For the insurance industry, 2017 will be remembered largely for the multiple catastrophes that occurred (Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the California wildfires, to name a few). Insured losses from these and other smaller catastrophic events were the highest for the U.S. in 12 years.
Despite the fact our weather-related claims increased 36% from the previous year, we were able to extend our streak to six consecutive years with an underwriting profit. This was last done 60 years ago. This would not have been possible without the support of nearly 6,300 agencies that represent us, and our team of nearly 5,000 dedicated and committed associates.
In addition to being very pleased with our profitable results, we established new highs for growth in written premium and policy count. For the first time ever, we issued more than $1 billion in new business premium ($1.15 billion). Overall, net written premium increased a record $621 million (10.4%). The last time we had double-digit growth in premium was 2003.
In-force policy count increased by more than 345,000, eclipsing the previous high by more than 55,000 policies. Policyholder surplus increased to nearly $10.9 billion, proving we have plenty of financial capacity to support double-digit growth for many years. Auto-Owners Life Insurance Company enjoyed a great year as well, receiving 12% more applications than the previous year.
A.M. Best continues to recognize our performance and financial strength, reaffirming our A++ (Superior) rating once again. This marks the 46th consecutive year we’ve received their highest available rating. We were listed at 398 in the Fortune 500 list, the same ranking as in 2016.
Acquired in 2016, Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company posted excellent results in terms of profitability and premium growth. On April 1, 2017, we affiliated with Concord General Mutual Insurance Company, a strong, well-established independent agency company writing in four New England states. This extends our ability to market high-quality products to 30 states.
Our team of hard-working associates is dedicated to continuous improvement and providing the best possible service, giving agents and policyholders even more reasons to choose Auto-Owners for their insurance needs.