Seeking A New Policy For Growth

With their numbers dwindling, black insurers map out a plan for survival

price competitive or better in quality because it’s their specialty. So there may be some quality or price advantages associated with being a niche player."

Larkin Teasley, CEO of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Los Angeles (No. 3 on the be insurance companies list with $102.3 million in assets), focused much of his attention this past year on expanding his company’s reach in the marketplace. "Population growth is a source of business growth. Some of the larger companies have decided that they need to take a look at some of the markets they haven’t served before, such as African American and Latino markets, which both have a higher growth rate," he says.

But Golden State has had limited success to date. "We need to expand the number of individuals who can speak the language and understand the culture," says Teasley. "Unless a company really adds that kind of manpower, they cannot expect to have any success in a different marketplace."

Golden State has had better luck with other strategies, however. Last year, it began using a concept called "work-site marketing," which it started in the Washington, D.C., area to court government workers. It sends independent agents to various agencies to sell its product on site.

At home in Los Angeles, the company has formed an innovative partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. In exchange for setting up meetings between the Postal Service and small businesses to discuss the agency’s contracting needs, the company can send its employee benefits consultants to sell services to postal employees.

Although he is pleased with the results, Teasley says, "we want to experience a certain level of success, and then we’ll take the show on the road and expand to other cities."
The company is trying to penetrate the marketplace by selling insurance online as well. It developed a Website (www.gsm a few years back, but it was not effective in driving traffic. Having added new features and better links to the site, Teasley is more confident about the future of technology at Golden State. "We think the World Wide Web is going to be a place to increase insurance sales," he maintains.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. (No. 2 on the be insurance companies list with $196 million in assets) has been working to improve the quality and cost efficiency of its customer service operations. It is currently going through a major technological conversion. Maintains CEO Charles Cornelius, "At the end of the day, we think we should be able to handle our current book of business in a much more cost-efficient manner."

Cornelius estimates that this conversion will cost the company about $2 million in 1999. Atlanta Life recently decided to pump more money into advertising and marketing. It has tested a new campaign in Atlanta — complete with radio spots and newspaper ads. He says, "[A lot of people] keep telling me how pleasantly surprised they are

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