Elephant Insurance Services, the fast-growing Henrico County-based seller of direct-to-consumer insurance, has a new chief executive officer.
Alberto Schiavon, 31, a native of Italy and a five-year employee of Admiral Group, Elephant’s United Kingdom-based parent company, became the CEO of the U.S. subsidiary on Nov. 1. The company made the announcement Tuesday.
Schiavon takes over as CEO from Henry Engelhardt, the co-founder and former CEO of Admiral Group, who had stepped out of retirement in March to serve as Elephant’s interim CEO following the departure of Kevin Chidwick, who had served as the top executive since 2012.
Admiral Group is a major insurance provider in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Originally from Venice, Italy, Schiavon moved to the Richmond area in March to lead marketing and pricing at Elephant. He moved here at the same time that Engelhardt took over the CEO role.
“I wanted to jump onto the opportunity to help Henry,” Schiavon said. “I have had a very good nine months here.”
He takes the helm at Elephant as the company is working to build its customer base and move toward profitability. Elephant sells auto, motorcycle and home insurance directly to customers online and by phone, a sales model for insurance that is more common in Europe than the United States.
As of July 1, the company had insured about 178,000 automobiles in the United States. It offers insurance in six states: Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee.
“I think we are very happy with how the business is performing,” Schiavon said. “We are really looking out for our customers and want to make sure our customers get great service, great prices and great products.”
Elephant Insurance was founded in Henrico in 2009 as a U.S. subsidiary of Admiral. The company added staff quickly but has not turned a profit yet, and executives have said they do not expect it to reach profitability for some time as it invests money in its operations, marketing and services to develop its customer base.
Admiral Group reported earlier this year that its U.S. subsidiary had a loss of $21 million in 2016, down from $23 million in 2015. Revenue was up 49 percent to $216 million.
Elephant had a loss in the first half of 2017 of $6.3 million, Schiavon said.
This year, “there have been a number of improvements and we have reduced losses quite considerably,” Schiavon said. The company has invested in a new online portal that enables policyholders to more easily make changes to their policies.
“We are still growing,” he said. “We grew our customer base and premiums written.”
While the company sells insurance in six states, Schiavon said it is licensed in 19 states. “We are thinking about further expansion,” he said.
The company has about 620 employees, most of them at its headquarters in the Deep Run I office building on Mayland Drive in western Henrico. About 60 work at an office in suburban Dallas that Elephant opened earlier this year because the Texas car insurance market is so large.
“We are hiring both in our Texas office and our Virginia office,” Schiavon said. Open positions includes sales, claims and customer service.
In October, the company announced a pay increase for about 350 of its staff. “We want to make sure we have an engaged, motivated and talented workforce,” he said.
Schiavon attended the University of Padua and worked for a small real estate company before earning a master’s degree in business from the Alliance Manchester Business School in the U.K.
He joined Admiral Group in 2012 as an international pricing manager. More recently, he was U.K. director of sales and marketing.
He is the fourth CEO at Elephant since the company was founded, including the interim CEO. The first was Andrew Rose, who went on to become CEO of Compare.com, a insurance price comparison website also based in Henrico and partly owned by Admiral.