How Unum views the disabled

Part of the reason that Unum has considered looking outside itself for new revenue streams is the meandering path the rickety U.S. recovery has taken, top executives said.

“We’ve been successful despite a weak economy and soft financial environment,” Watjen said. “It’s difficult to grow, but it’s not hindering our ability to be a successful company.”

Both Watjen and McKenney, as well as Unum Group Chairman Jon Fossel, said that it will continue to be difficult to do well in the current economic and regulatory environment.

“The economy is recovering slowly in fits and starts, and unemployment is still high,” Fossel said.

Unum, which markets mainly to employers who then offer the plan to individual employees, depends on other companies to hire and retain workers to organically grow its bottom line. The recession made that more difficult, and hiring still hasn’t increased enough to even keep up with population growth.

Additionally, the company has become concerned that lawmakers could perceive the insurer as a health care concern, and be treated accordingly by lawmakers searching for ways to pay for the national health care reforms adopted by Congress last year…

“People need to recognize we’re not a health care company,” he said. “We work with employers to get people back to work, and getting that through Congress is a challenge.”

In fact, Watjen said, companies like Unum actually help people “take responsibility for themselves and their families, and take pressure off the federal programs” in a time of shrinking wages and work forces…

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