At the first of the year, Tim Arnold, who has been splitting duties with retiring CEO Randy Horn, officially will be welcomed in as Colonial Life’s new leader in Columbia – where company employees are sometimes asked about basketball tickets.
Colonial Life, the longstanding employee insurance company, is not a place where fans can go to get their hands on one of the hottest tickets in town right now, though Colonial Life Arena, its high-profile namesake, is indeed home to the USC Gamecocks, the top-ranked women’s college basketball team.
Arnold, who was named Colonial Life’s president in July, says strong community commitment, including the naming rights partnership with USC to Colonial Life Arena, is a wonderful part of the culture at Colonial Life – embedded in the business – and he plans to continue it under his leadership.
“We believe that making this community better will certainly help our business as well as helping people,” Arnold said. “We’re very proud of (USC women’s coach) Dawn Staley and the job that she’s doing – the No.1-ranked Gamecocks. We think that’s going to create more television exposure.”
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Founded in Columbia in 1939, Colonial Life this year celebrated its 75th anniversary and, as a national company now, concentrates on protecting America’s workers through insurance, said Arnold, a Chattanooga, Tenn., native.
The company specializes in group and individual coverage plans for medical, income protection and disability, catastrophic illness and survivor benefits through universal, whole life and term life insurance coverage.
Its more than 1,030 employees in Columbia and sizable field sales and marketing force work with companies and businesses to provide insurance coverage through workplaces throughout the nation.
Arnold joined Colonial Life in July 2011, following a 27-year career with Unum in Chattanooga; Worchester, Mass.; and Portland, Maine, where he held a number of company leadership positions, including in underwriting, with United Way.
He has continued those kinds of leadership roles in South Carolina, serving on the boards of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the S.C. Junior Golf Foundation, and the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.
Colonial Life merged with Chattanooga-based Unum Provident in 1993, and the company always has promoted its leadership from within.
Arnold, whose father worked in mills and whose mother worked in the school system, came from a predominantly blue collar, middle-class background and was the first in his extended family to graduate from college.
“I was proud of that,” Arnold says.
Arnold takes over the company – whose pioneering history began with an all-female workforce in 1937 before becoming Colonial Life two years later – as it is enjoying possibly its highest public profile ever. In addition to having its name on the arena in Columbia, it has launched a sponsorship with CNBC on the network’s reruns of the popular television show, “Shark Tank,” Arnold noted.
“In terms of name recognition, we’re very pleased with the partnership that we have with the University of South Carolina, including the arena. We want to continue to leverage that relationship,” Arnold said.
“We believe the 10,000 agents that we have in the field, and our home office employees, are the best ambassadors for our company, so we don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, compared to some others.”
In 2012, Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. had annual sales of more than $361 million, with $1.3 billion of premiums in force. Its largest customer base in the 50 states is in South Carolina.
Arnold said the need in South Carolina for Colonial Life’s products is great, and while the company serves all size markets, it targets small businesses, which are plentiful in the Palmetto State.
Meanwhile, Colonial Life, in turn, has a wide annual economic impact in South Carolina and the Midlands of more than $100 million.
The company and its employees manage to give more than $2 million to local charities each year, including more than $422,000 to the United Way of the Midlands, with a more than 83 percent employee pledge participation rate.
“What an incredible honor it is to lead this company,” Arnold said. “It’s a company that has an incredibly rich history of doing the right thing for its employees, for its customers and for the community. And I want to see us continue to do that – I’m determined to see us continue to do that.
“It’s a really cool business to be in.”