New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Geico opens first Fairfield County storefront

- By Alexander Soule; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

Geico’s new office in Norwalk is the company’s first storefront in Fairfield County and fifth location in Connecticu­t, part of a national expansion of branches after a long reliance on its website and call centers to sign up customers.

The new office is located in a small strip mall at 572 Main Ave., where Geico and The Paper Store divided a former Dressbarn storefront. The Geico office is a short walk from the Norwalk branch of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and a site where Garavel has a new auto dealership under constructi­on.

Geico has existing locations in Orange, Newington, Manchester and Waterford.

Wilton residents Mark and Lori Fields lead the newest office. Mark Fields is an experience­d investment banker, while Lori Fields is a trained social worker who has establishe­d her own life coaching consultanc­y.

Mark Fields said Monday he found it “too compelling to ignore” the opportunit­y to own Geico’s first office in Fairfield County, given the carrier’s reputation and its visibility through advertisin­g campaigns featuring a gecko and caveman in modern society. The Norwalk office has its own resident gecko named Leo.

“The brand identity is incredible,” Fields said. “Geico is an 85-year-old company — they’ve figured out a way to strike that sweet spot where they can have extremely competitiv­e rates and still be a viable operating entity.”

Leo and Lillian Goodwin created Geico in 1936, with the Chevy Chase, Md.-based company owned since 1996 by Berkshire Hathaway. The conglomera­te has a half-dozen other insurance subsidiari­es, including

General Re and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance based in Stamford that underwrite reinsuranc­e purchased by other carriers to help pay for surges in claims after catastroph­es.

Geico had the largest book of property and casualty insurance in Connecticu­t as of 2018, according to the most recent data from the state Insurance Department, writing auto, home, boat, motorcycle, RV and umbrella liability policies, as well as protection for identity theft.

The company’s auto and home premiums totaled $514 million in 2018, far in front of Allstate and State Farm with premiums below $350 million that year. All three insurance carriers use “captive” field representa­tives establishi­ng policies on an exclusive basis, instead of independen­t agents who act as brokers for multiple insurance underwrite­rs.

The Connecticu­t Insurance Department has received about 125 complaints on Geico between August 2020 and 2021, fewer than either Allstate or State Farm. The department determined only 15 of those Geico complaints were justified, in one instance ordering a corrective payment of nearly $12,000 after an auto liability claim was denied.

Fields said Geico is renowned in the industry for its claims policies.

“You need it ... and you make a phone call, and you want somebody to answer the phone and you want them to solve your problem quickly,” Fields said. “Most of it you can handle on your mobile phone, but if you do have an adjuster come they can write you a check right on the spot. We have a 97 percent customer satisfacti­on rating.”

 ?? Alexander Soule / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Geico’s new office at 572 Main Ave. in Norwalk, the insurer’s first location in Fairfield County and fifth in Connecticu­t.
Alexander Soule / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Geico’s new office at 572 Main Ave. in Norwalk, the insurer’s first location in Fairfield County and fifth in Connecticu­t.

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