MetLife Inc. is putting its institutional operations, its individual operations and its auto and home unit in a single U.S. business.

The move is partly a result of the growth in the voluntary benefits business at MetLife Inc., New York, a company spokesman says.

The realignment follows a reappraisal of company strategy begun 2 years ago by Steve Kandarian, MetLife’s chief investment officer, at the request of MetLife Chairman C. Robert Henrikson.

Combining the segments will improve MetLife’s product design and distribution resources, simplify its decision-making and promote profitable growth, the company says.

“With this realignment, we are recognizing that we can better serve both employee benefit plan sponsors and individual customers through a single, integrated organization, while preserving our unique franchises,” Henrikson says in the statement.

As employers shift more decisions about personal financial and retirement planning to employees, it made sense to bring MetLife’s individual and institutional business together, Henrikson says.

The realignment will help the company “increase our speed in delivering new products and solutions to the market, better leverage our distribution channels, enhance efficiencies and expand services to our customers,” Henrikson says.

William Mullaney, who has been president of MetLife’s institutional business since January 2007, will be president of the company’s new U.S. business organization. Mullaney earlier headed MetLife’s voluntary benefits business.

Although the changes take effect Aug. 1, the integration of the business segments is not expected to be completed until 2010, MetLife says.

There have been no immediate layoffs or key executive departures as a result of the reorganization, MetLife spokesman John Calagna says.

MetLife already sells worksite benefits at 90 of the Fortune 100 companies, Calagna notes.

MetLife sells through a captive sales force as well as independents and through banks and broker-dealers. Combining the individual and employer-based business will give representatives in these channels new opportunities to sell different products, he says.