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Winning over reluctant allies

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One of Gus Fuldner's accomplishments as head of insurance at San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. has been turning insurers, who may have been initially wary of embracing the firm, into allies.

An example is Uber's partnerships with third-party insurers that sell insurance to its drivers for the times when they are not working for Uber and, thus, not covered under its policies.

“We support them in building those products on the actuarial side, giving them the data they need to create those products as well as making our drivers aware that those products exist,” Mr. Fuldner said.

Insurers that have “stepped up”" and offered these products include Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.; San Antonio-based United Services Automobile Association; San Francisco-based Metromile Insurance Services L.L.C.; Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance Group; Mayfield, Ohio-based Progressive Corp.; and Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate Corp.

“Gus approaches things from a different perspective,” said Mariel Devesa, Los Angeles-based head of innovation at Farmers. “He's not coming from insurance, which I find very refreshing, and yet he's very bright in that he knows the ins and outs of the business extremely well.”

The key factor, he said, is several personal auto insurers “are sort of embracing this market and seeing this as a market opportunity, whereas two years ago ... they weren't sure what to think of it. It was new and potentially scary just because it was something different and growing fast, and things don't change that often in auto insurance land.”

Farmers, Progressive and USAA, for instance, each has issued policies that are “basically an extension or endorsement” under which Uber drivers “can buy their personal auto products in different states where, for a small incremental premium, you get coverage that recognizes your use of the vehicle in ride-sharing and includes in some cases a bunch of extra first-party coverages,” Mr. Fuldner said. “It's basically personal auto insurance recognizing that you also use your vehicle on a part-time basis for ride-sharing.”