Policyholders Vote On Merger Between Berkshire And Guardian
Policyholders have now cast their votes on the proposed merger between Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Berkshire Life Insurance Company, and at press time early indications show overwhelming approval. However, a group of disaffected agents and policyholders continued to criticize the move up until the vote.
On June 22, Berkshire policyholders participated in a special meeting to vote on the merger with Guardian.
Many Berkshire policyholders began voting prior to this meeting, with the tally as of press time closing in on 25% of the total vote. Those votes showed 94% in favor of the merger.
Upon completion of the merger, Berkshire will focus on its disability insurance line, making its products available to the entire Guardian field force. “We’ve got the green light on a business we are really good at,” says James Zilinski, president and CEO of Berkshire.
Throughout the transition, Guardian has been interviewing Berkshire agents with the hope of recruiting them. This process took place through December of last year, at which time 92 of the 143 career Berkshire agents signed on with Guardian.
Leon Wynter, manager of public relations at Guardian, says, “Since the plan to merge the companies was announced, our intention has been to recruit as many individual qualified Berkshire agents that wanted to come with Guardian as possible.”
Some former Berkshire agents, however, feel this ‘transition’ was really a termination of the current career field force.
“When they closed the office down, we could have signed on with Guardian, but everyone went elsewhere,” says Clarke Langrall, an insurance advisor formerly licensed with Berkshire, and a current Berkshire policyholder.
“We left for a number of reasons: we didn’t like a forced hand, we didnt like the leadership in the local agency, and we found better opportunities,” says Langrall.
Zilinski says Berkshire wants to maintain good relationships with the agents who left. “We want them to take care of the client, we want them to be brokers for us, and weve given them the best financial package in the industry.”
Zilinski adds, “The door is open to anyone who decided not to join Guardian” to come back at a later time.
The terms of the merger reveal that Guardian will create a separate policy segment, called the “Berkshire Segment.” This segment will use, among other elements, an updated mortality table reflecting the experience of Berkshire’s policyholders.