Aflac, based in Columbus, is a leading writer of voluntary insurance coverage. Founded in 1955 by brothers John, Paul, and William Amos and incorporated as American Family Life Insurance Company, the company grew from 6,426 policyholders in 1956 to more than 40 million policyholders worldwide in 2003.
Viewed historically, growth followed a number of innovations and management decisions. Expanding from life insurance, American Family Life pioneered cancer insurance in 1958. Over the years the company added policies to cover accidents, disability, dental work, specified health events, hospital confinement, hospital intensive care, and long-term care.
Beginning in 1964 the company decided to focus sales on worksite settings. By 2003 more than 98 percent of the company’s policies were issued on a payroll-deduction basis, making Aflac the U.S. leader in that sales approach. The decision to sell insurance internationally grew from John Amos’s 1970 visit to the Osaka World’s Fair in Japan. In 1974 the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, as it was then known, became the first U.S. company to sell insurance in Japan after the Allied occupation following World War II (1941-45). For eight years the company monopolized Japan’s cancer insurance market. By 1994, twenty years after the company entered the Japanese market, its cancer life policy covered one out of four Japanese households.
A New Name and a Duck
In 1973 American Family Life established a holding company, the American Family Corporation. In 1989 the holding company adopted a new trade name, Aflac. American Family Life had been unofficially calling itself Aflac since 1988. The name change set the company apart from the many others that included the word “American” in their names. Advertising campaigns of the 1990s dramatically increased name recognition of Aflac. In 2000 the company initiated an advertising campaign featuring a duck, which has become well known. A USA Today / Harris poll showed this campaign to be one of the best liked of that year. In 2001 Aflac used their successful advertising campaign in Japan to promote the first accident policy offered by Aflac in that market.
From 1992 to 2002 Aflac’s net income grew on average more than 20 percent annually, with single-year sales surpassing $1 billion in 2002. Annual revenues for 2003 exceeded $11.4 billion, and total assets exceeded $50 billion. By 2003 Aflac had become Japan’s leading life insurance company in terms of individual policies, the largest foreign insurer when measured by premium income, and the second most profitable foreign company operating in Japan. A major portion of Aflac’s current sales are in Japan.
Community Contributions and Corporate Work Environment
The Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service, located at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, hosts one of the country’s largest childhood cancer programs, sustains the nation’s highest patient-load in terms of sickle-cell anemia patients, and serves as a referral facility for pediatric cancers and bleeding and coagulation disorders. The center is the company’s largest service project. The company also is a significant contributor to the Columbus Hospice, to Columbus High School, and to various local, state, and national organizations. Aflac has been recognized by numerous organizations for its positive and attractive work environment. It is consistently voted one of the best places to work.
A Family-Run Company
John Amos, one of the original founders, served as president and chair of the company from 1955 until his death in 1990. After John’s death, his brother Paul Amos became chair, while his brother William Amos continued as an executive. At the same time, Paul’s son Daniel Amos, whom John had chosen as his successor, assumed the role of chief executive officer and later became chair upon Paul’s retirement in 2001. Daniel Amos had earned a degree in business and risk management from the University of Georgia before beginning work with the company in 1973 as a regional sales director. He helped to broaden the company’s product line and is responsible for launching the Aflac national advertising program.