Insurer Unum Group celebrated its 175th anniversary on Friday when some employees wrapped about 1,000 packets of snacks for children in need in the lobby of its downtown Chattanooga headquarters.
“It’s been a good year for Unum,” said Martha Leiper, the company’s chief investment officer, of 2022. “It’s a good time for employees to give back.”
The voluntary benefits company, which offers disability, life, dental and vision insurance among its products, has lasted this long because it fills a need, Leiper said in an interview.
“People need financial protection,” she said. “They need a way to have a backup in case something happens in their life.”
The company, which employs about 2,800 in the city and about 10,000 worldwide, is one of the oldest businesses in Chattanooga. It dates back to 1848 when Union Mutual was incorporated in Maine and later became Unum.
In 1887, Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. was founded in Chattanooga. A series of mergers and acquisitions from 1993 to 1999 by Unum, Provident, Paul Revere and Colonial Life created what was known as UnumProvident and later Unum. Chattanooga became the headquarters of the insurance company.
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While the combined company initially stumbled in implementing its business plan with the stock price collapse, it later regrouped.
Earlier this year, Unum reported better earnings for 2022 than 2021 on solid operational performance and favorable trends in its business, the insurer reported.
For the year, adjusted after-tax operating income was $1.25 billion, or $6.21 per share, compared to $890 million, or $4.36 per share, in 2021, according to Unum.
Last December, Unum officials said about 100 new jobs would be created in Chattanooga and 200 across the company.
Leiper said the company will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2023 with a big event in July and will run three “Caring Spirit Campaigns” this month, such as the “Heroes for Hunger” campaign.
“We do that in the US, Ireland, the UK and Poland,” Leiper added, naming the other locations where it has offices.
Chattanooga corporate social responsibility manager Rachel Hargis said in an interview that the snack packages will benefit the Y Community Action Program, which provides early intervention and prevention for youth ages 10 to 15 who are referred from juvenile courts or school systems become.
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On Thursday, Unum volunteers packed hygiene kits for the community kitchen, Hargis said.
“Unum is quite unique,” she said, adding that employees can take time out during the workday to volunteer as long as business needs are met. “Unum is super supportive. There is no shortage of need in Chattanooga.”
Leiper said Unum delivered the food for the volunteer work on Friday.
“This is a core value for Unum,” she said. “It’s about giving the time and talent to be an advocate and make a difference in the community. Younger people want to work for a company that gives back to the community.”
Leiper said the pandemic has left many employers struggling to find workers. She said employee benefits are one of the main reasons people choose to work for an organization.
“That’s the priority,” said Leiper. “That makes us very relevant.”
• 1848: Union Mutual formed in Maine, later Unum.
• 1864: The American reinsurance market emerges when Union Mutual reinsures Chicago Mutual Life.
• 1887: Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. formed in Chattanooga, began insuring railroad workers.
• 1937: Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Co. incorporated in South Carolina in 1937.
• 1939: Provident becomes the first insurer to offer disability benefits.
• 1990: Unum expands into the UK.
• 1993: Mergers and acquisitions from 1993 to 1999 combine Unum, Provident, Paul Revere and Colonial Life. Originally known as UnumProvident, the company becomes the Unum Group in 2007.
• 1999: UnumProvident becomes the first employee to offer an employee assistance plan with group disability insurance.
• 2015: Unum expands into the dental market with acquisitions of National Dental Plan and Starmount Life. Starmount also offers privacy protection.
• 2023: Company celebrates 175th anniversary.
Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318.