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Our Story

The history of a company is often the story of its roots and the ideas that move it forward. Our story began with an accident that led to the idea that has been the foundation of Selective’s customer service strategies through nine decades.

Our story began with an accident that led to the idea that has been the foundation of Selective’s customer service strategies through almost nine decades.

Historical Timeline

The Beginning:
1926 – 1928

The carriage that led to Selective’s founding is located in the corporate headquarters and serves as a reminder of the company’s legacy.

The accident

A runaway horse got company founder Daniel L.B. Smith into the insurance business. In the 1920s, he was operating a small chain of general stores in Sussex County, NJ. He sometimes lent a horse and carriage to one of his friends, a banker and insurance agent. On one of these occasions, the horse ran away and wrecked the carriage. D.L.B. refused to take any remuneration, but when the agent moved from the area, he gave Smith some policy declarations for farms and homes he had insured through his agency. The new D.L.B. Smith Agency was set up in the front window of his Branchville store.

The idea

Before long, D.L.B. had developed a reputation for being a man of his word and interested in the welfare of his clients. He soon became dissatisfied with the metropolitan carriers who were servicing his rural clients and decided that a local insurance company would offer better rates and service. So he started one.


With an initial investment of $20,000, Smith and several colleagues established Selected Risks Insurance Company. The new company’s president was Dr. L.B. Hoagland.


Investment and opportunity

It didn’t take long in those early years for people to discover the advantages of a local insurance company that was committed to a more personal and timely way of doing business. The policy count grew quickly, and the company’s leaders looked ahead to growth and investment. In 1928, Selected Risks became a stock company under the name Selected Risks Indemnity Company.

The Beginning:
1926 – 1928


Growth & Expansion:
1930 – 1946

Over the next several decades, the company’s focus on customer service fueled growth through a successful combination of building strong relationships, offering preferred products and expansion.

A Selective employee poses with his company car before heading off to settle a fire claim around 1933.

The idea then – and our continued mission now – was to offer the insurance products customers needed and to provide fast, efficient service as close to those customers as possible. Selective’s commitment to “high touch” – 1920s version – was born.

Early on, D.L.B. Smith set high standards for customer service. For example, he was heard to remark that in the event of a claim, he hoped the agent or a Selected representative would be on site “before sundown.” That insistence on personal and timely service is still our focus after more than 80 years.


As customer insurance needs became clear over the next several years, Selected Risks Fire Insurance Company was formed to provide auto material damage and property fire coverages.


The young company expanded coverage to include general liability, workers’ compensation, property and municipal government insurance.


Following Dr. Hoagland’s death, D.L.B. Smith became the company’s president. Within a year, Selected took the first steps toward becoming a regional insurer by adding Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia to its original operating territory.


Rhode Island, Connecticut and West Virginia were added in 1944 and 1945.


At the 20-year mark, the company had written some 45,000 policies held by 25,000 policyholders in eight states.

Growth & Expansion:
1930 – 1946


High-Touch Meets High-Tech:
1947 – 1981

The strong field underwriting and claims presence that differentiates Selective today got its start almost 60 years ago.

In June 1959, Selective acquired and installed an IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control).


The commitment to keeping business close to our customers was strengthened in the late 1950s under the leadership of President Jesse G. Roe II. The company’s emphasis on building strong relationships with independent agents – still the foundation of Selective’s approach to doing business – got a significant boost through new initiatives that included field underwriting and claims handling, regular agency visits and the company’s first agent profit sharing program.


Selected Risks Indemnity Company and Selected Risk Fire Insurance Company merged to form the Selected Risks Insurance Company.


With customer relationships taking bold steps forward, the timing was right for the addition of automation and technology that would drastically improve the way we do business. From the start, Selected had stuck to the company’s founding strategy by building growth through a strong force of independent agents and employees who reflected the strong commitment to excellent customer service. By the start of the 1960s, technology was beginning to enhance that human advantage.

In 1962, the huge and bulky IBM RAMAC 1401 replaced the company’s first mainframe, processing policies at the blinding rate of 13 per minute.

Also in 1962, Frank P. Weiler succeeded Mr. Roe as president, and Russell R. Moffett, future company president, was instrumental in adding Virginia to the company’s operating territory.


In 1972, W. Richard Wilson succeeded Mr. Weiler as president.

Rapid changes in automation made processing business easier, more efficient and certainly more timely. New IBM computer systems were installed in the data processing center, CRTs were installed in the claims area, and a new direct billing system was developed. Taking advantage of emerging technology, Selected added a new computer center to its growing Branchville headquarters.


Selected added fidelity, contract surety and commercial surety bonds to its array of products, and focuses on bonds for individual businesses and government needs.


The Young Agents Committee of the Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey (IIANJ) named Selected the “Insurance Company Most Respected and Admired” by its member agents, an award the company went on to win many more times.

High-Touch Meets High-Tech:
1947 – 1981


Strengthening Our Position in A Changing Economy
1980 – 2000

A recession in the early 1980’s was followed by a rebound that ushered in a period of economic growth in the United States. It was a decade of change, including major advances in technology, and the business environment reflected those changes.

In addition to embracing advances in technology, Selective remained committed to tapping into the talent and experience of employees.


Chairman and CEO Frederick H. Jarvis joined Selected. His goal was “to position the company to grow...to see that the financial and human resources are in place to take advantage of the potential in the insurance market.

“As technology changes, as society changes, as legislative and regulatory pressures change,” he said, “we will have to change. Our objective is not just to get bigger, but to be a highly profitable, forward thinking regional company. We must be prepared for it.”

Selected begins issuing flood insurance on behalf of the federal government’s “Write Your Own” flood program.


The company changed its name, becoming Selective Insurance Company of America.


The Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of New Jersey name Selective "Company of the Year,” and The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA National) presents its "Company of the Year Award" to Selective. This recognition will be repeated in the years ahead.


James W. “Bill” Entringer was named chairman, president and CEO. Emphasizing that the only constant is change, Bill Entringer described Selective as a “very good regional company on the road to becoming “the best.” The company was positioned, he said, to play a larger role in the industry.


Focused on the needs of our independent agents and their customers, we restructured operations into Strategic Business Units (SBUs), integrating underwriting, claims and marketing experts who concentrate on providing a full range of insurance products for specific customer groups. The SBUs strengthened relationships, enhance customer service and offered significant growth potential.

1994 - 1996

The company linked the vast possibilities of technology to its ‘high touch’ customer approach through two important strategies:

  • Selective stepped up to a new level of service with the implementation of CLAS®, a PC-based commercial lines automation system.
  • With that computer capability, the company launched a significantly improved and expanded field underwriting program. Experienced underwriters, supported by a team of underwriters in the regional offices, worked closely with a group of agents and responded quickly to new business opportunities. A parallel program for claims put adjusters into the field to work on site with agents, insureds and claimants.


Gregory E. Murphy was named president and chief operating officer, becoming president and chief executive officer in 1999 upon Mr. Entringer’s retirement.

1997 - 1998

These initiatives were accompanied by a ten-state expansion into Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Strengthening Our Position in A Changing Economy
1980 – 2000


A Strategy for the 21st Century
2000 – present

Following the introduction of the field underwriting and claims programs and PC-based automation, the road ahead was clearly the integration of highly personalized customer service – “high touch” – with the swiftly improving capabilities of technology.

ollowing the introduction of the field underwriting and claims programs and PC-based automation, the road ahead was clearly the integration of highly personalized customer service.

Selective employees and NASDAQ official join chairman, president and CEO, Greg Murphy, in ringing the bell to signal the close of the NASDAQ trading day on July 14, 2008.

Gregory E. Murphy was named chairman, president and chief executive officer in 2000 and has played a key role in Selective’s growth to a super-regional property casualty company. A strong advocate of independent insurance agents, he has promoted Selective’s “high-tech, high-touch” business model to powerfully combine a unique field-based underwriting and claims model with leading edge agency automation technology.

“The challenge facing any company is the need for a clear, well-articulated strategy built on sustainable, competitive advantages that can generate top-line growth and bottom-line performance,” he emphasized. “The strategy must be dynamic and able to evolve as circumstances change. Selective has been working from a solid plan for decades. We have an excellent foundation and a strong structure designed to support ongoing improvement over the long term. Our strategy has guided Selective’s journey toward becoming the leading regional carrier and market of choice for our agents.”


2000 – present

With the mid-1990s introduction of the field underwriting and claims programs and PC-based automation, the road ahead was clearly the well-designed integration of highly personalized customer service – ‘high touch’ – with the swiftly improving capabilities of technology.
In the two decades since that significant launch, the company  introduced systems that make doing business easy while enabling Selective and our agents to maintain the strong relationships that have made us successful.


The new century began with the rollout of One & Done®, our small business issuance system, and eSelect® , the employee and agent extranet portal.


The underwriting Service Center opened in Richmond, Virginia to help agents meet the day-to-day service needs of their small business customers, and the company introduced its Mobile Claim System (MCS), which allowed claims specialists to fully service a claim on site and in the agent's office.


Selective reached $1 billion in net premiums written.


Selective went on to add:

  • a fully integrated commercial lines automated system (CLAS®), which offers policy quote, issuance, endorsement and renewal processing for commercial lines products over the web.
  • eSurety®, offering agents the ability to rate, quote and issue new commercial surety bonds over the web, and
  • SelectPLUS®, the company’s personal lines system, providing a user-friendly environment for processing personal lines policies.


The company introduced its Knowledge Management initiative, creating an online decision support model through CLAS® to provide a broad look at multiple risk characteristics in real-time, leading to even better underwriting and pricing decisions.


xSELerate® agency integration technology for commercial lines, provides agents with a way to bridge data in their agency management system to and from Selective’s systems.


Customers began to benefit directly from our user-friendly “high-tech” approach in 2006 as Selective launched its online customer portal -- eSelect® Online Services. This allows customers to access real-time information, manage their accounts and pay their bills online 24 hours a day.


Selective began writing commercial lines business in Massachusetts, expanding the company’s operating territory to 21 states and the District of Columbia.


Selective acquired two contract binding authority excess and surplus (E&S) operations: Alterra Capital Holdings Limited and MUSIC, both now called Mesa Underwriters Specialty Insurance Company. This gave Selective the platform required to write E&S business in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


John J. Marchioni was named president and chief operating officer. Greg Murphy remains chairman and chief executive officer.


$1.9 billion in net premiums written.


As Selective celebrated its 90th year in business, the company achieved record underwriting profitability and announced plans for a Southwest expansion.

A Strategy for the 21st Century
2000 – present