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Unum Group has been expanding its distribution force for voluntary and worksite benefits in the United States, and executives say the results of the expansion have been good.

Tim Arnold, president of the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based insurer’s Colonial Life, said the new hires have been doing a good job of helping the company reach out to small and midsize employers.

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“We’re seeing strong sales from these new hires,” Arnold said today during a conference call with securities analysts that was streamed live on the web. “It’s not just about bodies in the building.”

The Colonial Life unit increased premium revenue 6.6%, to $374 million, and it increased commission payments to agents and other distributors 9.5%, to $85 million.

Unum posted a recording of the call on the web. 

Unum as a whole is reporting $230 million in net income for the first quarter on $2.8 billion in revenue, up from $211 million in net income on $2.7 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2016.

Unum is a major provider of disability insurance and has a large closed block of long-term care insurance business on its books. Both products are sensitive to low interest rates.

Rates remain low. They increased at the beginning of the year, then fell back in March, according to Jack McGarry, the company’s chief financial officer.

“They are still significantly better than last year,” McGarry said.

Executives said competition in the United States is strong, but not abnormally strong.

One challenge is that companies that have traditionally focused on very large or very small employers are now trying harder to reach midsize employers, executives said.

Executives said wages at U.S. employers seem to be growing, but that job growth may have slowed.

— Read Unum Still Expanding Colonial Life Salesforce on ThinkAdvisor.