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How a Midsize Life Insurer's CEO Sees the Voluntary Benefits Market Today

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Amalgamated Life Insurance Company is a midsize life insurer operating in a market shaped by giant, multinational financial services companies.

Sidney Hillman, the president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, founded the company in 1943, to help protect working people against death and disability.

The company now generates about $80 million in net premiums per year, along with revenue from other, non-insurance sources, and is licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It sells group products such as disability, group life, stop-loss and specialty drug cost management services in the single-employer and Taft-Hartley markets.

(Related: Beasley Succeeds Raynor at Amalgamated)

Amalgamated Life has been working with another company to sell whole life on a voluntary basis since 2010. In 2015, it began to expand its voluntary products line. It sells its own voluntary disability, critical illness insurance and accident insurance, and it distributes voluntary identity theft protection, plans, hearing benefits plans and dental plans from other companies.

Paul Mallen, who was Amalgamated Life’s chief financial officer, took over from David Walsh as the company’s president and chief executive officer, in February. One of his goals is to expand the company’s voluntary products sales.

The company is now preparing to roll out a voluntary term life product.

Mallen said Amalgamated Life has seen steady growth in the traditional group life market, and growth rates ranging from modest to good  in the voluntary benefits market. Overall, he said, the labor market appears to be good and improving.

Here are three other things Mallen said about the voluntary benefits market Thursday, in a telephone interview.

1. He thinks one key to success is to take a careful, analytic approach to adding new voluntary products.

When Amalgamated Life thinks about adding a product, it has a team that includes actuaries, market analysts, sales representatives, and policy administration experts look into whether adding the product makes sense.

Mallen said a company has to be careful, even when the projections look good.

“At the end of the day, it’s the real experience that counts,” Mallen said.

2. He believes in technology.

Even though Amalgamated Life is smaller than many of its competitors, it has spent the money to create a mobile-friendly website, and it has an electronic application system.

“We’re dealing with paper less and less in the application process,” Mallen said.

3. He believes in live-human interactions.

When Amalgamated Life enrolls a group, “we meet the employees in person,” Mallen said. “There’s more cost to it. We end up getting a better customer, who’s educated.”

Amalgamated Life also strives to provide excellent customer service, and to pay claims promptly, Mallen said.

There are many other insurers trying to expand in the voluntary benefits market these days, but Amalgamated Life has had no trouble getting brokers’ and consultants’ attention, Mallen said. The company’s focus on service may be responsible for that ease of entry, he said.

“It’s all about relationships,” Mallen said.

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