Leo Goodwin became a millionaire by founding the Government Employee Insurance Company (GEICO), which is a private American auto insurance company that initially provided insurance for federal government employees and their families, and then later went on to provide auto insurance for the general public. He founded GEICO in 1936 during The Great Depression, a time of serious economic depression which makes this achievement very notable.
Leo was born in Lowndes in Missouri in 1886 and was the son of a doctor. He trained to be an accountant and then first went into insurance in San Antonio in Texas. His values in business included being honest and reliable, working hard and learning from any mistakes you make. He set up GEICO in 1936 in Washington DC and at the end of the year the business had 12 members of staff and 3700 policies. He decided the best way of expanding the business was to reduce general business costs, and to targeting select consumer groups. This is when the company first began to provide insurance for federal government employees as he thought that federal employees would be more financially stable and would involve less risk than providing policies for than the general public. His wife Lillian Goodwin also worked 12 hour days for many years for no money to help the business. It was 1940 when the company first started making a profit, and now GEICO is worth around $7.3 billion. In 2007 GEICO had over 9 million policy holders and provided coverage for over 10 million motor vehicles.
Leo retired in 1958, and in 1964 David Lloyd Kreeger became president of GEICO, and went on to become the senior vice president, chairman and then chief executive officer up until 1979. David Kreeger assisted in making the company a key insurance enterprise by forming a group of investors that bought into the company.
During the 1970s the company started to insure the general public. They save money on business costs by dealing with consumers on the phone and via the web, rather than employing lots of insurance salespeople, continuing Leo’s work ethic. GEICO is currently the third biggest direct writer of private auto insurance in America.
Leo died at the age of 84, in 1971. He had a son called Leo Goodwin Junior who also became involved in the company. He passed away on January 15, 1978 from cancer in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.