MetLife, Inc. is the holding corporation for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, or MetLife, for short, and its affiliates. MetLife is among the largest global providers of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programs, with 90 million customers in over 60 countries. The firm was founded on March 24, 1868.

On January 6, 1915, MetLife completed the mutualization process, changing from a stock life insurance company owned by individuals to a mutual company operating without external shareholders and for the benefit of policyholders. The company went public in 2000. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia’s Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East. MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States and serves 90 of the largest Fortune 500 companies. The company’s principal offices are located at 1095 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, though it retains some executive offices and its boardroom in the MetLife Building, located at 200 Park Avenue, New York City, which it sold in 2005.

The predecessor company to MetLife began in 1863 when a group of New York City businessmen raised $100,000 to found the National Union Life and Limb Insurance Company. The company insured Civil War sailors and soldiers against disabilities due to wartime wounds, accidents, and sickness. On March 24, 1868, it became known as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and shifted its focus to the life insurance business. A severe business depression that began in the early 1870s forced the company to contract, until it reached its lowest point in the late 1870s. After observing the insurance industry in Great Britain in 1879, MetLife President Joseph F. Knapp brought “industrial” or “workingmen’s” insurance programs to the United States – insurance issued in small amounts on which premiums were collected weekly or monthly at the policyholder’s home. By 1880, sales had exceeded a quarter million of such policies, resulting in nearly $1 million in revenue from premiums. In 1909, MetLife had become the nation’s largest life insurer in the U.S., as measured by life insurance in force (the total value of life insurance policies issued).

In 1907, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tower was commissioned to serve as MetLife’s 23rd Street headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Completed two years later, the building was the world's tallest until 1913 and remained the company's headquarters until 2005. For many years, an illustration of the building (with light emanating from the tip of its spire and the slogan, "The Light That Never Fails") featured prominently in MetLife’s advertising. By 1930, MetLife insured every fifth man, woman, and child in the United States and Canada. During the 1930s, it also began to diversify its portfolio by reducing the percentage of individual mortgages in favor of public utility bonds, investments in government securities, and loans for commercial real estate. The company financed the construction of the Empire State Building in 1929 as well as provided capital to build Rockefeller Center in 1931. During World War II, MetLife placed more than 51 percent of its total assets in war bonds, and was the largest single private contributor to the Allied cause.

Life insurance
MetLife’s individual life insurance products and services comprise term life insurance and several types of permanent life insurance, including whole life, universal life and variable universal life. The company also offers group life insurance, provided through employers, which consists of term life, group variable universal life and group universal life. MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States, based on life insurance in-force.


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