PEMCO, the Northwest’s largest homegrown provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance, has grown from humble beginnings to serve well over half a million neighbors across Washington and Oregon.
Robert J. Handy, a Seattle journalism and math teacher, founded PEMCO Insurance in 1949. Originally its purpose was to provide car insurance for teachers who were members of the credit union that Handy had started years earlier.
Handy had been supplementing his income by working for a general insurance agency owned by a friend. He sold auto insurance to educators who came to the credit union for new car loans. In 1949, Handy founded Public Employees Mutual Insurance Company (PEMIC), a precursor to Public Employees Mutual Casualty Company (PEMCO), to offer fire and burglary insurance for homes and automobile collision, comprehensive, fire, and theft insurance.
Handy understood the power of people helping people. He established PEMCO as a mutual company where customers pool their money to share risk with other customers. Mutuals are owned by their customers – not stockholders – so PEMCO serves you, not Wall Street.
In 1950, Handy incorporated PEMCO to write liability insurance. In 1977, PEMCO merged into PEMIC after a change in state law no longer required separate companies for property and liability insurance.
In 1963, Handy started PEMCO Life Insurance Company to sell low-cost life insurance to credit union members. PEMCO Life later was sold to Sagicor Life, in 2012.
PEMCO got its first computer, an IBM mainframe, in 1968. That’s also when PEMCO began donating 5% of its net taxable income each year to charities, through its foundation.