History of PEMCO Insurance

Owned by our customers since our start in 1949

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.

Robert J. Handy
Robert J. Handy
Founder, CEO from 1949‑1984

Continued growth and innovation, 1984-1998

Our founder Mr. Handy passed away Dec. 30, 1984, and Stanley O. McNaughton became PEMCO’s top executive, guiding it through more growth and innovation. In 1985, PEMCO booted up its first personal computers. In May 1988, PEMCO opened its first full-service regional office in Spokane, and a new regional office in Lynnwood followed in 1992.

PEMCO joined the online world on June 1, 1996, by launching its first website, and five months later employees began the widespread use of email. Fourteen years later technology would enable customers to start buying PEMCO policies online at pemco.com, in January 2010.

Stanley O. McNaughton
Stanley O. McNaughton
CEO from 1984‑1998

PEMCO Insurance today: committed to the Northwest, focused on relationships

Stanley O. McNaughton passed away Jan. 19, 1998, and PEMCO’s board soon named Stan W. McNaughton the top company executive. Today, Stan remains just the third CEO in company history.

PEMCO continued to evolve, always with a customer-centric business model that nurtures relationships. Consumers took note as PEMCO’s marketing presence grew with the “Rewarding Responsibility” ad campaign that launched in 2001. In 2007, PEMCO further bolstered its public profile by kicking off the popular Northwest-types campaign anchored by the tagline, “We’re a lot like you. A little different.”

PEMCO expanded beyond Washington for the first time on July 1, 2011, when it began offering property and casualty insurance to Oregon residents. Then PEMCO itself moved. In January 2016, PEMCO’s Seattle headquarters shifted from its 1949 birthplace on Eastlake Avenue to 1300 Dexter Avenue, about 1 mile away in the South Lake Union neighborhood. The new office is smaller and more efficient, made possible by new technology that supplants paper documents.

As different as we are individually, everyone at PEMCO shares a commitment to doing the right thing. It's who we are. By delivering unsurpassed customer service, anticipating our customers’ needs, and finding new ways to support them, we make a real difference to them – and those who we “meet by accident” – each and every day.

Stan W. McNaughton
Stan W. McNaughton
CEO from 1998 to present