Good news for employees of The Hartford who are moving to other companies in business unit sales: The Hartford’s top executive says he believes MassMutual and Forethought, two of the buyers, will offer jobs to virtually all of the workers — and keep them in the Hartford / Springfield area.
That’s the word from Liam E. McGee, chairman and CEO of The Hartford Financial Services Group, who updated The Courant on progress of the company’s transformation Tuesday.
Forethought is a Houston company that bought parts of The Hartford’s individual annuity business for an undisclosed sum. The company had said it would offer jobs to affected employees, but not where.
“Forethought really wants to keep all of the people,” McGee said in an interview. “I think they’ve already found space for them in the Hartford area.”
It’s not clear how many employees are affected by that deal but it’s believed to be in the hundreds.
MassMutual, which is buying The Hartford’s retirement services unit, with 700 local employees mostly in Windsor and Simsbury, has not said how many of those people it will keep, after they join the MassMutual staff in an expected fourth quarter close. There have been fears that many would be let go, because MassMutual already has about 1,200 employees in retirement services, mostly in Springfield.
“I think MassMutual is going to offer jobs to virtually all of those employees,” McGee said.
The reason: MassMutual’s retirement customers are typically larger employers, while The Hartford focuses on midsize and small employers, and MassMutual will need the people.
“I can’t predict the future,” McGee said, adding, “the facts are that MassMutual bought this business because they wanted to enter the small-to-middle-sized retirement business where they’re not a player.”
My view: He’s right, he can’t predict the future. No one knows the answer right now. The key to MassMutual keeping those jobs over time is whether it determines the skill sets are different enough from what they have, whether the contacts with customers hold their value, and mostly, whether the business can grow in a tough economy.
Regardless, it seems clear that McGee is making an effort not to just throw people under the insurance bus, even as The Hartford’s numbers fall. At the start of the year, the company has 10,300 employees in Connecticut, down from a pre-recession peak of more than 13,000, but still well larger than Aetna or Travelers, which have 6,700 and 7,000, respectively.
McGee’s overall point is that The Hartford will emerge from the sales and restructuring in a much stronger position to generate capital. Sometime next year, he said, the company will announce what it will do with all this cash — buy back shares, make acquisitions, pay off debt, invest in existing businesses. That would be a good dilemma to have, after the last four years.
There’s no updated employee number, but The Hartford has nearly finished its round of restructuring layoffs that started in 2011. And it’s too early to give a final target number for jobs, when The Hartford’s selloff of four businesses is completed.
“We’re running the company more efficiently than it was run before,” McGee said, but he added, “We will be the largest insurance employer in Connecticut when this is said and done.”