1934: Birth of the Chicago Branch Office
The Chicago Branch got its unofficial start in 1934, with Gordon Nelson supervising underwriting and one stenographer comprising the staff who reported to the Home Office.
Chicago production was handled by two local independent agencies, Allied and Magill, which were located in the Insurance Exchange Building across the street from EMC’s office in the Insurance Center Building.
In 1937, the office was officially recognized as EMC’s Chicago Branch. Safety Engineer Lawrence “Larry” Pye had been added to help Illinois business grow, and a Chicago service office was established to handle underwriting, claims and inspections. At this time, W.J. Hynes was the manager of the service office. In the midst of World War II, Hynes mailed a mimeographed weekly bulletin to 30 EMC employees who were serving on the front. For 165 weeks, he relayed this bulletin, which was filled with information, compassion and humor.
1950s/60s: New Building, New Business
By 1954, the agency force grew to 170 as more agencies were appointed outside the Chicago area. In 1967, the office moved from Chicago to Oak Brook, and into a building that fit the more modern office prototype. This new Chicago office was one of the first to be designed under EMC’s uniform building program. During the first decade in the new office, premium grew from just over $5 million to nearly $20 million.
1970s/80s: EMCASCO Forms
In 1976, Illnois EMCASCO Insurance Company was formed as an Illinois-domiciled company, wholly owned by EMC. Illinois tax policies allowed lower premiums for businesses within the state, making policies more attractive to policyholders and easier for producers to sell. By 1989, business in the metropolitan area had been allowed to decline, a third of the branch’s business had moved to Central and Southern Illinois and ties with Allied were discontinued. Chicago business became primarily commercial, the remaining amount shifting to personal.
2011: Strength, Stability, Service
Today, the Chicago Branch has 47 employees working under Branch Manager Gary Kohnke. They serve 129 agencies, and their book of business is 89 percent commercial lines and 11 percent personal lines. The branch’s written premium for 2010 was more than $37 million.