, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Francisco.
And Corbett said he hopes to add at least three more offices in the near future, ranging from the west to the east coast.
Key members of the executive team fueling the expansion include Jerry Hall, chief operating officer; Greg Zimmer, chief financial officer; and Michael Simmons, vice chairman. One of the newer arrivals is Katherine Phillips, who has joined Driver Alliant as a broker in its commercial insurance practice. Phillips has joined the firm as a first vice president in the Westlake Village office and will be instrumental in expanding the firm's commercial lines.
Driver Alliant was ranked 14th nationally by Business Insurance in 2005 based on its nearly $2 billion premium volume. It posted about $200 million in commissions and sales activity last year, up from about $175 million in 2004.
While Corbett says he working for a "wonderful company," he concedes that this is not the easiest time to work in the insurance industry.
"Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma combined made 2005 the worst natural disaster year in history," Corbett said. "The total hit to the insurance industry will be north of $80 billion."