INSURING AMERICA: BANKERS LIFE AND CASUALTY COMPANY CELEBRATES 125 YEARS
Thursday, January 15, 2004
History Shaped by John D. MacArthur and a Commitment to the Senior
CHICAGO (January 15, 2004) - Bankers Life and
Casualty Company commemorates its 125-year anniversary this
Saturday, Jan. 17, marking an impressive milestone in a rich
history shaped by legendary leadership and a strong commitment to
the financial health of senior Americans.
"We are proud of our company's history. This milestone allows us
to remember the great achievements that have made Bankers the
strong company it is today, as well as to look forward to the next
125 years," said Bill Shea, president and chief executive officer.
"Bankers's reputation has consistently grown over the years due to
the company's focus, commitment and dedication to understanding the
financial needs of seniors."
The Chicago-based insurance company's roots extend back to 1879,
when its predecessor, Hotel Men's Mutual Benefit Association, was
founded to offer hotel workers insurance. While the business would
undergo significant changes in the following decades through
mergers, acquisitions and shifting missions, the figure looming
largest in the company's heritage remains the legendary John D.
MacArthur, a Chicago insurance man, who in 1935 purchased Bankers
Life and Casualty Company from the Illinois Insurance Department
MacArthur subsequently grew Bankers into a billion dollar
company, partly through acquisition but mostly through new ways of
selling insurance. He offered policies for $1 a month to the common
man, rather than just the wealthy, and pioneered the concept of
mass marketing low-cost health insurance through the mail.
MacArthur was a relentless leader and expected his employees to
work hard and represent his company well. His methods reflected
both progressive and long-vanished U.S. business and social mores
of the times. He was an industry pioneer who envisioned the
importance of the senior market decades before most other insurers.
At the same time, life at Bankers included an internal charm school
and beauty pageant for women employees and a company nurse who
would 'check-in' on sick employees at home. Mail boys were
outfitted with shopping carts to deliver mail faster and more
efficiently between buildings of the company's former complex on
Chicago's North Side.
One of the more significant relationships MacArthur built was
when he retained news commentator Paul Harvey as the company
spokesman in 1955. Harvey represented Bankers for 30 consecutive
years, making it the longest running sponsorship relationship in
history. Because of Harvey's success in relating to the senior
market, Bankers recently re-signed him as company spokesperson
beginning January 3, 2004.
Under MacArthur's direction, Bankers became one of the first
insurers to enter the senior market with its Medicare supplement
insurance offering once privatized legislation passed in the
1960's. The company also pioneered the development and marketing of
nursing home insurance and entered the fixed annuity business,
expanding its portfolio of senior market health insurance products
to include retirement savings.
Aside from his professional career, MacArthur also played a part
in some thrilling stories, one being the 1964 robbery of the 100
karat 'DeLong Star Ruby' from a New York museum. The culprit was
notorious jewel thief, Jack Roland Murphy, alias 'Murf the Surf'. A
Miami gangster acquired the jewel from Murphy and offered to sell
it to the very wealthy MacArthur. Working with authorities,
MacArthur agreed to 'ransom' the jewel back for $25,000. In a plan
that involved a suitcase full of cash and a daring rendezvous in a
phone booth, the ruby was recovered. The gem, more notorious than
ever, was returned to a museum where visitors lined up to view it
in record numbers.
Upon his death in 1978, MacArthur transferred control of the
company and gave $900 million to fund the John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation, an Illinois not-for-profit charitable trust
that still thrives today. The foundation has supported many
endeavors throughout the years: the famed 'genius grants',
community initiatives, health projects and environmental
preservation. The foundation has awarded more than $3 billion in
grants since it began operations in 1978 and is one of the nation's
ten largest private philanthropic foundations.
In 1984, the foundation sold Bankers for $382 million to ICH
Corporation, an insurance holding company that sold it for $600
million in 1992 to Conseco Capital Partners. Despite the changes of
ownership, MacArthur's influence remains a large part of the
Bankers culture today.
Today, Bankers is aggressively growing its share of the long
term care market at a time when many insurers are pulling out, and
is today the third largest provider of long term care products. The
company is able to avoid financial pitfalls due to its market
access and extensive claims and underwriting experience. To support
growth, Bankers is investing in its captive agent sales force, and
plans to add 20 new offices in 2004.
Established in 1879 and headquartered at the historic
Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Bankers Life and Casualty
Company focuses exclusively on the financial security needs of
seniors. The company offers a broad portfolio of health and life
insurance and retirement savings products designed especially for
seniors. These products are distributed through a national network
of professionally trained company agents. Visit us online at www.bankers.com.