By MATTHEW STURDEVANT, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
8:06 PM EST, March 7, 2013
— MetLife will consolidate operations and shift jobs to North Carolina, where it will build two new campuses in a move aimed at saving hundreds of millions of dollars by 2016.
An undisclosed number of jobs will be slashed in Bloomfield and other MetLife locations nationwide as the insurer moves 2,600 positions to Charlotte and Cary, N.C. It's an investment of $125.5 million.
A spokesman for the nation's largest life insurer said the transition will happen over years.
"This is a multi-year relocation plan," MetLife spokesman John Calagna said. "So, I don't have a number to share with you at this point regarding the number of positions in Bloomfield impacted."
Calagna confirmed that MetLife is closing offices in Lowell, Mass.; Somerset, N.J.; and Aliso Viejo, Calif., and will reduce its workforce and its footprint in Bloomfield; Boston; Irvine, Calif.; Johnstown, Pa.; and Warwick, R.I.
MetLife, officially called the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York, said last year it was looking to cut $600 million in expenses by 2016.
Life insurers are facing financial pressures because of low interest rates, which limit growth on their investments, and a half-century low for the industry in terms of the percent of American households that have individual life insurance, according to Windsor-based LIMRA, an industry-funded research group. Individual life insurance is often sold by an agent, a bank or directly by the insurer, which is different from group life offered to workers through an employer.
The life insurance industry has improved in some ways. Sales of individual life insurance policies were up 6 percent last year in terms of annualized premiums, the amount customers pay to insurers each year, according to LIMRA.
Additionally, 2012 was the third consecutive year for growth in annualized premiums and the second year of growth for policies sold — the first time the number of policies grew two years consecutively since 1980 and 1981, according to LIMRA.
MetLife is creating hubs for its U.S. retail business in Charlotte and its global technology and operations business in Cary. The jobs include product management, sales, marketing and customer support in Charlotte and information technology jobs in Cary.
MetLife's Bloomfield location is primarily sales support, product support and information technology jobs, Calagna said.
In return for creating jobs, North Carolina is offering $116.3 million in incentives through the state's job development investment grant program, though only three-fourths of it would be for MetLife. The remaining amount would build infrastructure in lower-income counties in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, MetLife is eligible to receive 12 annual grants equal to 75 percent of the state personal income tax withholdings from the new jobs created. The value of that is as much as $87.2 million, according to a release from Gov. Pat McCrory's office.
Additional funds up to $29.09 million could be added to North Carolina's utility fund for infrastructure improvements in economically distressed counties. When funds are awarded to a company in the state's more prosperous counties, including the two at stake in this agreement, 25 percent of the grant is allocated to the state utility fund to encourage economic development in less prosperous counties.
The project also involves a performance-based grant of as much as $2 million from the One North Carolina Fund.
What this means for Connecticut is unclear. MetLife remains an important member of the state's business community, said Ronald F. Angelo Jr., deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
"….we will continue to have discussions with them about their Connecticut workforce and how we can maintain that operation here," Angelo said. "[They] are looking at their real estate assets and how to best position themselves. So, right now, it's important to be reaching out and continue a dialogue with these companies, but the insurance and financial-service industry in this state is very, very strong. It remains strong. It is certainly something we are eyeing for growth in the future."
MetLife paid $50 million in 2007 to buy the South Building on Cigna Corp.'s Bloomfield campus. At the time, MetLife was consolidating about 2,000 employees from offices in Hartford, Glastonbury and Rocky Hill. The employees who worked in Hartford were mostly from the former Travelers Life & Annuity, which MetLife bought in 2005.
Bloomfield Town Manager Louie Chapman said Thursday that MetLife officials made the town aware Thursday that the company would be making some personnel moves over the next three years that would affect some local employees.
Chapman said the company has been a good, if distant, corporate citizen since moving its headquarters to town, but added that the town's relationship with MetLife is nonexistent.
"We have made a number of gestures to them, but they haven't expressed any interest in developing a relationship," Chapman said. "We weren't even rebuffed — just ignored."
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