Life Insurance Company of Georgia (often referred to as Life of Georgia) is one of the largest diversified financial services organizations in the world, with total revenues of $295 million reported in 2002. Life of Georgia provides a comprehensive mix of products and services, including life insurance, fixed and variable annuities, defined contribution retirement plans, and direct banking and mutual funds.
In 1891 five Georgians—J. J. Carleton, William M. Dodd, D. Felton Owen, John N. McEachern, and Isham Mallie Sheffield—founded the company in Atlanta as a mutual benefit association under the name Industrial Aid Association. The association sold insurance policies to the working class, and premiums were based on the weekly amount that customers could afford to pay. The founders, all businessmen, had themselves experienced economic hardship and knew that other working people could benefit from insurance as well. McEachern had lost several businesses to fire, and each time he was left to start over from scratch. Sheffield lost his right leg fighting for the 19th Georgia Regiment and became unable to work.
The first years of the company’s existence were precarious. The Industrial Aid Association did not meet Georgia state regulations, and the fledgling company set up offices in Alabama for the first six months after its creation. It was not until 1897 that the company was officially chartered in its home state. The Industrial Aid Association soon opened offices in Macon, Savannah, Rome, and Augusta, and in 1903 the company’s name was changed to the Industrial Life and Health Insurance Company. Industrial Life existed for some time in challenging economic and social climates, becoming a stock-held entity in 1918. By the end of World War II (1941-45), the company had become a major player in the insurance industry. Under its strong leadership, the company slowly grew and expanded into other southern states, taking the name Life Insurance Company of Georgia in 1947. At this time its home office was still in Atlanta, and the company included 11 state territories, 3 million policyholders, and 3,000 field representatives.
In 1950 R. Howard Dobbs became the chief executive officer, followed by Rankin M. Smith in 1970, John Mackie Bragg in 1976, and Lynn Johnston in 1978. (Smith owned the Atlanta Falcons franchise from 1965 to 2002.) The following year Nationale-Nederlanden, a Dutch insurance company looking to expand through U.S. acquisitions, purchased Life of Georgia. In 1990 Nationale-Nederlanden became ING (which stands for Internationale Nederlanden Group) upon its merger with the Dutch bank NMB/Postbank Groep. Subsequent acquisitions have made ING one of the largest diversified financial services organizations in the world, operating in more than sixty countries. In 1993 ING consolidated its North American operations, making Atlanta the continental headquarters.
In May 2005 the Jackson National Life Insurance Company, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Prudential, purchased Life Insurance Company of Georgia from ING Groep N.V. Life of Georgia has approximately 1.6 million policies.