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Chicago, Ill., 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 for $2,500.
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 1960s. 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.
About Bankers Life and Casualty Company
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.
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