Farmers' future co-founders John C. Tyler and Thomas E. Leavey first met after Tyler moved to California. Tyler and Leavey had both grown up with rural backgrounds and believed that farmers and ranchers, who had better driving records than urbanites, deserved lower insurance premiums. During the 1920s, farmers across the United States were establishing their own mutual insurance firms and cooperatives in order to have less expensive policies. Tyler, the son of a South Dakotan insurance salesman, and Leavey, who had formerly worked for the Federal Farm Loan Bureau and the National Farm Loan Association, recognized that these farmers, ranchers, and other rural drivers were an overlooked market and wished to create their own auto insurance firm.
Tyler and Leavey received a loan from the founder of Bank of America, enabling them to start their company.
Tyler and Leavey opened the doors to their newly founded company, Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange, in downtown Los Angeles, California. Tyler served as president with Leavey as vice president. A sales manager and secretary completed the four-employee team.
On March 28, 1928, the first meeting of the board of governors was convened. Two days later, Charles Brisco insured his 1925 Cadillac Phaeton and became the first Farmers customer.
Truck Insurance Exchange, a new reciprocal insurer, was launched to specialize in truck insurance.
Farmers Insurance Exchange was named the leading reciprocal in earned premiums for auto insurance by National Underwriter.
New headquarters building to house the Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange and Truck Insurance Exchange, designed by Walker & Eisen in the Moderne style, opens on Wilshire Boulevard. Architects Claud Beelman & Herman Spackler add 4 floors and a seventh-floor garden terrace for staff in 1949.
Fire Insurance Exchange, the third reciprocal insurer, was launched, specializing in home insurance.
Mid-Century Insurance Company became a subsidiary of the Farmers Insurance Exchange. Aside from the insurance coverage provided by the original three exchanges, Mid-Century offered insurance coverage for Inland marine, robbery, burglary, personal lines, plate glass, selected bonds, and floaters.
Seattle-based New World Life Insurance Company was acquired by Farmers.
Farmers began annual participation in the Pasadena Rose Parade, launching its involvement in parades and community events nationwide.
John C. Tyler died at the age of 86. Thomas E. Leavey, the remaining co-founder, took the CEO position.
Thomas E. Leavey retired.
After an eight-month takeover battle, BATUS Inc., the American subsidiary of British conglomerate B.A.T. Industries Plc, acquired Farmers Group, Inc. for $5.2 billion and became the sole stockholder of the company's 68 million shares of common stock.
- 1989, 1991, and 1994
Multiple, large-scale disasters posed financial challenges to Farmers Insurance. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake, 1991 Oakland fire, and 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake were the three most significant disasters. It was estimated that the losses from the Northridge earthquake alone were $1.3 billion.
In September 1998, the Zurich Financial Services Group was created from the merger with the financial services business of B.A.T. Industries for $18.6 Billion through a dual holding structure.
2000 to present
In March 2000, the Farmers Exchanges acquired Foremost Corporation of America (Foremost Insurance Group), a leading writer of manufactured homes and a prominent insurer of recreational vehicles, boats and other specialty lines.
In August 2000, Farmers Financial Solutions registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a broker-dealer. Through it, Farmers began offering mutual fund and variable insurance products.
In October 2000, the Zurich structure was simplified and unified under a single Swiss holding company. Allied Zurich and Zurich Allied shares were replaced by shares of the newly incorporated Zurich Financial Services with a primary listing on SWX Swiss Exchange (ticker symbol: ZURN) and a secondary listing in London. Zurich Financial Services American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) are traded on the American Stock Exchange.
In 2005, after Hurricane Rita hit Beaumont, Texas, leaving it without power, Farmers Insurance brought in almost 300 insurance adjusters to assess exterior property damage in order to expedite the reconstruction effort, provided $100,000 for the emergency operations center, and two badly needed megawatt electric generators.
In July 2007, the Farmers Exchanges acquired Bristol West Holdings, Inc., the parent of a group of insurers specializing in non-standard auto insurance, which provides insurance coverage for drivers whose driving records or other problems make obtaining insurance difficult.
During the October 2007 California wildfires, Farmers was one of only a few companies to set up facilities to aid their customers. In addition to writing checks for evacuation costs, damage claims, lodging and meals, the company ran commercials urging their customers to take advantage of these facilities. The company now also has 2 buses serving as Mobile Command Centers. This mobile claim center arrived at the Qualcomm Stadium only two days after the fires started.
In April 2009, Farmers announced that it would acquire 21st Century Insurance from AIG for $1.9 billion. The acquisition made Farmers the joint third-largest personal lines insurer in the U.S. The acquired assets included AIG Hawaii.
In response to the increasing number of deadly storms between 2010 and 2013, Farmers Insurance began "researching a model that municipalities across the United States could use to significantly reduce the time required for residential recovery." Teaming with SBP, a disaster relief organization based out of New Orleans, the result was the Disaster Recovery Playbook, an evolving online resource. Since the guide's initial creation, AmeriCorps has been brought onto the team.