Mr. Alfred M. Best was a student, writer, editor, publisher and recognized authority on insurance. As founder, president and chairman of the company that bears his name, A. M. Best & Co., he advocated financial standards to serve as guides for the development of sound insurance operations. He also introduced and championed proper interpretation of insurance accounting. And he wrote and published impartial and objective annual reports and studies that were looked upon---and today continue to be looked on-- for their authority.
He won recognition in the insurance world as an expert on financial functions and operations of insurance institutions. Throughout his career he was frequently called upon to testify in this capacity before the U. S. Congress.
In 1892, at the age of 15-1/2, he was hired as a junior clerk at the local department of the Queen Insurance Company of America. Later he was offered a job as assistant to the placer for the New York brokerage firm Owens and Phillips. It was to be his first opportunity to get acquainted with insurance company officials, since he visited many of the insurance offices in New York.
After gaining more experience in the insurance industry, he determined to strike out on his own. He saw that there should be some place where any one interested, whether insured, agent or broker, could obtain a reliable report on the financial condition and operating methods of insurance companies. That idea was the germ from which A. M. Best & Co. grew.
So, in1899, he incorporated as Alfred M. Best Company with a small shop, a second-hand desk and an old typewriter. Soon, he would begin to induce insurance companies to buy copies of his first edition of Best Reports on insurance financials. In 1904, he began a monthly supplement to the annual volume which was the forerunner of today’s Best’s Insurance News. In 1906, he published the first alphabetical rating of insurance concerns. In 1912, he expanded commentary on policy conditions, premium rates, dividends, net costs and surrender values and included this information in a separate volume. Many other innovations followed over the years and have remained constant in modern times.
A. M. Best’s goal was to "protect the public" and provide the facts. In this goal, he became a pioneer whose vitality is still felt today.