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AM Best Trilogy: The Company, The Industry, The Man

AM Best publishes three books, which detail the history of AM Best, credit rating agencies and the life of Alfred M. Best.
  • September 2020
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The Company—A History of AM Best

AM Best started as a one-room shop jammed next to the elevator shaft on the top floor of a commercial building in Manhattan. Founder Alfred M. Best was only 23 when he leased the cramped space for $10 a month, but he had an idea: to provide reliable information about the financial health of insurance companies to anyone who needed it, most importantly policyholders.

Within a few years, Alfred developed the first credit ratings, which ultimately sparked an entire industry. AM Best began to grow, adding personnel, investing in technology, moving to larger buildings, eventually expanding around the world. Along the way, major leaders have contributed to the company's advancement, passing the baton from one generation to the next. More than 100 years after Alfred put his vision into motion, the dedicated employees of AM Best continue to move it forward.

The Industry—A History of Credit Rating Agencies

Benjamin Franklin once advised, “If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.” Business owners have understood this adage since the beginning of commerce. As trade expanded across the United States during the 19th century, widening the geographic gap between businesses and their lenders, a need arose: a method for lenders and investors to measure the creditworthiness of their borrowers.

Starting with mercantile agencies that reported on the bill-paying performance of businesses, then statistical organizations that began to evaluate the overall capacity of companies to pay their debt obligations, the credit rating industry was born. The first credit ratings were developed on insurance companies by Alfred M. Best, founder of AM Best. More than a century later, today's rating agencies have become important factors in global and national business, capital and risk markets.

The Man—A Biography of Alfred M. Best

At age 23, entrepreneur Alfred M. Best founded a company that developed the first credit ratings and eventually became a global presence in the insurance and rating industries.

Along the way, Alfred juggled the demands of running his own company with the tests of family life. His mission as a businessman was to protect the insurance policyholder from scam artists and shady deals. His mission as a family man was to support and shield his clan. Neither quest was simple.

Early in his career, Alfred adopted an old saying: “Don't take yourself too darned seriously.” The idea was to live a balanced life, which in many ways he did. Still, he did take everything to heart: his company, his wife and children, his farm in Vermont … along with personal and professional entanglements and tragedies. Herein lies the real story.

Publisher: AM Best (August 2020)


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