|By Roddie Burris, The State (Columbia, S.C.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Fluker's photo -- housed at the modern-day Colonial Life headquarters off
"We're celebrating our 75 years with a reinforcement of our basic, grand message," said
"The average worker in America doesn't have a financial counselor, a financial adviser," Horn said. "Our folks are out in the worksite, in the workforce everyday, helping them make benefit selections that will be ideal for themselves and their families."
The company was started by two men,
Maybe even more remarkably, the men started the company without either of them ever having sold so much as a single insurance policy -- and grew it into a national powerhouse.
At the end of 2012,
Closer to home, Colonial Life has a
Further, in 1989, Averyt, who served as Colonial Life's president and chairman of the board until he retired, was inducted into the
And in 1998,
"The Averyt family knows the insurance business inside out," said
Judy and the elder Averyt hired that first female sales force in the '30s because they felt women could relate to the struggles of others, according to company history.
It was also important for the sales force to be able to talk to prospective customers about the need to protect their financial gains, the company said: the first product Colonial Life sold was accidental death coverage.
"We have a long history of helping America's workers protect the vitally important things they've worked so hard to build," Horn said.
Colonial Life today specializes in group and individual coverage plans for medical, which includes hospital stays and accident insurance; income protection, or disability; catastrophic illness, such as cancer insurance and critical care insurance, and survivor benefits, which includes universal life insurance coverage with long-term care benefits, and whole life and term life insurance coverage.
Despite its unlikely start, the company has constantly innovated cutting-edge changes in the insurance industry, many of which have become standard-place practices in the U.S. workforce:
--In the 1950s, Colonial Life pioneered payroll deduction as a means of paying for benefits at the worksite.
--In the 1970s, the company was among the earliest implementers of computer technology.
--In the 1980s, agents started marketing products through a flexible benefit plan and introduced electronic enrollment capabilities nationwide.
--In 2000, the company created its online enrollment system.
Colonial Life's impact on the community also has been significant. The company is completing a
Colonial Life merged with
"They have had a unique set of products, for a long time," Csiszar said. "They occupied a (relatively small, but growing) market niche that really no one else was."
Because the Averyts kept Colonial Life focused on the mid-level insurance market, Csiszar said, that allowed the company to develop strong relationships with brokers, agents and companies over time.
The result, said Csiszar, who also led
One of the challenges Colonial Life may face going forward is increased competition for its market niche. Insurance industry leader
But Horn says the pioneering spirit is still alive at Colonial Life.
Company leaders are "very proud of our history and accomplishments, but also very excited about the future," Horn said.
The company founders "put a sales force together that really is in the same form today as the way they constructed it: it was an independent-based sales force -- tremendously loyal to Colonial Life -- but they're independent in nature, which gives them unlimited opportunities out in the marketplace."
The biggest challenge Colonial Life may face though, is the very same challenge every other insurance company faces: how to demonstrate the value of insurance to those who don't have it, or think they cannot afford it.
A 2013 Colonial Life survey found people were more likely to spend extra money on a new electronic device than on insurance. The survey, completed in September asked respondents if they were given an extra
Insurance industry statistics show about 100 million Americans have no private disability insurance, only 49 percent have short-term disability and 44 percent have long-term disability coverage.
Life insurance coverage is missing to 41 percent of U.S. adults, or 93 million people, the figures show, while 43 percent of those who have the coverage say they don't have enough.
"And that's what really all our products are meant to do," Horn said, "is to help provide a financial safety net for those folk. What hasn't changed is that so many people don't think about it until it's too late."
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