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Progressive (NYSE:PGR)
Q3 2020 Earnings Call
Nov 04, 2020, 9:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Welcome to the Progressive Corporation's third-quarter investor event. The company will not make detailed comments related to quarterly results in addition to those provided in its quarterly report on Form 10-Q and the letter to shareholders, which have been posted to the company's website, and we'll use this event to respond to questions. Acting as moderator for the event will be Progressive's Director of Investor Relations Doug Constantine. At this time, I'll turn the event over to Mr.

Constantine.

Douglas Constantine -- Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, James, and good morning. Although our quarterly investor relations events typically include the presentation on a specific portion of our business, we will instead use the 60 minutes scheduled for today's event for IMEs by our CEO, and a question-and-answer session with members of our leadership team. Questions can only be asked by telephone dial-in participants. The dial-in instructions may be found at investors.progressive.com/events.

As always, discussions in this event may include forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management's current expectations and are subject to many risks and uncertainties that could cause actual events and results to differ materially from those discussed during today's event. Additional information concerning those risks and uncertainties is available in our 2019 annual report on Form 10-K and our first, second, and third quarter's quarterly report on Form 10-Q, where you will find discussions of the risk factors affecting our businesses, safe harbor statements related to forward-looking statements and other discussions of the challenges we face. In particular, note that our quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the first quarter includes discussions of the risks and uncertainties that we face, including specific risk factors arising directly and indirectly from the COVID-19 pandemic, and these risks are further referenced in our third quarter 10-Q.

Before going to our first question from the conference call line, our CEO, Tricia Griffith, will make some introductory comments. Tricia?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Doug, and good morning, everyone. It was an extremely close and not-yet-decided election, I thought I'd open with a few words before we get to your questions. I know there be election has been on everyone's mind, including those at Progressive. I think it's important that our shareholders know that we live our core values, specifically the golden rule, regardless of the candidate we support.

I'm very proud that, in the end, we're all united in our commitment to caring for our customers, our communities, our shareholders and, most importantly, for each other. As you know, we feel strongly that our people and our culture are a significant competitive advantage for us. They are one of our four strategic pillars, and we rely on our incredible culture to get us through challenging times and came out more focused and united than ever. This year has been no different as we move forward together.

I thought I'd sure note that I received on Monday from an IT Group manager, Scott, regarding a video, I did on Unity last week. This really exemplifies two way as a company and why we win in the marketplace. He said, "Tricia, I have so much to be thankful for in this year and month, and there is a literal pile of things for I'm deeply appreciative for you and your team, truly. And I know I speak for so many others, I am grateful." Then he went on to share the communication that he sent to his team, and these are words that are echoed by so many leaders at progressive.

His note said, "It's the last Tuesday in October, which means that next week marks the national election and another end to political yard sign season. Here's the sign we placed in our own yard." And the sign started with, love your neighbor, and t talked about loving your neighbor regardless of raise, who you love, etc., conveying what we've hoped for our neighborhood that regardless of next week's outcome, we hope that our common bond as neighbors can prevail over the differences, really an extension of the golden rule. That's not to say that it's not easy or they were not strong in our political convictions, but it's also to say that we strive to respect, care for, and even love our neighbors regardless of their vote or other differences. The same applies here at work with Progressive culture rooted in our core values.

My DRG is committed at direct reporting group is committed to support the diversity of our people. Please work to grow and sustain that spirit of collegiality and friendship with each other through and beyond the election. And these words really truly reflect who we are as a company. And, you know, being up late in the middle of the night and this morning, I will end up after this call, shooting another video today to ensure that Progressive the people, can be so stressed, remain calm and focused even though there'll be delayed results.

Also, tomorrow marks our eighth annual key to progress, where we give away cars to delivering veterans. Due to restrictions on business operations for the program participants and social-distancing requirements, our giveaway events will be small but still very meaningful. All in all, this is another great example of giving back to our communities where we've donated over 750 vehicles in the past eight years. Being a successful business starts with our people, and this quarter continues to exemplify what you can do with the right team and the right culture.

As I stated in my letter, we're extremely pleased with our Q3 results. We're also acutely aware that these times are tumultuous and that we have to remain nimble as events unfold. That's really always been our strong suits. Thank you.

And with that, James, we'll take the first question.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

[Operator instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Mike Zaremski from Credit Suisse. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Mike Zaremski -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hey, thanks. Good morning. I guess, first question, I'd love to learn more about the automobile severity trends. You know, they seem to be kind of staying higher for longer.

But I know there's a lot of -- there's been some noise and distortions during COVID. You called some out in the Q. And I know last quarter, you called some out to about subrogation. I'm trying to just learn more so we can kind of understand whether the underlying trend might be a little bit lower, or if this is kind of the new normal, especially in the pottery injury and PIP sides.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mike. Let me give you some insight. And it's a little bit difficult to compare with PCI because they haven't reported Q2 yet. They're not as volatile as Q, let me go through a couple.

So, when you think of PD, it's sort of the opposite of what happened in Q2 in terms of inbound subrogation. Our supplement payments, which is inbound sub are coming from a period of lower volume applied to a period of increased incurred volume. So, we report a 3.9% PD incurred. It's a little bit higher.

If you remove that inbound sub about four points higher. So right around 8.5 points. So, it's a little bit higher, but clearly less than Q2 when we were at 12.7%. On collision, again, the outbound sub mix is no longer driving trends.

And that's, of course, the money we receive in. And if you remove that sub percentage of this 6.2% goes up a little bit. That was negative in Q2. So that was very different.

And it's all really about the numerator and denominator when you're having frequency changes quarter to quarter. You talked about BI. Our incurred severity is similar to Q2. So, we have some aging, which we believe accounts for about 2 points.

And then we have another 1 to 2 points that relates to facts of loss shifts. So, what we did was we took a look at Quarter 2 of 2019 facts of loss, and then we compared that to Quarter 2 of 2020 facts of loss. And what we're seeing, we think this is likely because of less morning congestion commute, that there are less rear-end accidents. So, think of kind of a fender bender that wouldn't cause much damage from a severity perspective or an injury perspective.

There are more intersection accidents, which are always more severe. So, our estimates taking into account the aging inflation and the facts of loss mix shift, we believe, is around 7% to 8%. So, while we are reporting the 11.6%, we believe it's a little bit lower based on those two issues. So difficult because there's so many different state mix changes.

And in the severity -- the higher-severity space account for about two points of with those mix shifts. So, we think that aside from New York, most of the PIP states are around 6% to 7% severity. So, it's not as volatile. It's still -- you know, it's still different just because of the situation with COVID and vehicle miles traveled and different loss patterns.

But hopefully, that will give you some insight into our severity trends.

Mike Zaremski -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

OK. Yeah. That's very helpful. I guess, lastly, I'll move just more broadly to the direct-to-consumer segment of auto.

You know, it feels like there's been an acceleration of PIP. And I think the main question we get, whether -- is whether this is kind of the new normal or if there's kind of been a temporary bump during COVID. I'm trying -- you know, I know it's a high-level question, but just trying to better understand is, do you feel that there's something helping you guys that's kind of one-off that -- you know, that could, you know, kind of kind of taper off a little bit or is there third-party marketing technologies you guys are using and just, you know, will continue to help you? You know, anything to kind of get us better? I think we understand from your letter, Tricia, you guys feel great about growth. Just trying to get a sense of whether the double-digit growth in direct to consumers is sustainable.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, you know, on the auto side, in the private passenger auto side, when we market, we're marketing for the direct side, but we believe that our agents are receding to that. So, when the stay-at-home orders happened, you know, a lot of our agents weren't able to actually, you know, work or open their branches. Some of them obviously were able to do it from their home, but we saw applications go down.

And now we're seeing them increase a little bit as start to open. So that could be volatile for a while depending on what happens with rates of infection. What I will say is that the direct-to-consumer side really has increased on the commercial side. So, our commercial business has always been the majority from the agents.

It's a more complicated product, and we are seeing more direct-to-consumer on the commercial side. That trend, you know, likely would have been happening over time as people felt comfortable with the products they're buying. It really depends on complexity. But I will say that on our -- in our for-hire transportation, it's the strongest our direct channel where those new ventures are coming in directly to Progressive.

So, you know, it's hard to say if it will continue. It could be what's happening with pandemic, it could be what's happening with younger truckers, for example, starting new ventures, and they're more comfortable going direct. But what I would say is we're glad that we've invested in the direct side of business. We continue to feel like we want to have broad coverage for where, when, and how customers want to buy and just be available for everyone depending on that need.

Unknown speaker

I just might add, Mike, you know, you use the new normal in both the severity and the direct questions. And we aren't thinking there's any new normal to point out right now. It's a very dynamic environment, obviously, but we think we're playing a well. So, you know, in the direct space, as you noted in the Q, advertising is up 29% for the quarter.

So, when you see us spending more in advertising, you should know that we are seeing opportunities to spend efficiently to bring in business. That is what we call the prospects side of the equation. And prospects are up, as we noted in the Q, about 8% for the quarter. But conversion is up as well.

And that was a quarter where some of our competitors had lower pricing in effect because of their approach to COVID rebates or credits and some of those have come off now. So, from a competitiveness standpoint, all else equal, we think we're in a pretty good place. Conversion is up 5% for the quarter. We may even be getting more competitive.

So, you know, again, all else equal. Our advertising spend should be even more effective.

Mike Zaremski -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Elyse Greenspan with Wells Fargo. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Hi. Thank you. Good morning. My first question was just in the Q, you guys did pointed out that miles driven went up in the first half of the third quarter, but then back down in the second half.

So, I was just wondering if we could get some color on what you think might have driven that? I'm not sure if it was, you know, pickup in COVID cases or partial lockdowns in certain states or anything, any other color that you think would apply to that dynamics within the third quarter.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Good morning, Elyse. We do think that's what happened. We think that is reflected pretty quickly when something changes in a given state.

And we look at this from state to state. There's really a variety of vehicle miles traveled and ranges. It's still now, you know, much obviously higher than the trough of 40% is right around 10%-ish, 10% to 15% across the country. We're really digging in to kind of understand it.

We do see the congestion is still very different in morning commute where there's less congestion. We're starting to dig into how we look at the types of job you have so we can try to understand people that might work from home for a longer period of time versus people that have jobs where you need to be out and about. And in fact, we're really looking through our UBI data that are Robinsons, or people that are 65 and older, their features fell in line with their vehicle miles traveled, and we just think they're driving less during rush hour, or they're working from home more, they have roles that can work from home, they might be retired. And the younger demographics, what we would call the Sams and Dianes and Wrights, their features fell more than the VMC, although the gap is narrowing.

And they had a small drop in mileage. We believe that these are jobs that can't be done from home. So, we're watching that closely. I think a lot depends on what happens in the next several weeks with infection rates and what specific states do.

So, again, what we'll do is we continue, through our product group, watching those in those areas very closely to understand those frequency trends and using data, both on the ease Snapshot side and the smart hall side in commercial, where we're not seeing that change. So, the truck drivers are on the road more because of moving goods back and forth. So, we see a little bit different on the commercial side. And even though the congestion has decreased, we know that they're on the road more.

So hopefully, that gives you a little bit of color. It's sort of changing always, and we're thankful that we have a lot of data in our usage-based insurance across many of our products, and we'll keep watching that and react as necessary.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

That's helpful. And then my second question is on Snapshot. So, I was hoping that you could give us an update on kind of the take-up rates within both the agency and the direct side, just where we sit today. And then have you guys noted a greater take-up rate for your Snapshot devices during this kind of COVID slowdown? I guess, as folks are potentially driving less, right, would potentially want to use a device that could, you know, potentially lead to some savings for them.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So immediately --we've always had a pretty good high take rate on the direct side. So immediately, when we had the shutdown, we saw an uptick in that, and that sort of leveled off. On the agency side, where we haven't had historically a great -- as great of a take rate, we saw that go up, and it continued.

So, I think agents -- and I've probably talked, one of the great things about COVID is that I've been able to get out and talk to literally thousands of agents in the last couple of months, virtually, of course, and they understand that they need to be competitive, and they've been talking and selling Snapshot to their clients, to our mutual clients. And so that has increased. And that has continued to kind of maybe level out, but it's increased much more than before COVID. On the commercial side, September was the biggest smart hall enrollment ever and the monthly take rate climbed to about 24%.

So, we're seeing that definitely on the commercial side. John, do you want to add anything?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

That's -- definitely seeing that take rates will go higher, especially in the for-hire transportation segment that Tricia was noting earlier. So that is you can think of sort of delivery trucks as well as interstate trucking. And we are very excited to see, especially a take rate of what we call new ventures. So, a lot of truckers are going out on their own these days.

And, you know, truck insurance premiums are pretty high, so they're very open to offers that might lower that premium. And it's great that the take rate there is even higher than the overall. And we feel that segment is very well-priced, especially when we had the smart hall insights that we have, you know, really from day one. So, the other thing I would mention on Snapshot more generally is that we are -- while we haven't marketed it a lot, we have something called Snapshot road test in market now, and the take rate there is encouraging.

And this is mobile devices, whereby you can do what we used to call test drive. So, if you drive for a while, your driving behavior, we deploy that at your initial quote. Today, in Snapshot, we give you a discount for participating and then give you the fully developed discount at the renewal. With Road test, you get that upfront.

So, we're excited about the early take rates there. Again, we haven't marketed it, but we think when we're ready to do so, consumers will be very interested.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

That's helpful. And will road test -- sorry, just to quickly follow up, will road test be available in all states where you have the traditional Snapshot product?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yes. So, it's available today. We just haven't marketed it.

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. Thank you for the color.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jimmy Bhullar with JP Morgan. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Jimmy Bhullar -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. I just had a question on like the competitive environment. And if you just discuss sort of pricing conditions in the personal auto business and your outlook for margin because it does seem like more and more companies are trying to be more proactive in trying to either gain share or recover the share that they've lost over the last few years.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, we feel really great. We've added 2.4 million policies compared to last September. So, we feel like we were well-positioned coming into the pandemic, and then we reacted very quickly.

So, we knew that vehicle miles travel has been down. We immediately gave to 20% credits for two months to our auto customers. We feel that that -- you know, it could change. That helped us with retention because those customers were able to stay.

Obviously, there were some moratoriums as well and we'll -- that'll have to play out depending on what happens if there's stimulus, et cetera. And then we started to do what we do best and surgically look at state by state, channel by channel, product by product because we want to balance that growth and profitability. And we've really enjoyed gaining share across the board, and we want to continue that. So, you know, what we're doing now is what we call taking small bite to the apple in terms of rate decreases.

If we see conversions going down or we're less competitive, we get a lot of intel from other companies and our agents, we will take rates down slightly. So, we talked about taking it down about a percentage for the quarter, and 3% April through September. We did that in about 37 states. And when I say 37 states, there might have been two rate decreases, maybe 0.5%, maybe 1%.

We really watch this, and we're able to react so quickly, which keeps us really competitive when people are shopping. And then April through December, we will have taken some form of rate decrease in about 42 states, and that is about 84% of our countrywide net written premiums. So, again, surgically being able to react to rate, be competitive, and we do that going both ways depending on the product. But we feel like we're positioned well, like John said, you know -- and everybody had whether they took credits or discount, everyone's trying to make sure that we are competitive.

This is a very competitive industry, and we feel like we're in a really good position, which is why I started the letter off the way I did. I'm very pleased with our results and our reaction to COVID and what we've been able to do for our customers when they use most.

Jimmy Bhullar -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

And when you think about this balancing growth and profitability, is there a level on either the loss ratio or the combined ratio to where you're comfortable taking it up and continuing to push for growth? Like, I think in the past, you've talked about mid- 90s would be a level where you've sort of slow down your growth and focus more on margins instead.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, our -- we've had the same objective in the company since we went public in 1971 grow as fast as we can and make at least $0.04 of underwriting profit. And so, we're -- we always try to balance that. That said, we have five core values and one of them is profit.

So, if we don't believe we can be profitable, then we'll start growing, profit comes first. So, here's the deal. We don't want to give away margin. So if we believe that, you know, we can grow and still grow at that 96 or less than a combined ratio, we'll do so.

If we don't, we'll keep the margin and understand that, again, that is, as such -- we do it at such a surgical level. That's the 96 growth as fast as you can is our job objective for the overall company, but we look at it very different across our portfolio. So yeah, we're going to continue to try to aggressively grow, gain market share, all while making sure that we achieve our profitability goal.

Jimmy Bhullar -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Thank you.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Greg Peters with Raymond James. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Charles Peters -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Good morning. So, the first question will be around retention. As you know, there was another insurtech company that went public groups. It's also an Ohio-based company.

They've disclosed their retention rates. All state discloses their retention rates, and I'm just curious if you could give us some color about how your retention has been this year relative to last year.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, you know, retention for us is really the holy grail. You know, you want -- you spend the money to acquire customers. They come in, you want to make sure we give great service and they reward us with the retention.

So, you know, we look at retention from what we call policy life expectancy. On the trailing 12 months, it's up 9%, up 10% in agency, 7% in indirect. Now the caveat is we're getting a benefit of the billing leniencies and moratoriums. And so, we would say -- and what we would say that those are the numbers, but they may be conserved, depending on what happens with people and jobs and unemployment, etc.

Our trailing three is a little bit lower and a little bit more volatile. Trailing three is 7% up, 6% in agency, 8% indirect. And on the commercial line side, of course, we look at 12-month basis because those are annual policies, PLE is up about 4%. So, we're very pleased with that, but we also know that there's a lot of volatility going on right now.

And, you know, we'll do our best to keep our customers and to work with them. Our CRM, our customer relationship management group on both the direct side auto and the commercial lines auto are -- work very closely with customers if they need to make changes to their policy in order to keep their coverage available. So, I would say the PLE numbers that we stated in the queue are very positive, but we also know a part of that is because of the leniency and moratorium based on COVID.

Charles Peters -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Got it. The second question is around the expense ratio. A number of your competitors, you know, are laser-focused on reducing their expense ratios to bring them down closer to your level and I'm curious about the initiatives that you have ongoing within your company to keep your expense ratios low and possibly to get them lower?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we talk about expense ratios all the time. We're pretty proud of our results. And it's a balance of course of making sure that we're investing in things like digital that our customers need. I think the -- one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we learned that we can write really good estimates from photos and videos.

And we were working on that prior to the pandemic. But obviously, it was exacerbated based on the fact that we all, you know, kind of went into our homes to do the work. And so we continue to experiment and see what type of vehicles that we can look at and not be side of car and understand, you know, is that -- is it a quality estimate because you don't want to have such a -- as an example, such a low loss expense ratio or loss expense adjustment ratio if your accuracy is not good because that indemnity is the biggest part of what we pay out. And we continue to work in our CRM organization to understand how customers can get things they need without human intervention.

John Sauerland's group is working on, you know, some RPA processing. So, we have a lot of things going around the company. We're actually -- we had completed a five-year plan for our board of directors last year. And obviously, we're redoing it this year because a lot of the changes, and it's actually been a topic of what we try to achieve.

We have internal goals that we work on together, and we balance that with investments of, like John said, advertising, digital, but we constantly try to look at how can we do more with less and not affect our customers. And we know that this is a competitive industry. And that competitive prices are really important. So that expense ratio is a big part of it, whether it's on the overall side or decline side.

John, you're the first-string holder. You want to add any color?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yeah. Certain many competitors are aspiring to our level of cost structure, but there are some competitors who have better cost structures than Progressive. So, we've been focused on continuing to get more competitive in terms of cost structure for years, as Tricia noted. We think of it in two buckets.

So, we think of what we call non-acquisition expense ratio and acquisition expense ratio. In the acquisition, we put advertising as well as agents commission so I just mentioned earlier, advertising for the quarter was up 29%. It was up 20% year-to-date. We think that's good growth in expenses because we're acquiring customers we're going to have for a long time.

Similarly, on the agent side, we have to pay competitive commission in order to continue to grow there. So, we think growth in expenses in that portion of the expense ratio is good. We focus on the non-acquisition expense ratio, where we are trying to drive what we think of as our infrastructure costs lower. And if you go back around five years, as Tricia noted, I think we've taken out maybe close to three or four points on our non-acquisition expense ratio, and we -- our sight is set on reducing that further.

As Tricia noted, you know, price competitiveness is not the only thing that matters in the marketplace, but it is a very big part of the consideration set for auto and home insurance as well as commercialize, especially.

Charles Peters -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Thank you for the answer.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Michael Phillips from Morgan Stanley. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Michael Phillips -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. So we've all heard Elon at a peso talk about being aggressive with hiring actuaries and starting on insurance company to use a proprietary real-time data and -- well, maybe that's only for is captive fleet, I guess, just your thoughts on how you view the competition from connected car companies like that that do have, really, access to rich data from their own fleet to offer insurance to [Inaudible] fleets?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, we -- you know, from a talent perspective, we feel really positive where we're at. We do -- we have been investing in understanding how to have functionality to gather data from third parties, whether it be OEs, and we call it Express data quote. So that will be something that we're working on now.

I mean, I think the question is -- or the answer is that, yeah, the talent is important. We believe that, at some point, we'll have to answer who owns the data. But we've been working on this with a lot of partners over time to understand how to get quotes our way and understand that data to better understand trends. Did that answer your question?

Michael Phillips -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Kind of. So, I guess I was looking more toward your view, just the competitive landscape from companies like that, that have access to their own data from fleet are trying to offer insurance and even there aggressively offer their insurance. I know how they speak, but that was really what I was trying to get at.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Got it. Yeah, I wasn't sure if I answered that. Yeah, it's great competition. We have had -- have a shot in data for a long, long time.

And so, we feel very comfortable. The fact that I could be able to tell you today, I think when Elyse answered the question that our Robinson cohort, the feature is sell in line with vehicle miles traveled, etc., we're able to watch that real time. And especially now, I'm very excited about what we're doing now on the commercial side. And I talked about that with the four higher transportation, to be able to give these discounts to those delivery trust, those trust drivers, income state, and understand the best drivers are really important.

That will help with retention. That will help with loss cost. So, the competition is great because it allows us to never stop evolving. So, years ago, we only had the dongle, and you had to plug it in, and then you could do a wireless.

Now, we have the mobile device. John talked about our road test. We have snapshot Proview. So, it forces us in a really good way to continue to invest in data and collecting data on our, you know, 24-plus million policyholders.

So, we feel like we're in a really great position, and competition only makes us better.

Michael Phillips -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. Thanks. You know, I guess, part two then is you kind of alluded to it here, and we talked a lot about UBI and telematics now. I guess, what's the lifeline of credit score, specifically as a rating variable on personal auto? Are we looking at a couple of years? Do you think that thing dries up for decades? Or how long do you think you have left in -- the runway [Inaudible] pricing variable?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

You know what, that's -- I'm glad you brought that up because I -- we've been thinking about that a lot. And I know there's been -- there will be challenges because of the pandemic on regulatory issues. So, Michael, this would be a lot longer answer than you probably want, but I think it's really important for me to make a couple of points, basically, on risk-based pricing and then on kind of what's happening in the world. So, you know, first and foremost, you know, we've been getting questions on the usage of credit specifically, does it affect race.

And race is never used in pricing insurance projects. In fact, it's illegal. A few people have the exact risk profile, if there's a person that's just like me, same driving, same credits, and we happen to be different rates and we get to same rates. Basically, we are risk-based and rate-blind.

And I also want to make sure that it's clear that Progressive supports legislative and regulation that enables insurers to leverage all the available data technology and advanced analytics to price insurance risks when it reflects the insurance cost. And that's really key. We want to have, you know, a rate for the specific risk. And for me, it's for us, it's about accuracy.

And it allows people and consumers and business owners to fulfill their American dream and achieve their economic opportunities that they desire. We've talked a lot in the past about the virtuous cycle. If you've got rating accuracy, at least a broader consumer availability and affordability, which leads to growth and financial success, not just for our shareholders but for the company and for job creation, we've been able to create so many jobs in the last several years, that leads to innovation and segmentation and then goes back to rating accuracy. So, we've had that the virtuous cycle that we've been very proud of.

And in the past, you know, we've talked about it's the regulator's role to work with us closely in the industry to ensure solvency, ensure compliance and facilitate healthy and competitive markets that provide a wide variety of options for consumers. So, you know, key elements that I've mentioned before, to focus on is ensuring that at prices for insurance are not inadequate, excessive, or unfairly discriminatory. So, we're such advocates for healthy, competitive volunteer insurance, and broad distribution. And, you know, for the U.S.

insurance industry, we want to be able to continue to facilitate the risk taking in transfers that drive economic growth through delivering products that are both available and affordable. So, for us, we -- in the industry, we believe, we want to preserve the sanctity of contract and the continued support for risk-based pricing. Now, all that said, you know, we do recognize that for some individuals, mandatory insurance protection can be a significant financial burden. We're very open to collaborating with regulatories and other -- regulators and other industry leaders on solutions for those individuals versus creating massive and unnecessary market disruption that will likely have a negative outcome for certain segments.

So that's sort of my spiel on why we've continued to support risk-based pricing, which credit is one variable of many. I think, you know, how we think about affordability challenges -- and we just have to think about where we're at in the time of history and the decisions that we make that affect the future for consumers. So, if you go back to our roots in 1937, I'm very proud of Progressive. We started out as the nonstandard insurer, allowing people in Cleveland, Ohio.

We couldn't get insurance be able to do that. And then, of course, you know the rest, eventually countrywide. And we're able to have access to affordable protection across many segments. We have a critical role, I believe, in inviting innovation, segmentation, and the use of technology and data to provide greater access to competitively priced insurance for all.

We shouldn't confuse affordability challenges that many face during this unprecedented pandemic with our long-standing and solid model of providing affordable and widely available protection. I think the issues that have arisen regarding social injustice couldn't stem from the insurance industry. They've been looming for decades, and the events this year brought them to the surface. And now, I think we need to really get together and ultimately solve the root problem of opportunity and equality for all, not just during the pandemic, but ongoing.

So, you know, from my perspective, and this list could go on, and I'll shut up, but very short term, after the elections decided, we need some form of stimulus to get us through this next wave of infections. And my hope is that we're able to distribute it more surgically this time to those that need it most. I believe that we need to raise the minimum wage over time to $15 per hour. I will note that all active Progressive employees already make over $15 an hour, and we're proud of that.

And as a country, our focus should really be on additional funding so the schools can safely reopen and deliver effective online communication. You can't get ahead if you don't have the ability to learn online, which requires infrastructure investments like access to broadband coverage. So, I could go on and on, but the message here is that we, as a country, are facing a really great opportunity to make substantive changes. And, as an insurance company, we'll continue to play a role in focusing on rational and risk-based solutions so that everyone is able to achieve the economic opportunities they desire.

I've been obviously thinking about that a lot, Michael, so I'm glad you brought it up. I think that credit is a powerful variable. It is it is not race-related. We do not believe it's race related, and we'll continue to hold firm on that.

Michael Phillips -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

OK. Thank you very much. Much appreciated.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Gary Ransom with Dowling & Partners. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Gary Ransom -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Yes, good morning. Tricia, you mentioned in your letter, the creative ways of treating customers, and we also saw how ad spend is up, and direct quotes were up. And I just wondered, in looking at the success of all that's going in and getting customers into the funnel and successfully getting a new customer, what are the actual key elements of success in attracting those customers, either today in this COVID environment or what you're seeing over the longer term.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think ultimate success, Gary, is to be able to acquire at or below our targeted acquisition cost. But more importantly, as we look at and expand our product line, we're able to do so with our creatives. You know, so, for years, we had flow inside the superstore, the whole message was savings, savings, savings. And now we have obviously and entire network of characters that talked about savings but also talk about protection, protection for your home.

And we're seeing that work. An example is we -- I don't know if you've seen it or not, we have had this campaign for a few years, and we've settled it on a character called Dr. Rick, which is parentamorphosis as you become your parents when you buy your first home. I think that a lot of people can relate to that.

We're seeing the results of that do really well. We've done a couple of good campaigns with the Cleveland Brown's quarterback, and mark-to-market guys that do the 10-yard line chains that we are able to play during the live sports wishes, which is what everyone's watching now until we get back to regular television. So, we look at what we call new prospects that haven't shopped us in the last 6 months. And then we look -- from that, we look at, do they convert and at what cost.

And all those things lead us to understand when the creative works, when it doesn't, when it does, we double down and get deeper in the campaign. When it doesn't, we move on and get more creative. So, we – you know, during COVID, I'm really proud of our marketing department because everything is shut down. And you know initially, we did, you know, some nice campaign stories that were softer because everyone was sort of just nervous about what was happening because it was so new.

And now we're really doing a lot that are kind of moving-forward. But even in the meantime, we did really creative opportunities where we had flow and her whole squad that we call it on a Zoom call, etc. We really got creative to make sure that we didn't miss a step. We know this is a competitive environment, and we wanted to continue to be on consumer shortlist, out and available, thinking of Progressive when they go to shop.

Gary Ransom -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Maybe extending that into the agency channels also, where I think your conversion rates were up as well. Usually, that just means your price is lowest on the comparative raters there, but is there more to it than that as well? Are they -- are you seeing more coming into the agents? Is there -- are there agent incentives or other things going on there?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we – you know, we occasionally do agent incentives. It may be based on things like QBI, and if we see something that we want them to do more. You know, we, over the years, have changed some of the agency commission structures, depending on if you're selling preferred Robinsons Auto Home bundled. Those agents, the platinum agents get more commission.

They're allowed to have 12-month policies on the auto side, so we're giving them that. And we've done a lot in our platinum agency to have incentives-based loss ratio and other things. So, we didn't always do those in the past. Our relationship with our agents has really changed in a very positive way.

Like I said at the beginning, I've been able to talk to a lot of agency -- agents. Just not long ago, I had our top 25 platinum agents. Usually, we do something with them. We obviously couldn't this year.

So, while we'll keep our overall commission level, you know, about the same rate, we have bifurcated, and we'll give you a different commission based on the incoming type of customer, which we believe is the long-term value of that customer. So obviously, cost matters a lot, brand matters a lot, commission matters a lot. And probably, the last thing I would say, and coming from the claims organization, agents are always so happy to not have to deal with any complaints because our claims organization is so stellar. So, there's a lot that goes into it.

Clearly, cost is one of them. They benefit from our brand. But yes, we have -- we do incentives, and we have different commissions based on the type of customer that we get in, namely preferred.

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

I'd just elaborate on Tricia's last point, Gary, to say, ease of use. So, price competitiveness is extremely important. Ease of use is almost as important in my perspective. So as Tricia noted, not having to deal with hassles on the back end with a claim, for sure, but front end as well.

So, we've invested heavily in technology to make quoting, and now quoting the household in our agents easier. And that will definitely help drive business to Progressive as well.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think this month or last month, we finished full rollout of portfolio quoting. So, the agent feedback is extraordinary. Just -- you got to make it easy.

Thanks, Gary.

Gary Ransom -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Yaron Kinar with Goldman Sachs. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Yaron Kinar -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

I actually want to continue on this last line of questions. With regards to the kind of creative ways to reach out of consumers, beyond the ease of use and in quotes and the innovative ad spend in the traditional channels, are there any new ways to get to market? Any ways that you're exploring maybe Internet social media and then relate to get our customers?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. When I usually speak about marketing, I go to sort of the mass media, and that's one portion of how we market to customers. We're on streaming. So, we advertise on Hulu.

We advertise on most of the social network channels and affiliates on Internet. So, we -- and we have generic search. So there's -- we have a variety of ways to make sure we get our message to you and do everything we can to get our message to you the right number of times, not too much, not too little because we don't want to bog you down. So yeah, there's -- besides the creative also many different ways.

And there's sometimes on a digital platform that will have characters that we don't even have on mass media. And it usually serves specific demographic that we're looking for in that channel. So yeah, we a variety of ways. And as things change, you know, with how people watch TV or watch streaming, we'll continue to play a part of that.

And the great part is, you know, we have access to so much data to understand pretty quickly if it's working, so we can remove it or double down.

Yaron Kinar -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

And are there any metrics you can share on that in terms of -- are you increasing your spend in those kind of non-mass media channels? Is the take-up greater or improving there?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

I think John wanted to say something to [inaudible]. We're increasing the spend in those channels for sure because many people have cut the cord and don't watch any TV, so we need to have access to them through those different channels. John, do you want to add something?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yeah. The growth in spend in nontraditional media has outpaced traditional for years now, and we're constantly testing into new media. Where we can, we have a group that entirely focuses on new ways to reach people. And the overarching philosophy is where, when, and how consumers want to buy.

So, we are definitely investing. And normally, I think, relatively speaking, on the forefront of trying new channels and ensuring that we can actually measure the success of those new channels. So, we are very disciplined that we're out spending new money that we find ways to measure its effectiveness. And I think that differentiates us relative to a lot of other marketers.

Yaron Kinar -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. And then my second question, it goes to one of the arguments that we hear from insurtecs, which is that traditional insurers, even innovative and successful ones like Progressive, ultimately face an innovator's dilemma in the form of how much you push telematics-based scoring and pricing because of the legacy blocks and that these Insurtec, as a result, could have an advantage over the incumbents over time because they're not encumbered by legacy blocks. So, I'd love to maybe hear a little more about how Progressive looks at the innovators dilemma and how it handles the right balance between pushing these creative and innovative ways to price and score versus maintaining the legacy block?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so I talked a little bit about that when I talked about the virtuous cycle in terms of, you know, when you have a segment, you innovate, et cetera, and you do that, I think that insurtech, you know, are serving a great purpose in terms of ease of use, and it would be, I think, easy to be able to -- or nice to be able to, I should say, start without having legacy systems. That's said, we have them. We work around them, but we don't say, OK, we're just going to be here in time and try to work around. We're constantly innovative -- innovating from a technology perspective, is a use perspective.

And we believe that part of our DNA is really innovation. We've been first in a lot. I won't go into naming that, and we don't intend to change that. And the great benefit that we have that the insurtech don't is the cost of acquisition.

And for us, we're going to continue to hone on in on that. And that's why we were able to increase our policies 2.5 million in one year. That's the reason we're able to do so and make our target profit margins, which are also very important. We have shareholders that are – that, you know, own us because they know we're committed to our 96th growth fast you can.

We don't have the – you know, the availability to say, we're going to test things regardless if we make money or not. So, we're very innovative. We're always going to do everything we can to make a profit, one of our core values, and we're able to leverage our size to have lower acquisition costs.

Yaron Kinar -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Got it. Thanks, and congrats on a great quarter.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question comes from the line of David Motemaden with Evercore ISI. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. Just sort of following on along the lines of this -- the unique ways of -- or new ways to acquire customers. I was hoping maybe you could expand a bit on any distribution partnerships for the personal auto business that you may have with the OEMs or online car sites, like [Inaudible] that you have or that you might be exploring.

I know that Ford has just entered an agreement with Veris Data Exchange to, you know, help offer insurance. I'm wondering, do you have any of these relationships? Is this something that you're exploring as a new way to acquire customers and just sort of how you view that, I guess, subchannel of the DTC [Inaudible]

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, David. Yeah, we've worked with many different OEs over the years, and I talked a little bit about that. Express made a quote that will give us the functionality to work with OEs and other aggregators. We do -- we have some in the works that I'm not liberty to talk about right now.

Do you want to...?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yeah. So, we've worked directly with OEs over the years. We started a relationship with GM, I can't remember how many years ago now, probably four years ago, as you know, to get the data directly from vehicles and offer rates that are reflective of driving behavior at the point of quote and the point of sale. We have also worked with aggregators of that data or third-party gatherers of that data.

So, there are apps on your phone that are tracking, you know, where you're going and how you're driving, and we've worked with those entities as well. You know, it is a funnel as we think of it. When we talk about funnel economics, the number of people that come in the top there versus the number that come out of the bottom, meaning actually buy a policy, has been challenging. That is not to say we won't continue and are continuing to test in that space.

And in New media, we normally see funnel challenges at the outset, and we work through the experience to continue to refine it and continue to make it better and to get to the point where the funnel economics work for us. So, we've been testing into the data direct from OEs in numerous manners for a number of years now and have shown some success, but not to the point that it will be a considerable portion of our media spend anytime soon, frankly.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. And so, it sounds like those are interesting, but the conversion rates are still below your other direct channels. Is that a correct characterization?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yes. That's a fair way to think about it. And think of conversion not only as you got to quote and then you bought the policy, but getting folks from interested in the whole process even to get to the quote process. So, it's a longer funnel than just got the quote, bought the policy.

That when we talk about in conversion percentage, that's what we're talking about there. This is, we think, of the entire funnel efficiency.

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Got it. OK. That's helpful. That makes sense.

And then just switching gears, just more broadly, it's obviously been, you know, a profitable year for you guys, notwithstanding the credit and other actions that you've taken. Just wondering how we should think about the variable dividend and, I guess, how you guys are thinking about that as we approach the end of the year.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, we meet with the investment committee, John and I, and John Bauer, our head of Progressive capital management, throughout the year, understanding our capital strength, which is very strong and always thinking about some – you know, some dry powder for anything that might come up. We've had a couple of sessions that we have a range that we're thinking about. Obviously, the board will be the one that decides that.

We meet with them at the beginning of December, and we'll talk through something and get more in line with what we believe the dividend will be payable next year. So, you know, obviously, that's an unknown because it will be a Board's decision. We feel really great about our capital position. We feel great about our growth and our profit.

And we – you know, in the past, we've been able to share that with our shareholders. You know, again, we don't have any specific amount I can share with you, but we feel really great about our year. Anything can happen. There's still a few months left, but we feel good.

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

[Inaudible] We have approximately five minutes left in the call and still have a handful of people in the queue. We will go through the last handful here and go a little bit long. [Operator instructions] With that, I'll hand it back over to James.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Meyer Shields with KBW. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Great. Thanks so much for accommodating us. I was hoping that either at or John could talk us through sort of the monthly volatility in the commercial lines expense ratio and what's been going on there.

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

So, you know, whenever we're looking at results monthly, you should expect volatility. Let me start there in terms of loss ratio as well as the expense ratio. In our commercialized business, we talked about non-acquisition expense ratio previously. We have actually been growing our expense ratio and our commercial business, and that's been intentional and planned for because we're investing for our future growth.

Specifically, our business owners' program. We're now in 13 states and are feeling great about our progress there so far. We would like to get basically to the entire country with that program because we think it effectively triples our addressable market, like commercial line business. We've also invested heavily in what we call our small business insurance initiative, which is essentially the direct platform for our commercial lines business, and our business quote explorer, which similar to our Homeport explore, makes it very easy to get quotes from a variety of carriers through our direct platform there.

So, we have long-term plans to bring that expense ratio on our commercial lines business back down. But in the near term, it's going to be slightly elevated from where we've been. That said, you know, on a relative basis, relative to our competitors, meaning we have a very competitive cost structure in a commercialized business. But if you're looking for commentary, specifically clear on an expense ratio, loss ratio for the month, we encourage you to look a little longer term, at least to the quarter.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

And what I would say, Meyer, is that this was very specifically planned several years ago when we set forth the 3 Horizon concept. We saw some opportunities in Horizon to mostly around commercial Auto and BOP and TNC and small business and fleet. And so, we knew that in order to invest there that we had to have some money -- you know put some money into it. And now we're seeing the fruition of that investment.

So, we believe it will come down over time as we have more broad coverage with these products, but we feel very good about that spend because we felt like it was an opportunity in that addressable market for us to do many new and different things to solidify. Again, our commercial auto with even more products. And the pandemics been a little bit odd for small businesses, but we feel positive about that going forward in our ability to win in and with that bought product on both the agency and direct side.

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Excellent. Thank you so much.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Brian Meredith with UBS? Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Brian Meredith -- UBS -- Analyst

My question, Chris, if I look at average written premium per policy for your personal auto business, you know, it went from plus one 2Q to minus two in 3Q. Just curious, is that all due to the rate actions you've been taking or are you seeing any changes in customer buying habits, i.e., higher deductibles, lower limits, those types of things that may be having an impact on that as well.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

I would say the majority of that is our reduction in premiums. I haven't seen too much of a change in our business mix profile.

Brian Meredith -- UBS -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Josh Shanker with Bank of America. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Josh Shanker -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you for taking my question this late in the call. I'm just wondering if we can compare shopping behavior right now with the -- compared to where it was three years ago. I've tended to believe that when prices are going up, Progressive's seasonal shopping [Inaudible] people are unsatisfied. But, you know, now that prices are going down, maybe people widely know that there's bargains to be had in auto insurance and so it might stimulate a decent amount of buying.

And if you can add, is there a difference between the shopping behavior, people seeking just in auto policy and people seeking in auto and home policy?

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. That's so hard, Josh, to look at and compare it three years ago. You know, I do think that even when prices are going down in this environment, it might be different. And this is -- I hate to use the word, but still unprecedented.

It really depends on the situation with the consumer and what they're looking for in terms of, you know, did somebody get furloughed or waived off, et cetera. So, I think it's hard to know. And what we really focus on is making sure that have the message out there that we have that broad coverage, that we have the ability to measure our acquisition costs and now that they're under our targeted amount to get the customer in there. So, it's really hard for me to say.

I think what we've tried to do is just, when they are shopping, regardless of the reason, we're available, we're easy, and we're competitively priced. Do you want to add anything?

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Yeah. So, I agree with Tricia. It's -- there are many different metrics around shopping behavior, and they don't always agree. What -- as Tricia noted, what we're most concerned with is that we are spending efficiently to get the prospects we are getting as we know prospects are up.

In terms of prospects, we are getting in the behavior in terms of auto or auto home, you know, we are increasingly being positioned as the bundled provider for certain. And we do measure consumers' perception on that. And certainly, our quotes for bundles, both in the direct channel as well as the agency channel, have been growing faster than in the mono line op.

Josh Shanker -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Suneet Kamath with Citi Research. Go ahead, please. Your line is open.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

Great. Thank you. I wanted to circle back to Road test. It sounds like you have had the technology for a while, but maybe haven't focused on it or marketed it, so just curious why the decision to make a push now.

And are you planning on rolling that out to existing policyholders as well as new customers, or just new customers? Thanks.

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We had something called test drive years ago. I want to say five or six years ago, maybe. And at the time, there were some complications because the way it was up, they need to put in some data.

So, we think that that was probably one of the reasons we did a little bit of advertising, not a lot. So, we've been working on road tests just to give people the ability to still have their own coverage and how smooth it would be with Progressive. And again, we're -- we've been working on this for a while. We want to make it, you know, very worthy of our customers.

So, I'd say we've been working on this for over a year, rolled it out a couple of months ago. Data is really early because we want to continue to learn as we spread -- as we, you know, broaden that coverage. But, you know, yes, so you wouldn't do it if you're for us, you'd probably have Snapshot already. These are for customers that have other coverage.

Again, we're going to work through the funnel economics on that and then likely roll it out more broadly in the very near future.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you.

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

That appears to have been our final questions. So that concludes our event. James, I'll hand the call back over to you for the closing scripts.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 65 minutes

Call participants:

Douglas Constantine -- Director of Investor Relations

Tricia Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Mike Zaremski -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Unknown speaker

Elyse Greenspan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

John Sauerland -- Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Jimmy Bhullar -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Charles Peters -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Michael Phillips -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Gary Ransom -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Yaron Kinar -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

David Motemaden -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Meyer Shields -- KBW -- Analyst

Brian Meredith -- UBS -- Analyst

Josh Shanker -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

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