Entries

International Directory of Company Histories International Directory of Company HistoriesInternational Directory of Company Histories Further reading

NON JS

CIGNA Corporation

CIGNA Corporation

One Liberty Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19192-1550
U.S.A.
Telephone: (215) 761-1000
Fax: (215) 761-5515
Web site: http://www.cigna.com

Public Company
Incorporated: 1981
Employees: 43,200
Total Assets: $95.09 billion (2000)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific Philadelphia
Ticker Symbol: CI
NAIC: 524113 Direct Life Insurance Carriers; 524114 Direct Health and Medical Insurance Carriers; 524292 Third Party Administration of Insurance and Pension Funds; 523920 Portfolio Management; 525110 Pension Funds; 525120 Health and Welfare Funds; 525930 Real Estate Investment Trusts; 525990 Other Financial Vehicles; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies

CIGNA Corporation is an insurance and financial services organization focusing on employee benefits, with its healthcare operations being the largest of its units. In addition to healthcare, CIGNA offers the following products to its U.S. customers: group life, accident, disability, and dental insurance; pension, profit-sharing, and retirement plans; and investment management. Outside the United States, the company offers, through CIGNA International, individual and group life, accident, and health insurance and pension products. CIGNA developed its focus on employee benefits during the 1990s, when it beefed up its healthcare operations and divested its personal property/casualty insurance operations and its U.S. individual life insurance and annuities activities.

CIGNA Corporation was formed in 1982, when INA Corporation, with its strong position in property and casualty insurance, and Connecticut General Corporation, with its strength in life insurance and employee benefits, merged. The resulting corporation immediately became one of the largest international, publicly owned insurance and financial services companies based in the United States. CIGNA gained its preeminent position by combining some of the oldest and most important companies in the insurance marketplace. The oldest of its predecessor companies was Insurance Company of North America (INA), a company rich with tradition. INA was formed by a group of prominent Philadelphians in November 1792, in Pennsylvanias State House, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed just 16 years earlier. Connecticut General Life Insurance Company was incorporated in 1865. That company began to expand from its focus on life insurance and employee benefits almost a century later, when it acquired another company with a long history of its own, Aetna Insurance Company, in 1962. Significant acquisitions since the formation of CIGNA include the American Foreign Insurance Association (AFIA), acquired in 1984 to expand the international operations; EQUICOR-Equitable HCA Corporation, a major employee benefits provider, purchased in 1990; and Healthsource, Inc., a managed-care firm based in New Hampshire, acquired in 1997.

Founding of INA in Philadelphia in 1792

Insurance Company of North America was organized in Philadelphia, then the financial center of the United States and its busiest port, when the country was just beginning to develop economically. With only 32 corporations and few native manufacturing concerns in the country, all marine insurance was written in London or in the United States by private individuals or partnerships that could afford to underwrite coverage.

In November and December 1792 a group of businessmenincluding a carpenter, a cobbler, and a stationer, as well as bankers, lawyers, and merchantsmet to set up a general insurance company. These businessmen had their own concerns at heart: they felt that their businesses could not grow unless reliable insurance was made available close to home. Only two small fire insurance companies had been formed in the new nation so far, and Philadelphia businessmen sought greater protection.

Insurance Company of North America wrote several policies on December 19,1792, its first day in business. John M. Nesbitt, a Philadelphia merchant, was elected president of the company and Ebenezer Hazard, secretary. Hazard, a businessman, scholar, and historian, was responsible for the daily conduct of business. He kept the office open under sometimes less than ideal conditions, remaining in Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. The Insurance Company of North America was incorporated by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1794 and authorized to write marine, fire, and life insurance.

The company initially insured only ship hulls and cargoes in local and international commerce. In late 1794, however, INAs directors and officers agreed to insure buildings and their contents against fire, becoming the first U.S. company to offer insurance on personal possessions and on business inventories.

In the early 19th century, INA followed the pioneers west. In 1807 INA set up its first agency, in Lexington, Kentucky, establishing the American agency system. The company appointed independent agents as far as the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Banking on westward expansion, INA invested in toll bridges and toll roads and bought bonds of the just purchased Louisiana Territory.

INAs westward expansion helped the company stay afloat when its marine insurance business lost money. Problems began in 1799 when Great Britain began to seize U.S. ships at sea. The maritime embargo of 1808, the War of 1812, and the depression of 1813 all had detrimental effects on the companys marine profits.

After the War of 1812 ended in 1815, the insurance environment became more competitive. As rates fell, INA faced a different kind of threat. John Inskeep, who became INA president in 1806, had the company invest profits instead of paying dividends. This conservative investment and reserve policy, coupled with its expanding fire insurance business, kept the company profitable.

In the mid-19th century, INA played a major role in forming the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters, an organization that standardized premium rates and policy formats, gathered statistics, reported on insurance fraud, and kept up with commercial regulations and maritime law. A committee of the board reported on the seaworthiness of all vessels that entered the Port of Philadelphia. The board helped reduce operating expenses for the companies involved.

The formation of the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters coincided with the high point for marine insurance in the 19th century. Between 1840 and 1861 U.S. foreign-trade tonnage quadrupled. The increase was due partially to the new clipper ships. Clipper ships were well built and had excellent safety records; in short, they were good insurance risks.

By 1859 INA had entered another lucrative area: the company insured gold shipments from the California gold fields, discovered a decade earlier. Its agent in California, Joshua P. Havens, sent premiums to INAs Philadelphia office in gold dust, which the secretary exchanged for currency.

From 1861 to 1865, when the Civil War disrupted many of INAs traditional markets, the company compensated by placing even more emphasis on the potential in the West. In 1861, as secession spread, the directors stopped accepting business or renewing policies in the South. In 1863 they organized offices in the West into a separate department. From 40 appointed local agents in the territory in 1860, the western business department grew to 1,300 agents by 1876. In 1875, a decade after the Civil War, a southern department was also added.

INAs Survival of a Series of Disasters: 1835-1906

Expansion in the West increased business but also posed a new risk. Rapidly growing cities were not well-built cities, and INA suffered losses in a series of major fires: 700 buildings burned in New York City in 1835; 1,000 buildings were lost in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1845; most of St. Louis, Missouri, was lost in 1851; and Portland, Maine, was destroyed almost totally by fire in 1866.

The Great Chicago Fire, which started on October 8, 1871, burned about 17,450 buildings valued at $200 million. Claims for that fire left many insurance companies bankrupt. A total of 83 other companies could settle their claims only in part. INA was one of the 51 companies that did pay in full, settling legitimate claims totaling $650,000. Its reliability brought in new business.

INA, however, faced an even heavier loss a year later. The Boston Fire of November 9, 1872, gutted 600 buildings at a cost of $75 million, causing the collapse of 25 more insurance companies. INA faced the heaviest claim total$988,530but again paid in full.

Company Perspectives:

At CIGNA, we intend to be the best at helping our customers enhance and extend their lives and protect their financial security. Satisfying customers is the key to meeting employee needs and shareholder expectations, and will enable CIGNA to build on our reputation as a financially strong and highly respected company. We believe: Providing the customer with products and services they value more than those of our competitors is critical to our success. Talented, well-trained, committed and mutually supportive people working to the highest standards of performance and integrity are what make success possible. The profitable growth of our businesses makes career opportunities and personal growth possible. Profitability is the ultimate measure of our success.

On April 18, 1906, a 48-second earthquake shook San Francisco, California. Earthquake damage was slight, but the resulting fires were uncontrollable because water mains had ruptured. INA sent special agent Sheldon Catlin to the city to settle claims. Catlin found that most of the damage to property came from the fires, which had burned out of control for three days, not from the earthquake itself. Since INA was liable for fire damage but not earthquake damage, his determination was not a popular one within INA. Under pressure from other insurance companies, the home office decided to settle all claims at two-thirds value. On Catlins recommendation, however, INA reversed its own decision, and agreed to pay all claims in full. That amounted to a liability of $3.7 million, plus $1.3 million in claims due from INAs affiliate, Alliance Insurance Company. INA was one of the 27 companies that paid claims from the San Francisco earthquake and fire in full.

As the company was expanding its fire insurance coverage, it also expanded its marine coverage inland. In 1890 INA established a lake-marine department in Chicago to cover risks during transit on rivers, lakes, and canals. The company originally refused to insure steamboats, an important part of the movement to settle the Mississippi River Valley, because steamboat captains were considered too reckless. At the end of the century George W. Neare & Company, a steamboat operator, persuaded INA President Charles Piatt that insurance coverage was necessary to revitalize river transport. The company selected its risks carefully and eventually prospered in the field.

INA faced losses in its regular marine division in the last decade of the 19th century because such risks were hard to classify. During the mid-1890s Benjamin Rush, a conservative, old-line Philadelphian who came to work at INA as assistant to President Piatt in 1894, worked nights and weekends with two young clerks to compile profit-and-loss statements for 198 route and cargo categories over a five-year period. His statistical analysis allowed the company to select risks more carefully. In 1900 INA posted the first profit in its marine line for many years, and the line remained profitable until World War I. Rushs work earned him the title father of modern marine underwriting.

Expanding industry before World War I meant growth in the fire insurance business. John O. Piatt, a nephew of Charles Piatt and head of INAs fire branch, set up the improved-risk-engineering department to devise ways to make industry safer and thereby lower insurance risks. The department eventually offered three services: property valuation, fire prevention, and rate analysis.

Rush succeeded Eugene Ellison as president in 1916, in time to face claims due to attacks by German U-boatsINA paid $21,740 as its share of the coverage for the Lusitania, for exampleand fires caused by sabotage in U.S. munitions plants. Nevertheless, World War I did not seriously threaten profits.

INAs Addition of Automobile Insurance in the Early 20th Century

Despite a generally conservative outlook, INA often insured unusual risks. Hence, in 1905, the company began to insure automobiles against fire and theft and added collision coverage in 1907. By the end of World War I, demand for this type of coverage had grown so much that INA organized a casualty affiliate, Indemnity Insurance Company, in 1920. The Great Depression hit Indemnity hard, but in 1932 INA brought in John A. Diemand, who had extensive experience in casualty insurance, to improve the companys performance.

With the approach of World War II, INA faced new problems. Male employees enlisted, and the company was not fully staffed. Cities were unable to replace outdated firefighting equipment, increasing risks. Auto insurance fell off because of gas rationing, and the lack of new-home construction affected property insurance lines. Ships unused to taking wartime security measures were lost to the Germans.

INA again found new and unusual risks to insure. The company wrote policies covering the accidental death of war correspondents and photographers, expanded its aviation coverage, covered test pilots, and insured 30 scientists working on the development of the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project. We were pulling rates out of the air, Edwin H. Marshall, underwriter for these unusual coverages, told William H.A. Carr in Perils, Named and Unnamed.

Key Dates:

1792:
Insurance Company of North America (INA) is formed in Philadelphia as a marine insurer.
1794:
INA is incorporated and is authorized to write marine, fire, and life insurance.
1819:
Aetna Insurance Company is founded to sell casualty insurance.
1865:
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CG) is founded.
1913:
CG begins offering group life insurance.
1918:
A group of U.S. insurance executives form the American Foreign Insurance Association (AFIA) to offer insurance written by its members overseas.
1962:
CG acquires Aetna as its property and casualty arm.
1967:
To diversify its activities, INA creates a holding company, INA Corporation, with Insurance Company of North America becoming its main subsidiary; in a similar move, CG creates its own holding company, Connecticut General Insurance Corporation.
1978:
INA diversifies into health insurance.
1981:
Connecticut General Insurance Corporation is renamed Connecticut General Corporation.
1982:
INA and CG merge to form CIGNA Corporation.
1984:
CIGNA acquires AFIA and merges it into its existing international operations.
1987:
The Aetna Insurance subsidiary is renamed CIGNA Property and Casualty Insurance Company.
1990:
CIGNA acquires EQUICOR, the sixth largest provider of employee benefits in the United States.
1996:
Regulators approve CIGNAs plan for a split in its domestic property and casualty operations, between ongoing policies and previous policies related to asbestos and environmental liabilities.
1997:
Healthsource, a New Hampshire-based managed-care firm, is acquired.
1998:
The companys U.S. individual life insurance and annuity operations are sold to Lincoln National Corporation.
1999:
CIGNA sells its domestic and international property and casualty operations to ACE Limited of Bermuda.

INA Chiefs Promotion of Multiple-Line Underwriting in Postwar Period

In the postwar years INA boomed along with the economy. During the 1940s, Diemand, by now president of the company, tackled a longstanding issue. INA had organized a casualty affiliate in 1920 because INA itself was forbidden by law to offer a full line of insurance. Diemands advocacy of multiple-line underwriting authority, earlier promoted by Rush, now became a crusade. Every company should have the privilege of meeting the requirements of any policyholder at any time as long as there is no law or ruling of an insurance department to prevent it, Diemand said in his address on INAs 150th anniversary. Diemand felt that multiple-line underwriting would provide broader and more convenient coverage for policyholders, who would have access to insurance packages from one agent, and at the same time would enable companies to cut processing and marketing costs.

Diemands major opposition came from insurance cartels and conservative insurance associations that regulated insurance sales. In 1945 Public Law 15 left regulation of the insurance industry to the states, and slowly states extended the right to sell multiple-line insurance. By 1955 the right had been granted in all states. This victory allowed Diemand to pioneer the companys comprehensive homeowners policy, offering fire, theft, personal liability, medical payment, and extended coverages.

In 1964 Bradford Smith, Jr., succeeded Diemand as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Smith automated operations, reorganized the company along functional lines, and emphasized participative management, which he defined as taking individual responsibility and cooperating with all company branches.

Changes in the U.S. business environment as well as changes within the company prompted another reorganization in 1967. Insurance Company of North America became the major subsidiary of INA Corporation, which added diversified services through other subsidiaries and extended its regional and international network of offices. As part of its expansion, INA Corporation organized or acquired several life insurance subsidiaries, which remained relatively small compared with its major interests in property and casualty insurance. In 1978 the company diversified into a related area when it began acquiring hospital management companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

All of these moves reflected INAs desire to become a major financial organization offering a broad range of services. In 1981 the company saw a merger with Connecticut General Corporation (CG) as a way to achieve that goal. CG offered a major presence in employee benefits and life insurance to complement INAs activities in property and casualty insurance, and a combination was a way to operate more efficiently through economies of scale.

Founding CG in 1865 to Sell Life Insurance

Connecticut General dates back to 1865, when Guy R. Phelps, one of the founders of Connecticut Mutual Company, saw a need for substandard insurance, or life insurance for poor risks. Originally the new firm was to be called Connecticut Invalid, but because of concern that the word invalid could be read in two ways, it became Connecticut General Life Insurance Company and began to insure healthy lives along with substandard risks. Two years later the company withdrew completely from insuring higher risks and, through conservative management, survived a period when many other life insurance companies failed.

Under President Thomas W. Russell, the company prospered from post-Civil War growth in life insurance sales. Within a few years, CG had agents in more than 25 states, but increasing competition, rate cutting, and poor public perception of a company that had insured the disabled caused the sales force to shrink as quickly as it had grown. By the 1870s CG concentrated on New England and a few surrounding states.

The companys early policies, handwritten by clerks who had to demonstrate good penmanship to get the job, reflected the society they served. Death from drinking, hanging, or dueling canceled a policy. Travel was also restricted: a policyholder could not travel south of Virginia or Kentucky from June to November because of additional risk of illness due to heat. Late premium payments led to the automatic cancellation of a policy, with no grace period. Policies had no cash value, and benefits were paid in a lump sum, 90 days after proof of death, signed by five witnesses, was received.

Under Russell, CG weathered the depression following the panic of 1873 and a takeover attempt by Continental Life Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. By 1880 the firm was again stable and began to grow.

Russell died in 1901 and was succeeded by Robert W. Huntington, who had joined the company as a clerk 11 years before. CG had only 12 home-office employees and was licensed to do business in four New England states, as well as New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Huntington emphasized good investments, especially in farm mortgages, railroads, and utilities. He also cut operating expenses and used the savings to enter new areas.

CG First Offering Group Insurance in 1910s

In 1912 CG created an accident department. The next year CG began to offer group insurance, insuring the 100 employees of the Hartford Courant.Group insurance developed slowly for CG until 1917, when changes in corporate taxes made it a deductible expense. CG established its group department in 1918 and got its first big contractcovering the 5,400 employees of Gulf Oilthat year. Business picked up again in 1919, when contributory plans were developed. Previously, employers had paid the total cost of coverage.

World War I meant a growing economy and more group insurance coverage, but when an influenza epidemic struck in the autumn of 1918, CG was hit particularly hard because it had a high proportion of very young policyholders. Although claims were high, the epidemic eventually encouraged more life insurance business.

During the 1920s Frazar Bullard Wilde, head of the companys Accident Division, brought CG into another new area, aviation insurance. Wilde had served in the field artillery in France during World War I, where the use of airplanes captured his imagination. In 1926, when other insurance companies were not yet convinced of the validity of insuring flight, Wilde began writing policies that covered aircraft passengers. In 1930 the company wrote a group life insurance policy for Western Air Express, which included 46 pilots, and in 1932 CG insured 1,000 employees of United Airlines as well.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, CGs diversified investments kept the company going, but within two years new business had decreased sharply and business cancellations mounted. In addition, the companys heavy investment in farm mortgages meant that, with increasing foreclosures and the inability to lease farms, CG became a farm owner. In most cases, the company retained the former owners as managers and encouraged them to save their pay to buy back the property.

Estate Planning and Employee Benefits in the 1940s and 1950s

In 1936 Wilde succeeded Huntington as president. The new leader emphasized high-quality products and a good sales force. Ten years later he supported a new approach to marketing life insurance that would have a major impact on the company: estate planning. Stuart Smith, who had joined the company during the Great Depression, brought the estate planning concept to CG. He emphasized the sale of life insurance as part of complete estate planning. When Smith was promoted to the home office in 1946, CG made estate planning the companys only approach to selling insurance. Smith taught the technique to Connecticut General agents, which enabled them to plan insurance coverage by taking into consideration a clients total assets, family circumstances, and plans for the future.

Another focal point after the war was the development of group hospital and surgical benefits to compete with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that had just been created. Just as CG had supported emerging technology after World War I by insuring airline pilots and passengers, after World War II the company began insuring atomic energy workers, covering employees of the Brookhaven and Argonne laboratories.

CG had established a group pension service as early as 1929 to serve its group insurance policyholders. The introduction of a number of government policies encouraged growth in this arena. The Social Security Act, passed in 1935, stimulated private savings for pensions to supplement the government program; the Revenue Act of 1942 provided some tax incentives for employers to establish pension programs; and, after 1960, changes in Connecticut state law led to significant growth in CGs pension business.

Also in the postwar years, CG pioneered the financing of shopping centers, and company investment became a major factor in the development of the modern suburban shopping mall. In addition, CG financed commercial agricultural enterprises and provided loans on urban residential and business properties.

CGs Acquisition of Aetna in 1962

In 1962 CG purchased Aetna Insurance Company (Aetna), a major firm in fire and casualty insurance, in order to broaden its position in insurance. Aetna brought a history even longer than its new parents to the acquisition. The company was established in 1819 to sell casualty insurance, and two years later it became the first U.S. company to sell insurance in Canada. In 1851 the company began to sell life insurance too, but just two years later this part of its operations was spun off into a separate company, which became known as the Aetna Life and Casualty Company (known later as Aetna Inc.). The Aetna Insurance Company faced the same marine insurance risks as did INA, and it also was hit by massive claims due to urban fires in the late 19th century. Aetnas directors acted on a policy they voiced frequently after the Chicago Fire in 1871: Every dollar must be paid.And pay they did. The company paid $3.78 million after the Chicago Fire, $1.6 million a year later in Boston, and almost $3 million following the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Aetnas ability to cover fully all of its losses enhanced its reputation as a major fire insurance company.

By the 1960s the acquisition of Aetna, with its sound fiscal management and preeminent position in fire and casualty insurance, was attractive to CG, which aimed to gain market position in property and casualty insurance, where it had virtually no operations at all. The acquisition was part of a trend in the industry toward larger companies that could offer full lines of insurance. To support its own diversification, CG created a holding company, Connecticut General Insurance Corporation, with Connecticut General Life Insurance Company becoming a subsidiary; this occurred in 1967, the same year that INA made a similar move.

After acquiring Aetna as its property and casualty arm, CG began dramatic expansion of employee benefits programs, such as group health insurance and pensions. CG was most successful in life, health, and pensions, with its property and casualty operations remaining small. By 1981 group life and health benefits accounted for 33 percent of the companys operating income; individual life, health, and annuities for 28 percent; and property and casualty business for only 18 percentdown from almost 35 percent a decade earlier. In 1981, prior to the merger with INA, Connecticut General Insurance Corporation was renamed Connecticut General Corporation.

Formation of CIGNA Through 1982 Merger of INA and CG

As the trend toward larger multiline insurers accelerated, in 1981 INA and CG announced that they would bring their complementary interests together by forming CIGNA Corporation (CIGNA being a combination of the two companys initials). INAs strengths were the mirror image of CGs, with an extensive presence in the property and casualty fields, where it had operated the longest, and relatively small operations in group insurance. INA also had a strong international presence, while CG had focused primarily on U.S. markets. By March 31, 1982, all necessary approvals had been secured, and CIGNA was formed. Robert D. Kilpatrick of Connecticut General and Ralph Saul of INA became joint CEOs, and the board of directors was drawn equally from both predecessor organizations. In 1983 Philadelphia was selected as the headquarters for CIGNA.

The new company got off to a difficult start because of a declining economy in the early 1980s, but the anticipated economies of scale did materialize, and the company continued to expand. In 1984 CIGNA acquired AFIA, formerly the American Foreign Insurance Association, to strengthen its position abroad (and also to resolve the conflict between INAs independent international operations and Aetnas membership in AFIA).

AFIA had been formed in 1918 by a group of insurance executives to offer insurance written by its members overseas. After exploring conditions for insurance sales in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and Singapore, the board of AFIA established agencies in South America, Asia, and the Far East. AFIA weathered the Great Depression, but World War II, which engulfed many of the areas where the company was most profitable, slowed growth and cut profits. By 1949, however, AFIA was back on its feet and ready to expand along with the booming postwar economy. In 1984 the company had contacts in more than 100 countries and offered CIGNA a good way to expand its international market. Merged into CIGNAs own substantial international operations, AFIA Worldwide became part of CIGNA International, which was renamed CIGNA Worldwide.

In 1987 the Aetna Insurance Company subsidiary was renamed CIGNA Property and Casualty Insurance Company. Two years later, CIGNA gave up the use of the Aetna name altogether when it transferred its rights to this trade name to Aetna Life and Casualty Company. In November 1989 William H. Taylor was named chairman of CIGNA, replacing the retiring Kilpatrick; Taylor had joined Connecticut General in 1964, was named chief financial officer upon the formation of CIGNA in 1982, and had become CEO in November 1988. Also in 1989, the company formed CIGNA International Financial Services to provide individual and group life and health insurance outside the United States. In 1993 CIGNA WorldWide and CIGNA International Financial Services were merged under the recycled name, CIGNA International.

1990s and Beyond: Focusing Increasingly on Healthcare and Employee Benefits

By 1990 CIGNA was operating effectively in an insurance marketplace noteworthy for ever larger competitors, and the company continued the trend when it acquired EQUICOR-Equitable HCA Corporation, a large group insurance and managed healthcare company and the nations sixth largest provider of employee benefits, for $777 million. The acquisition accelerated the growth of CIGNAs managed healthcare programs. From 1985 through 1993, the company invested a total of $1.5 billion to build a major managed-care business, just as the managed-care industry was beginning to explode. The newly renamed CIGNA HealthCare was by the early 1990s the companys largest and most profitable unit. By 1997 CIGNA HealthCare offered a full range of group medical, dental, disability, and life insurance products, with traditional fee-for-service plans marketed in all 50 states. The unit operated managed-care networks in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

CIGNA HealthCare grew even larger in 1997 when it acquired Healthsource, Inc.a managed-care company with about 1.1 million members in HMOs operating in 15 statesfor $1.4 billion, plus the assumption of $250 million in debt. Healthsource had been founded in 1985 by a group of doctors in Hooksett, New Hampshire, as an HMO serving rural areas and smaller cities. The company grew quickly through acquisitions but was experiencing some growing pains by the time of its acquisition by CIGNA. With the addition of Healthsource, CIGNAs medical HMOs had a total membership of 5.3 million, and the companys fee-for-service medical plans counted seven million members.

CIGNA added to its employee benefits offerings in October 1997 with the formation of CIGNA IntegratedCare. This unita joint initiative of CIGNA HealthCare, CIGNA Group Insurance, and CIGNA Property & Casualtywas formed to offer employers fully integrated workers compensation, disability, and medical-management services. This integrated approach was intended to lower employers costs and improve care by eliminating gaps and redundancies.

At the same time that it was bolstering its employee life and health benefits operations, CIGNA was exiting from various noncore businesses and attempting to stem chronic losses incurred by CIGNA Property & Casualty. Generally, the company was looking to eliminate those business lines that were not strategically connected to other CIGNA businesses. For example, in the early 1990s the companys international operation dropped residential, auto, and travel insurance, while residential insurance also was dropped domestically. In July 1997 CIGNA announced that it would sell CIGNA Individual Insurance, which included individual life insurance and annuity operations in the United States, to Lincoln National Corporation for about $1.4 billion in cash; the deal was completed in January 1998.

CIGNAs property and casualty business, meanwhile, was continuing to lose money at an alarming rate because of weak underwriting standards and poor relations between the unit and its agents. Furthermore, a potential time bomb hung over it in the form of a large number of asbestos and environmental liabilitiespotentially more than $4.5 billion worthwhich was depressing the units financial-strength rating. These ratings are crucial to insurers in winning new business. CIGNA decided to create a fire wall between its problematic and standard liabilities by separating its domestic property and casualty operations into two units: onecalled INA Holdingsto handle all ongoing business, and anothercalled Brandywine Holdings Ltd.to handle the asbestos and environmental liabilities. With this division in place, INA Holdings ratings were expected to improve, and it was hoped that CIGNAs property and casualty business might return to the black.

By early 1996, regulatory approval for the split had been received, despite opposition from industry competitors who were concerned that Brandywine might eventually run short of funds and have to be bailed out by a state guaranty fundfinanced by the insurance companies themselves. In March 1997, a Pennsylvania appeals court vacated the plans approval by the state of Pennsylvania and ordered new hearings. In 1999, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the reorganization. In July 1999 CIGNA sold both INA Holdings and Brandywine Holdings, as well as its international property and casualty business, to ACE Limited, an insurer based in Bermuda, for $3.45 billion. For CIGNA, exiting from the property and casualty sector meant that CIGNA could focus even more strongly on its health, life, and pension operations. Despite the divestiture, CIGNA still had to contend with litigation arising from the 1996 reorganization. The plaintiffswhich included units of two U.S. insurers, American International Group, Inc. and Chubb Corporationhad continued their legal battle by taking their case to California state court. There, they were initially rebuffed by a California Superior Court judge but then won an appeal in July 2001 from a higher court, which ruled that a trial could proceed on the matter of whether CIGNAs reorganization had violated the states unfair competition law. CIGNA seemed likely to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

In January 1999 H. Edward Hanway was named president and COO of CIGNA, having previously served as head of the companys healthcare unit. During 2000 Hanway became chairman and CEO, succeeding the retiring Taylor, who during his 12 years at the helm had transformed CIGNA from a multiline insurer to a firm focused on employee benefitshealth insurance, group life insurance, retirement plans, and the like. Continuing to narrow the companys focus, Hanway exited from the reinsurance business during 2000. Part of the reinsurance operationsthe domestic individual life, group life, and accidental death portionswere sold to a subsidiary of Swiss Reinsurance Company in July 2000 for $170 million. The remainder were placed into a run-off business, and CIGNA stopped underwriting new reinsurance business. During 2001, CIGNA sold its majority-owned Japanese life insurance operation to Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company, Limited.

With its string of strategic divestments, CIGNA had committed itself to a future focused on the employee benefits portion of the insurance and financial services industries. This appeared to be a prudent strategy, although managed care was a particularly volatile sector of the insurance market, and CIGNA saw its net income fall during 2001 as a result of double-digit increases in medical costs. The faltering economy and stock market of 2001 also were having negative effects on CIGNAs retirement and investment services operations.

Principal Subsidiaries

CIGNA Holdings, Inc.; Connecticut General Corporation; CG Trust Company; CIGNA Dental Health, Inc.; CIGNA Financial Services, Inc.; CIGNA Health Corporation; Connecticut General Life Insurance Company; CIGNA Global Holdings, Inc.; CIGNA Investment Group, Inc.; CIGNA Intellectual Property, Inc.

Principal Divisions

CIGNA Healthcare; CIGNA Group Insurance; CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services; CIGNA International.

Principal Competitors

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association; Aetna Inc.; UnitedHealth Group Incorporated; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.; PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc.; Humana Inc.

Further Reading

Bennett, Johanna, and Laurie McGinley, Cigna Medicare-HMO Retreat May Signal Trend, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2000, p. B2.

Burton, Thomas M., Lincoln Agrees to Buy Units from Cigna, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 1997, pp. A3, A8.

Byrne, John A., and Richard Morais, Cignoids Versus Afians, Forbes, September 24, 1984, p. 218.

Carr, William H.A., Perils, Named and Unnamed: The Story of the Insurance Company of North America, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1865-1965, Hartford, Conn.: Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1965.

Could Cigna Be a Merger Casualty?, Financial World, September 19, 1984, p. 86.

David, Gregory E., Beauty and the Beast, Financial World, November 9, 1993, pp. 79-81.

Hals, Tom, The Cigna Split: What Will Be the Fallout?, Philadelphia Business Journal, February 16, 1996, p. 1.

James, Marquis, Biography of a Business, 1792-1942: Insurance Company of North America, Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1942, reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1976.

Jebsen, Per H., Cigna Forms Unit to Offer New Services, Wall Street Journal, October 6, 1997, p. All.

Kertesz, Louise, Quiet Giant: Among Managed-Care Plans, Cigna HealthCare Is the Biggest and Most-Often Overlooked, Modern Healthcare, March 10, 1997, pp. 90 +.

Lenckus, Dave, CIGNA Reorganization Plan Unleashes Criticism, Business Insurance, December 23, 1996, p. 19.

Lohse, Deborah, Cignas Finalizing of Restructuring Is Dealt a Blow, Wall Street Journal, June 11, 1998, p. A6.

Lohse, Deborah, and Nancy Ann Jeffrey, Cigna Is in Talks to Sell Operations to Ace, Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1998, p. A3.

Loomis, Carol J., and Margaret A. Elliott, How Cigna Took a $1.2-Billion Bath, Fortune, March 17, 1986, p. 46.

Lublin, Joann S., Cigna Directors Diversity Challenge Hits a Dead End, Wall Street Journal, June 15, 1998, p. Bl.

Milligan, John W., Robert Kilpatrick Hangs Tough, Institutional Investor, September 1987, p. 257.

ODonnell, Thomas, and Laura Rohman, The Honeymooners, Forbes, May 10, 1982, p. 124.

Ruwell, Mary Elizabeth, Eighteenth Century Capitalism: The Formation of American Marine Insurance Companies, New York: Garland, 1993.

Seism, Leslie, Cigna Restructuring Plan Is Set Back, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 1997, p. A4.

_____, Cignas Pact to Buy Healthsource Inc. to Boost Firms Managed-Care Business, Wall Street Journal, March 3, 1997, p. A4.

_____, For Cigna, Property-Casualty Line Still Proves Tricky, Wall Street Journal, August 21, 1995, p. B4.

Souter, Gavin, ACE Suing CIGNA over Terms of Sale, Business Insurance, December 18, 2000, pp. 1, 34.

_____, ACE to Buy CIGNAs P/C Units, Business Insurance, January 18, 1999, pp. 1, 22.

Weber, Joseph, Is CIGNAs Asbestos Plan Fireproof?, Business Week, December 16, 1996, p. 118.

Weber, Joseph, William Glasgall, and Richard A. Melcher, Is Cigna Creating a Time Bomb?, Business Week, November 6, 1995, p. 158.

Ginger G. Rodriguez

update: David E. Salamie

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (August 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2844900034.html

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 2002. Retrieved August 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2844900034.html

CIGNA Corporation

CIGNA Corporation

One Liberty Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19192-1550
U.S.A.
(215) 761-1000
Fax: (215) 761-5515
Web site: http://www.cigna.com

Public Company
Incorporated: 1981
Employees: 42,800
Total Assets: $98.93 billion (1996)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific Philadelphia
SICs: 6311 Life Insurance; 6321 Accident & Health Insurance; 6331 Fire, Marine & Casualty Insurance; 6351 Surety Insurance; 6552 Land Subdividers & Developers, Except Cemeteries; 6719 Offices of Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified; 6726 Unit Investment Trusts, Face-Amount Certificate Offices, Closed-End Management Investment Offices; 6798 Real Estate Investment Trusts; 8099 Health & Allied Services, Not Elsewhere Classified

CIGNA Corporation was formed in 1982, when IN A Corporation, with its strong position in property and casualty insurance, and Connecticut General Corporation, with its strength in life insurance and employee benefits, merged. The resulting corporation immediately became one of the largest international, publicly owned insurance and financial-services companies based in the United States. During the initial decade and a half following the merger, CIGNA built its healthcare operations into the largest of its units, while at the same time moving out of personal property/casualty insurance as well as individual life insurance and annuities (in the United States). In addition to healthcare, CIGNA continued to offer the following products to its U.S. customers: group life, accident, and disability insurance; property and casualty insurance for businesses; pension and investment management; and reinsurance. Outside the United States, the company offered the following products through CIGNA International: individual life, accident, health, and disability insurance; group life and health insurance; and commercial property and casualty insurance.

CIGNA gained its preeminent position by combining some of the oldest and most important companies in the insurance marketplace. Its oldest subsidiary is Insurance Company of North America (INA), a company rich with tradition. INA was formed by a group of prominent Philadelphians in November 1792, in Pennsylvanias State House, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed just 16 years earlier. Connecticut General Life Insurance Company was incorporated in 1865. That company began to expand from its focus on life insurance and employee benefits almost a century later, when it acquired another company with a long history of its own, Aetna Insurance Company, in 1962. Another major component of CIGNA was put in place in 1984, when the company acquired the American Foreign Insurance Association (APIA) to expand its international operations.

INA Founded in Philadelphia in 1792

Insurance Company of North America was organized in Philadelphia, then the financial center of the United States and its busiest port, when the country was just beginning to develop economically. With only 32 corporations and few native manufacturing concerns in the country, all marine insurance was written in London or in the United States by private individuals or partnerships that could afford to underwrite coverage.

In November and December 1792 a group of businessmen including a carpenter, a cobbler, and a stationer, as well as bankers, lawyers, and merchantsmet to set up a general insurance company. These businessmen had their own concerns at heart: they felt that their businesses could not grow unless reliable insurance was made available close to home. Only two small fire insurance companies had been formed in the new nation so far, and Philadelphia businessmen sought greater protection.

Insurance Company of North America wrote several policies on December 19, 1792, its first day in business. John M. Nesbitt, a Philadelphia merchant, was elected president of the company and Ebenezer Hazard, secretary. Hazard, a businessman, scholar, and historian, was responsible for the daily conduct of business. He kept the office open under sometimes less than ideal conditions, remaining in Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. The Insurance Company of North America was incorporated by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1794 and authorized to write marine, fire, and life insurance.

The company initially insured only ship hulls and cargoes in local and international commerce. In late 1794, however, INAs directors and officers agreed to insure buildings and their contents against fire, becoming the first U.S. company to offer insurance on personal possessions and on business inventories.

In the early 19th century, INA followed the pioneers west. In 1807 INA set up its first agency, in Lexington, Kentucky, establishing the American agency system. The company appointed independent agents as far as the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Banking on westward expansion, INA invested in toll bridges and toll roads and bought bonds of the just-purchased Louisiana Territory.

INAs westward expansion helped the company stay afloat when its marine insurance business lost money. Problems began in 1799 when Great Britain began to seize U.S. ships at sea. The maritime embargo of 1808, the War of 1812, and the depression of 1813 all had detrimental effects on the companys marine profits.

After the War of 1812 ended in 1815, the insurance environment became more competitive. As rates fell, INA faced a different kind of threat. John Inskeep, who became INA president in 1806, had the company invest profits instead of paying dividends. This conservative investment and reserve policy, coupled with its expanding fire insurance business, kept the company profitable.

In the mid-19th century, INA played a major role in forming the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters, an organization which standardized premium rates and policy formats, gathered statistics, reported on insurance fraud, and kept up with commercial regulations and maritime law. A committee of the board reported on the seaworthiness of all vessels that entered the Port of Philadelphia. The board helped reduce operating expenses for the companies involved.

The formation of the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters coincided with the high point for marine insurance in the 19th century. Between 1840 and 1861 U.S. foreign-trade tonnage quadrupled. The increase was due partially to the new clipper ships. Clipper ships were well built and had excellent safety records; in short, they were good insurance risks.

By 1859 INA had entered another lucrative area: the company insured gold shipments from the California gold fields, discovered a decade earlier. Its agent in California, Joshua P. Havens, sent premiums to INAs Philadelphia office in gold dust, which the secretary exchanged for currency.

From 1861 to 1865, when the Civil War disrupted many of INAs traditional markets, the company compensated by placing even more emphasis on the potential in the west. In 1861, as secession spread, the directors stopped accepting business or renewing policies in the south. In 1863 they organized offices in the west into a separate department. From 40 appointed local agents in the territory in 1860, the western-business department grew to 1,300 agents by 1876. In 1875, a decade after the Civil War, a southern department was also added.

INA Survived Series of Disasters, 1835-1906

Expansion in the west increased business but also posed a new risk. Rapidly growing cities were not well-built cities, and INA suffered losses in a series of major fires: 700 buildings burned in New York City in 1835; 1,000 buildings were lost in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1845; most of St. Louis, Missouri, was lost in 1851; and Portland, Maine, was destroyed almost totally by fire in 1866.

The Great Chicago Fire, which started on October 8, 1871, burned about 17,450 buildings valued at $200 million. Claims for that fire left many insurance companies bankrupt. Eighty-three other companies could settle their claims only in part. INA was one of the 51 companies that did pay in full, settling legitimate claims totaling $650,000. Its reliability brought in new business.

INA, however, faced an even heavier loss a year later. The Boston Fire of November 9, 1872, gutted 600 buildings at a cost of $75 million, causing the collapse of 25 more insurance companies. INA faced the heaviest claim total$988,530 but again paid in full.

On April 18, 1906, a 48-second earthquake shook San Francisco, California. Earthquake damage was slight, but the resulting fires were uncontrollable because water mains had ruptured. INA sent special agent Sheldon Catlin to the city to settle claims. Catlin found that most of the damage to property came from the fires, which had burned out of control for three days, not from the earthquake itself. Since INA was liable for fire damage but not earthquake damage, his determination was not a popular one within INA. Under pressure from other insurance companies, the home office decided to settle all claims at two-thirds value. On Catlins recommendation, however, INA reversed its own decision, and agreed to pay all claims in full. That amounted to a liability of $3.7 million, plus $1.3 million in claims due from INAs affiliate, Alliance Insurance Company. INA was one of the 27 companies that paid claims from the San Francisco earthquake and fire in full.

Company Perspectives:

At CIGNA, we intend to be the best at helping our customers enhance and extend their lives and protect their financial security. Satisfying customers is the key to meeting employee needs and shareholder expectations, and will enable CIGNA to build on our reputation as a financially strong and highly respected company.

We believe: Providing customers with products and services they value more than those of our competitors is critical to our success; talented, well-trained, committed, mutually supportive people working to the highest standards of performance and integrity are what make success possible; the profitable growth of our businesses makes career opportunities and personal growth possible; and profitability is the ultimate measure of our success.

As the company was expanding its fire insurance coverage, it also expanded its marine coverage inland. In 1890 INA established a lake-marine department in Chicago to cover risks during transit on rivers, lakes, and canals. The company originally refused to insure steamboats, an important part of the movement to settle the Mississippi River Valley, because steamboat captains were considered too reckless. At the end of the century George W. Neare & Company, a steamboat operator, persuaded IN A president, Charles Platt, that insurance coverage was necessary to revitalize river transport. The company selected its risks carefully and eventually prospered in the field.

INA faced losses in its regular marine division in the last decade of the 19th century because such risks were hard to classify. During the mid-1890s Benjamin Rush, a conservative, old-line Philadelphian who came to work at INA as assistant to President Platt in 1894, worked nights and weekends with two young clerks to compile profit-and-loss statements for 198 route and cargo categories over a five-year period. His statistical analysis allowed the company to select risks more carefully. In 1900 INA posted the first profit in its marine line for many years, and the line remained profitable until World War I. Rushs work earned him the title father of modern marine underwriting.

Expanding industry before World War I meant growth in the fire insurance business. John O. Platt, a nephew of Charles Platt and head of INAs fire branch, set up the improved-risk-engineering department to devise ways to make industry safer and thereby lower insurance risks. The department eventually offered three services: property valuation, fire prevention, and rate analysis.

Rush succeeded Eugene Ellison as president in 1916, in time to face claims due to attacks by German U-boatsINA paid $21,740 as its share of the coverage for the Luisitania, for exampleand fires caused by sabotage in U.S. munitions plants. Nevertheless, World War I did not seriously threaten profits.

INA Added Automobile Insurance in Early 20th Century

Despite a generally conservative outlook, INA often insured unusual risks. Hence, in 1905, the company began to insure automobiles against fire and theft and added collision coverage in 1907. By the end of World War I, demand for this type of coverage had grown so much that INA organized a casualty affiliate, Indemnity Insurance Company, in 1920. The Great Depression hit Indemnity hard, but in 1932 INA brought in John A. Diemand, who had extensive experience in casualty insurance, to improve the companys performance.

With the approach of World War II, INA faced new problems. Male employees enlisted, and the company was not fully staffed. Cities were unable to replace outdated fire-fighting equipment, increasing risks. Auto insurance fell off due to gas rationing, and the lack of new-home construction affected property insurance lines. Ships unused to taking wartime security measures were lost to the Germans.

INA again found new and unusual risks to insure. The company wrote policies covering the accidental death of war correspondents and photographers, expanded its aviation coverage, covered test pilots, and insured 30 scientists working on the development of the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project. We were pulling rates out of the air, Edwin H. Marshall, underwriter for these unusual coverages, told William H. A. Carr in Perils, Named and Unnamed.

INA Chief Promoted Multiple-Line Underwriting in Postwar Period

In the postwar years INA boomed along with the economy. During the 1940s, Diemand, by now president of the company, tackled a long-standing issue. INA had organized a casualty affiliate in 1920 because INA itself was forbidden by law to offer a full line of insurance. Diemands advocacy of multiple-line underwriting authority, earlier promoted by Rush, now became a crusade. Every company should have the privilege of meeting the requirements of any policyholder at any time as long as there is no law or ruling of an insurance department to prevent it, Diemand said in his address on INAs 150th anniversary. Diemand felt that multiple-line underwriting would provide broader and more convenient coverage for policyholders, who would have access to insurance packages from one agent, and at the same time would enable companies to cut processing and marketing costs.

Diemands major opposition came from insurance cartels and conservative insurance associations which regulated insurance sales. In 1945 Public Law 15 left regulation of the insurance industry to the states, and slowly states extended the right to sell multiple-line insurance. By 1955 the right had been granted in all states. This victory allowed Diemand to pioneer the companys comprehensive homeowners policy, offering fire, theft, personal liability, medical payment, and extended coverages.

In 1964 Bradford Smith, Jr., succeeded Diemand as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Smith automated operations, reorganized the company along functional lines, and emphasized participative management, which he defined as taking individual responsibility and cooperating with all company branches.

Changes in the U.S. business environment as well as changes within the company prompted another reorganization in 1968. Insurance Company of North America became the major subsidiary of INA Corporation, which added diversified services through other subsidiaries and extended its regional and international network of offices. As part of its expansion, INA Corporation organized or acquired several life insurance subsidiaries, which remained relatively small compared to its major interests in property and casualty insurance. In the 1970s the company diversified into a related area when it began acquiring hospital management companies and health-maintenance organizations (HMO).

All of these moves reflected INAs desire to become a major financial organization offering a broad range of services. In 1981 the company saw a merger with Connecticut General Corporation (CG) as a way to achieve that goal. CG offered a major presence in employee benefits and life insurance to complement INAs activities in property and casualty insurance, and a combination was a way to operate more efficiently through economies of scale.

CG Founded in 1865 to Sell Life Insurance

Connecticut General dates back to 1865, when Guy R. Phelps, one of the founders of Connecticut Mutual Company, saw a need for substandard insurance, or life insurance for poor risks. Originally the new firm was to be called Connecticut Invalid, but because of concern that the word invalid could be read in two ways, it became Connecticut General Life Insurance Company and began to insure healthy lives along with substandard risks. Two years later the company withdrew completely from insuring higher risks and, through conservative management, survived a period when many other life insurance companies failed.

Under President Thomas W. Russell, the company prospered from post-Civil War growth in life insurance sales. Within a few years, CG had agents in over 25 states, but increasing competition, rate cutting, and poor public perception of a company that had insured the disabled caused the sales force to shrink as quickly as it had grown. By the 1870s CG concentrated on New England and a few surrounding states.

The companys early policies, handwritten by clerks who had to demonstrate good penmanship to get the job, reflected the society they served. Death from drinking, hanging, or dueling canceled a policy. Travel was also restricted: a policyholder could not travel south of Virginia or Kentucky from June to November because of additional risk of illness due to heat. Late premium payments led to the automatic cancellation of a policy, with no grace period. Policies had no cash value, and benefits were paid in a lump sum, 90 days after proof of death, signed by five witnesses, was received.

Under Thomas Russell, CG weathered the depression following the panic of 1873 and a takeover attempt by Continental Life Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. By 1880 the firm was again stable and began to grow.

Russell died in 1901 and was succeeded by Robert W. Huntington, who had joined the company as a clerk 11 years before. CG had only 12 home-office employees and was licensed to do business in four New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Huntington emphasized good investments, especially in farm mortgages, railroads, and utilities. He also cut operating expenses and used the savings to enter new areas.

CG First Offered Group Insurance in 1910s

In 1912 CG created an accident department. The next year CG began to offer group insurance, insuring the 100 employees of the Hartford Courant. Group insurance developed slowly for CG until 1917, when changes in corporate taxes made it a deductible expense. CG established its group department in 1918 and got its first big contractcovering the 5,400 employees of Gulf Oilthat year. Business picked up again in 1919, when contributory plans were developed. Previously, employers had paid the total cost of coverage.

World War I meant a growing economy and more group insurance coverage, but when an influenza epidemic struck in the autumn of 1918, CG was hit particularly hard because it had a high proportion of very young policyholders. Although claims were high, the epidemic eventually encouraged more life insurance business.

During the 1920s Frazar Bullard Wilde, head of the companys Accident Division, brought CG into another new area, aviation insurance. Wilde had served in the field artillery in France during World War I, where the use of airplanes captured his imagination. In 1926, when other insurance companies were not yet convinced of the validity of insuring flight, Wilde began writing policies that covered aircraft passengers. In 1930 the company wrote a group life insurance policy for Western Air Express, which included 46 pilots, and in 1932 CG insured 1,000 employees of United Airlines as well.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, CGs diversified investments kept the company going, but within two years new business had decreased sharply and business cancellations mounted. In addition, the companys heavy investment in farm mortgages meant that, with increasing foreclosures and the inability to lease farms, CG became a farm owner. In most cases, the company retained the former owners as managers and encouraged them to save their pay to buy back the property.

Estate Planning and Employee Benefits in 1940s and 1950s

In 1936 Wilde succeeded Huntington as president. Wilde emphasized high-quality products and a good sales force. Ten years later he supported a new approach to marketing life insurance that would have a major impact on the company: estate planning. Stuart Smith, who had joined the company during the Great Depression, brought the estate-planning concept to CG. He emphasized the sale of life insurance as part of complete estate planning. When Smith was promoted to the home office in 1946, CG made estate planning the companys only approach to selling insurance. Smith taught the technique to Connecticut General agents, which enabled them to plan insurance coverage by taking into consideration a clients total assets, family circumstances, and plans for the future.

Another focal point after the war was the development of group hospital and surgical benefits to compete with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans which had just been created. Just as CG had supported emerging technology after World War I by insuring airline pilots and passengers, after World War II the company began insuring atomic energy workers, covering employees of the Brookhaven and Argonne laboratories.

CG had established a group pension service as early as 1929 to serve its group insurance policyholders. The introduction of a number of government policies encouraged growth in this arena. The Social Security Act, passed in 1935, stimulated private savings for pensions to supplement the government program; the Revenue Act of 1942 provided some tax incentives for employers to establish pension programs; and, after 1960, changes in Connecticut state law led to significant growth in CGs pension business.

Also in the postwar years, CG pioneered the financing of shopping centers, and company investment became a major factor in the development of the modern suburban shopping mall. In addition, CG financed commercial agricultural enterprises and provided loans on urban residential and business properties.

CG Acquired Aetna in 1962

In 1962 CG purchased Aetna Insurance Company (Aetna), a major firm in fire and casualty insurance, in order to broaden its position in insurance. Aetna brought a history even longer than its new parents to the acquisition. The company was established in 1819 to sell casualty insurance, and two years later it became the first U.S. company to sell insurance in Canada. In 1851 the company began to sell life insurance too, but just two years later this part of its operations was spun off into a separate company, which became known as the Aetna Life and Casualty Company. The Aetna Insurance Company faced the same marine insurance risks as did INA, and it was also hit by massive claims due to urban fires in the late 19th century. Aetnas directors acted on a policy they voiced frequently after the Chicago Fire in 1871: Every dollar must be paid. And pay they did. The company paid $3.78 million after the Chicago Fire, $1.6 million a year later in Boston, and almost $3 million following the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Aetnas ability to cover fully all of its losses enhanced its reputation as a major fire insurance company.

By the 1960s the acquisition of Aetna, with its sound fiscal management and preeminent position in fire and casualty insurance, was attractive to CG, which aimed to gain market position in property and casualty insurance, where it had virtually no operations at all. The acquisition was part of a trend in the industry toward larger companies that could offer full lines of insurance.

After acquiring Aetna as its property and casualty arm, CG began dramatic expansion of employee benefits programs, such as group health insurance and pensions. CG was most successful in life, health, and pensions, with its property and casualty operations remaining small. By 1981 group life and health benefits accounted for 33 percent of the companys operating income; individual life, health, and annuities for 28 percent; and property and casualty business for only 18 percentdown from almost 35 percent a decade earlier. In 1991, prior to the merger with INA, Connecticut General Insurance Corporation was renamed Connecticut General Corporation.

1982 Merger of INA and CG to Form CIGNA

As the trend toward larger multiline insurers accelerated, in 1981 INA and CG announced that they would bring their complementary interests together by forming CIGNA Corporation (CIGNA being a combination of the two companys initials). INAs strengths were the mirror image of CGs, with an extensive presence in the property and casualty fields, where it had operated the longest, and relatively small operations in group insurance. INA also had a strong international presence, while CG had focused primarily on U.S. markets. By March 31, 1982, all necessary approvals had been secured, and CIGNA was formed. Robert D. Kilpatrick of Connecticut General and Ralph Saul of INA became joint CEOs, and the board of directors was drawn equally from both predecessor organizations. In 1983 Philadelphia was selected as the headquarters for CIGNA.

The new company got off to a difficult start because of a declining economy in the early 1980s, but the anticipated economies of scale did materialize, and the company continued to expand. In 1984 CIGNA acquired AFIA, formerly the American Foreign Insurance Association, to strengthen its position abroad (and also to resolve the conflict between INAs independent international operations and Aetnas membership in AFIA).

AFIA had been formed in 1918 by a group of insurance executives to offer insurance written by its members overseas. After exploring conditions for insurance sales in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and Singapore, the board of AFIA established agencies in South America, Asia, and the Far East. AFIA weathered the Great Depression, but World War II, which engulfed many of the areas where the company was most profitable, slowed growth and cut profits. By 1949, however, AFIA was back on its feet and ready to expand along with the booming postwar economy. In 1984 the company had contacts in over 100 countries and offered CIGNA a good way to expand its international market. Merged into CIGNAs own substantial international operations, AFIA Worldwide became part of CIGNA International, which was renamed CIGNA Worldwide.

In 1987 the Aetna Insurance Company subsidiary was renamed CIGNA Property and Casualty Insurance Company. Two years later, CIGNA gave up the use of the Aetna name altogether when it transferred its rights to this trade name to Aetna Life and Casualty Company. In November 1989 William H. Taylor was named chairman of CIGNA, replacing the retiring Kilpatrick; Taylor had joined Connecticut General in 1964, was named chief financial officer upon the formation of CIGNA in 1982, and had become CEO in November 1988. Also in 1989, the company formed CIGNA International Financial Services to provide individual and group life and health insurance outside the United States. In 1993 CIGNA Worldwide and CIGNA International Financial Services were merged under the recycled name, CIGNA International.

Healthcare and Employee Benefits Emphasized in 1990s

By 1990 CIGNA was operating effectively in an insurance marketplace noteworthy for ever-larger competitors, and the company continued the trend when it acquired EQUICOR-Equitable HCA Corporation, a large group insurance and managed healthcare company and the nations sixth-largest provider of employee benefits. The acquisition accelerated the growth of CIGNAs managed healthcare programs. From 1985 through 1993, the company invested a total of $1.5 billion to build a major managed-care business, just as the managed-care industry was beginning to explode. The newly renamed CIGNA HealthCare was by the early 1990s the companys largest and most profitable unit. By 1997 CIGNA HealthCare offered a full range of group medical, dental, disability, and life insurance products, with traditional fee-for-service plans marketed in all 50 states. The unit operated managed-care networks in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

CIGNA HealthCare grew even larger in 1997 when it acquired Healthsource Inc.a managed-care company with about 1.1 million members in HMOs operating in 15 states for $1.4 billion, plus the assumption of $250 million in debt. Healthsource had been founded in 1985 by a group of doctors in Hooksett, New Hampshire, as an HMO serving rural areas and smaller cities. The company grew quickly through acquisitions but was experiencing some growing pains by the time of its acquisition by CIGNA. With the addition of Healthsource, CIGNAs medical HMOs had a total membership of 5.3 million, while the companys fee-for-service medical plans counted 7 million members.

CIGNA added to its employee benefits offerings in October 1997 with the formation of CIGNA IntegratedCare. This unit a joint initiative of CIGNA HealthCare, CIGNA Group Insurance, and CIGNA Property & Casualtywas formed to offer employers fully integrated workers compensation, disability, and medical-management services. This integrated approach was intended to lower employers costs and improve care by eliminating gaps and redundancies.

At the same time that it was bolstering its employee life and health benefits operations, CIGNA was exiting from various noncore businesses and attempting to stem chronic losses incurred by CIGNA Property & Casualty. Generally, the company was looking to eliminate those business lines that were not strategically connected to other CIGNA businesses. For example, in the early 1990s the companys international operation dropped residential, auto, and travel insurance, while residential insurance was also dropped domestically. In July 1997 CIGNA announced that it would sell CIGNA Individual Insurance, which included individual life insurance and annuity operations in the United States, to Lincoln National Corporation for about $1.4 billion in cash.

CIGNAs property and casualty business, meanwhile, was continuing to lose money at an alarming rate because of weak underwriting standards and poor relations between the unit and its agents. Furthermore, a potential time bomb hung over it in the form of a large number of asbestos and environmental liabilitiespotentially more than $4.5 billion worthwhich was depressing the units financial-strength rating. These ratings are crucial to insurers in winning new business. CIGNA decided to create a fire wall between its problematic and standard liabilities by separating its domestic property and casualty operations into two units: onecalled INA Holdingsto handle all ongoing business, and anothercalled Brandywine Holdingsto handle the asbestos and environmental liabilities. With this division in place, INA Holdings ratings were expected to improve, and it was hoped that CIGNAs property and casualty business might return to the black. By early 1996, regulatory approval for the split had been received, despite opposition from industry competitors who were concerned that Brandywine might eventually run short of funds and have to be bailed out by a state guaranty fund financed by the insurance companies themselves. In March 1997, however, a Pennsylvania appeals court vacated the plans approval by the state of Pennsylvania and ordered new hearings.

In the intensely competitive environment of the turn of the millennium, it seems imperative that CIGNA turn around its struggling property and casualty business as quickly as possible, although the company may decide to divest itself of this troubled segment in order to concentrate further on its much more successful employee life and health benefits operations. Such a move would also provide funds for further acquisitions, and CIGNA will need to grow its healthcare operations to stay competitive in a rapidly consolidating industry.

Principal Subsidiaries

CIGNA Holdings, Inc.; Connecticut General Corporation; CG Trust Company; CIGNA Associates, Inc.; CIGNA Dental Health, Inc.; CIGNA Financial Advisors, Inc.; CIGNA Financial Partners, Inc.; CIGNA Financial Services, Inc.; CIGNA Health Corporation; CIGNA RE Corporation; Connecticut General Life Insurance Company; Disability Claim Services, Inc.; INA Life Insurance Company of New York; International Rehabilitation Associates, Inc.; Life Insurance Company of North America; MCC Behavorial Care, Inc.; TEL-DRUG, INC.; INA Corporation; CIGNA International Holdings, Ltd.; INA Financial Corporation; CIGNA Investment Group, Inc.; CIGNA International Finance Inc.; CIGNA Investment Advisory Company, Inc.; CIGNA Investments, Inc.

Further Reading

Burton, Thomas M, Lincoln Agrees to Buy Units from Cigna, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 1997, pp. A3, A8.

Byrne, John A., and Richard Moráis, Cignoids Versus Afians, Forbes, September 24, 1984, p. 218.

Carr, William H. A., Perils, Named and Unnamed: The Story of the Insurance Company of North America, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1865-1965, Hartford, Conn.: Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1965.

Could Cigna Be a Merger Casualty? Financial World, September 19, 1984, p. 86.

David, Gregory E., Beauty and the Beast, Financial World, November 9, 1993, pp. 79-81.

Hals, Tom, The Cigna Split: What Will Be the Fallout? Philadelphia Business Journal, February 16, 1996, p. 1.

James, Marquis, Biography of a Business, 1792-1942: Insurance Company of North America, Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1942, reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1976.

Jebsen, Per H.,Cigna Forms Unit to Offer New Services, Wall Street Journal, October 6, 1997, p. All.

Lenckus, Dave, CIGNA Reorganization Plan Unleashes Criticism, Business Insurance, December 23, 1996, p. 19.

Loomis, Carol J., and Margaret A. Elliott, How Cigna Took a $1.2-Billion Bath, Fortune, March 17, 1986, p. 46.

Milligan, John W., Robert Kilpatrick Hangs Tough, Institutional Investor, September 1987, p. 257.

ODonnell, Thomas, and Laura Rohman, The Honeymooners, Forbes, May 10, 1982, p. 124.

Ruwell, Mary Elizabeth, Eighteenth Century Capitalism: The Formation of American Marine Insurance Companies, New York: Garland, 1993.

Seism, Leslie,Cigna Is Set Back on Restructuring; Hearing Ordered, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 1997, p. A4.

_____, Cignas Pact to Buy Healthsource Inc. to Boost Firms Managed-Care Business, Wall Street Journal, March 3, 1997, p. A4.

_____, For Cigna, Property-Casualty Line Still Proves Tricky, Wall Street Journal, August 21, 1995, p. B4.

Weber, Joseph, Is CIGNAs Asbestos Plan Fireproof? Business Week, December 16, 1996, p. 118.

Weber, Joseph, William Glasgall, and Richard A. Melcher, Is Cigna Creating a Time Bomb?, Business Week, November 6, 1995, p. 158.

Ginger G. Rodriguez

updated by David E. Salamie

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. (August 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2842600041.html

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1998. Retrieved August 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2842600041.html

CIGNA Corporation

CIGNA Corporation

One Liberty Place
Box 7716
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19192
U.S.A.
(215) 761-1000

Public Company
Incorporated: 1981
Employees: 47,677
Assets: $57.78 billion
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific Philadelphia

CIGNA Corporation was formed in 1982, when INA Corporation, with its strong position in property and casualty insurance, and Connecticut General Corporation, with its strength in group employee benefits, combined. The resulting corporation immediately became one of the largest international, publicly owned insurance and financial-services companies based in the United States. CIGNA is a major provider of insurance, health care, employee-benefit products and services, pension and investment management, and related financial services.

CIGNA gained its preeminent position by combining some of the oldest and most important companies in the insurance marketplace. Its oldest subsidiary is Insurance Company of North America (INA), a company rich with tradition. INA was formed by a group of prominent Philadelphians in November 1792, in Pennsylvanias State House, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed just 16 years earlier. Connecticut General Life Insurance Company was incorporated in 1865. That company began to expand from its focus on life insurance and employee benefits almost a century later, when it acquired another company with a long history of its own, Aetna Insurance Company, in 1962. Another major component of CIGNA was put in place in 1984, when the company acquired the American Foreign Insurance Association (AFIA) to expand its international operations.

Insurance Company of North America was organized in Philadelphia, then the financial center of the United States and its busiest port, when the country was just beginning to develop economically. With only 32 corporations and few native manufacturing concerns in the country, all marine insurance was written in London or in the United States by private individuals or partnerships that could afford to underwrite coverage.

In November and December 1792 a group of businessmenincluding a carpenter, a cobbler, and a stationer, as well as bankers, lawyers, and merchantsmet to set up a general insurance company. These businessmen had their own concerns at heart: they felt that their businesses could not grow unless reliable insurance was made available close to home. Only two small fire insurance companies had been formed in the new nation so far, and Philadelphia businessmen sought greater protection.

Insurance Company of North America wrote several policies on December 19, 1792, its first day in business. John M. Nesbitt, a Philadelphia merchant, was elected president of the company and Ebenezer Hazard, secretary. Hazard, a businessman, scholar, and historian, was responsible for the daily conduct of business, and, remaining in Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, kept the office open. The Insurance Company of North America was incorporated by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1794 and authorized to write marine, fire, and life insurance.

The company initially insured only ship hulls and cargoes in local and international commerce. In late 1794, however, INAs directors and officers agreed to insure buildings and their contents against fire, becoming the first U.S. company to offer insurance on personal possessions and on business inventories.

In the early 19th century, INA followed the pioneers west. In 1807 INA set up its first agency, in Lexington, Kentucky, establishing the American agency system. The company appointed independent agents as far as the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Banking on westward expansion, INA invested in toll bridges and toll roads and bought bonds of the just-purchased Louisiana Territory.

INAS westward expansion helped the company stay afloat when its marine insurance business lost money. Problems began in 1799 when Great Britain began to seize U.S. ships at sea. The maritime embargo of 1808, the War of 1812, and the depression of 1813 all had detrimental effects on the companys marine profits.

After the War of 1812 ended in 1815, the insurance environment became more competitive. As rates fell, INA faced a different kind of threat. John Inskeep, who became INA president in 1806, had the company invest profits instead of paying dividends. This conservative investment and reserve policy, coupled with its expanding fire insurance business, kept the company profitable.

In the mid-19th century, INA played a major role in forming the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters, an organization that standardized premium rates and policy formats, gathered statistics, reported on insurance fraud, and kept up with commercial regulations and maritime law. A committee of the board reported on the seaworthiness of all vessels that entered the Port of Philadelphia. The board helped reduce operating expenses for the companies involved.

Formation of the Philadelphia Board of Marine Underwriters coincided with the high point for marine insurance in the 19th century. Between 1840 and 1861 U.S. foreign-trade tonnage quadrupled. The increase was due partially to the new clipper ships. Clipper ships were well built and had excellent safety records; in short, they were good insurance risks.

By 1859 INA had entered another lucrative area: it insured gold shipments from the California gold fields discovered a decade earlier. Its agent in California, Joshua P. Havens, sent premiums to INAs Philadelphia office in gold dust, which the secretary exchanged for currency.

From 1861 to 1865, when the Civil War disrupted many of INAs traditional markets, the company compensated by placing even more emphasis on the potential in the West. In 1861, as secession spread, the directors stopped accepting business or renewing policies in the South. In 1863 they organized offices in the West into a separate department. From 40 appointed local agents in the territory in 1860, the western-business department grew to 1,300 agents by 1876. In 1875, a decade after the Civil War, a southern department was also added.

Expansion in the West increased business, but also posed a new risk. Rapidly growing cities were not well-built cities, and INA suffered losses in a series of major fires: 700 buildings burned in New York City in 1835; 1,000 buildings were lost in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1845; most of Saint Louis, Missouri was lost in 1851; and Portland, Maine, was destroyed almost totally by fire in 1866.

The Great Chicago Fire, which started on October 8, 1871, burned about 17,450 buildings valued at $200 million. Claims for that fire left many insurance companies bankrupt. Eighty-three other companies could settle their claims only in part. INA was one of 51 companies that did pay in full, settling legitimate claims totaling $650,000. Its reliability brought in new business.

INA, however, faced an even heavier loss a year later. The Boston Fire of November 9, 1872 gutted 600 buildings at a cost of $75 million, causing the collapse of 25 more insurance companies. INA faced the heaviest claim total $988,530but again paid in full.

On April 18, 1906, a 48-second earthquake shook San Francisco, California. Earthquake damage was slight, but the resulting fires were uncontrollable because water mains had ruptured. INA sent special agent Sheldon Catlin to the city to settle claims. Catlin found that most of the damage to property came from the fires, which had burned out of control for three days, not from the earthquake itself. Since INA was liable for fire damage but not earthquake damage, his determination was not a popular one within INA. Under pressure from other insurance companies, the home office decided to settle all claims at two-thirds value. On Catlins recommendation, however, INA reversed its own decision, and agreed to pay all claims in full. That amounted to a liability of $3.7 million, plus $1.3 million in claims due from INAs affiliate, Alliance Insurance Company. INA was one of 27 companies to pay claims from the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in full.

As the company was expanding its fire insurance coverage, it also expanded its marine coverage inland. In 1890 INA established a lake-marine department in Chicago to cover risks during transit on rivers, lakes, and canals. The company originally refused to insure steamboats, an important part of the movement to settle the Mississippi River Valley, because steamboat captains were considered too reckless. At the end of the century George W. Neare & Company, a steamboat operator, persuaded INA President Charles Platt that insurance coverage was necessary to revitalize river transport. The company selected its risks carefully, and eventually prospered in the field.

INA faced losses in its regular marine division in the last decade of the 19th century because such risks were hard to classify. During the mid 1890s Benjamin Rush, a conservative, old-line Philadelphian who came to work at INA as assistant to President Platt in 1894, worked nights and weekends with two young clerks to compile profit-and-loss statements for 198 route and cargo categories over a five-year period. His statistical analysis allowed the company to select risks more carefully. In 1900 INA posted the first profit in its marine line for many years, and the line remained profitable until World War I. Rushs work earned him the title father of modern marine underwriting.

Expanding industry before World War I meant growth in fire insurance business. John O. Platt, a nephew of Charles Platt and head of INAs fire branch, set up the improved-risk-engineering department to devise ways to make industry safer and lower insurance risks. The department eventually offered three services: property valuation, fire prevention, and rate analysis.

Rush succeeded Eugene Ellison as president in 1916, in time to face claims due to attacks by German U-boatsINA paid $21, 740 as its share of the coverage for the Luisitania, for exampleand fires caused by sabotage in U.S. munitions plants. Nevertheless, World War I did not seriously threaten profits.

Despite a generally conservative outlook, INA often insured unusual risks. Hence, in 1905, the company began to insure automobiles against fire and theft, and added collision coverage in 1907. By the end of World War I, demand for this type of coverage had grown so much that INA organized a casualty affiliate, Indemnity Insurance Company, in 1920. The Great Depression hit Indemnity hard, but in 1932 INA brought in John A. Diemand, who had extensive experience in casualty insurance, to improve the companys performance.

With the approach of World War II, INA faced new problems. Male employees enlisted and the company was not fully staffed. Cities were unable to replace outdated fire-fighting equipment, increasing risks. Auto insurance fell off due to gas rationing, and the lack of new-home construction affected property insurance lines. Ships unused to taking wartime security measures were lost to the Germans.

INA again found new and unusual risks to insure. The company wrote policies covering the accidental death of war correspondents and photographers, expanded its aviation coverage, covered test pilots, and insured 30 scientists working on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. We were pulling rates out of the air, Edwin H. Marshall, underwriter for these unusual coverages, told William H.A. Carr, in Perils: Named and Unnamed.

In the postwar years INA boomed along with the economy. During the 1940s Diemand, by now president of the company, tackled a long-standing issue. INA had organized a casualty affiliate in 1920 because INA itself was forbidden by law to offer a full line of insurance. Diemands advocacy of multiple-line underwriting authority, earlier promoted by Rush, now became a crusade. Every company should have the privilege of meeting the requirements of any policyholder at any time as long as there is no law or ruling of an insurance department to prevent it, Diemand said in his address on INAs 150th anniversary. Diemand felt that multiple-line underwriting would provide broader and more convenient coverage for policyholders, who would have access to insurance packages from one agent, and at the same time would enable companies to cut processing and marketing costs.

Diemands major opposition came from insurance cartels and conservative insurance associations that regulated insurance sales. In 1945 Public Law 15 left regulation of the insurance industry to the states, and slowly states extended the right to sell multiple-line insurance. By 1955 the right had been granted in all states. This victory allowed Diemand to pioneer the comprehensive homeowners policy, offering fire, theft, personal liability, medical payment, and extended coverages.

In 1964 Bradford Smith Jr. succeeded Diemand as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Smith automated operations, reorganized the company along functional lines, and emphasized participative management, which he defined as taking individual responsibility and cooperating with all company branches.

Changes in the U.S. business environment as well as changes within the company prompted another reorganization in 1968. Insurance Company of North America became the major subsidiary of INA Corporation, which added diversified services through other subsidiaries and extended its regional and international network of offices. As part of its expansion, INA Corporation organized or acquired several life insurance subsidiaries, which remained relatively small compared to its major interests in property and casualty insurance. In the 1970s the company diversified into a related area when it began acquiring hospital management companies and health-maintenance organizations (HMO).

All of these moves reflected INAs desire to become a major financial organization offering a broad range of services. In 1981 the company saw a business combination with Connecticut General Corporation (CG) as a way to achieve that goal. CG offered a major presence in employee benefits and life insurance to complement INAs activities in property and casualty insurance, and a combination was a way to operate more efficiently through economies of scale.

Connecticut General dates back to 1865, when Guy R. Phelps, one of the founders of Connecticut Mutual Company, saw a need for substandard insurance, or life insurance for poor risks. Originally the new firm was to be called Connecticut Invalid, but because of concern that the word invalid could be read in two ways, it became Connecticut General Life Insurance Company and began to insure healthy lives along with substandard risks. Two years later the company withdrew completely from insuring higher risks, and through conservative management survived a period when many other life insurance companies failed.

Under Secretary, then President Thomas W. Russell, the company prospered from post-Civil War growth in life insurance sales. Within a few years, CG had agents in over 25 states, but increasing competition, rate cutting, and poor public perception of a company that had insured the disabled caused the sales force to shrink as quickly as it had grown. By the 1870s CG concentrated on New England and a few surrounding states.

The companys early policies, handwritten by clerks who had to demonstrate good penmanship to get the job, reflected the society it served. Death from drinking, hanging, or dueling canceled a policy. Travel was also restricted: a policy-holder could not travel south of Virginia or Kentucky from June to November because of additional risk of illness due to heat. Late premium payments led to the automatic cancellation of the policy in question, with no grace period. Policies had no cash value, and benefits were paid only in a lump sum 90 days after proof of death, signed by five witnesses, was received.

Under Thomas Russell, CG weathered the depression following the panic of 1873 and a takeover attempt by Continental Life Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. By 1880 the firm was again stable and began to grow.

Russell died in 1901 and was succeeded by Robert W. Huntington, who had joined the company as a clerk 11 years before. CG had only 12 home-office employees and was licensed to do business in four New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Huntington emphasized good investments, especially in farm mortgages, railroads, and utilities. He also cut operating expenses, and used the savings to enter new areas.

In 1912 CG created an accident department. The next year CG began to offer group insurance when it insured the 100 employees of the Hartford Courant. Group insurance developed slowly for CG until 1917, when changes in corporate taxes made it a deductible expense. CG established its group department in 1918, and got its first big contractcovering the 5,400 employees of Gulf Oilthat year. Business picked up again in 1919, when contributory plans were developed. Previously, employers had paid the total cost of coverage.

World War I meant a growing economy and more group insurance coverage, but when an influenza epidemic struck in the autumn of 1918, CG was hit particularly hard because it had a high proportion of very young policyholders. Although claims were high, the epidemic eventually encouraged more life insurance business.

During the 1920s Frazar Bullard Wilde, head of the Accident Division, brought CG into another new area of insurance, aviation insurance. Wilde had served in the field artillery in France during World War I, where the use of airplanes caught his imagination. In 1926, when other insurance companies were not yet convinced of the validity of insuring flight, Wilde began writing policies that covered aircraft passengers. In 1930 the company wrote a group life insurance policy for Western Air Express, which included 46 pilots, and in 1932 CG insured 1,000 employees of United Airlines as well.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, CGs diversified investments kept the company going, but within two years new business had decreased sharply and business cancellations mounted. In addition, the companys heavy investment in farm mortgages meant thatwith increasing foreclosures and the inability to lease farmsCG became a farm owner. In most cases, the company retained the former owners as managers and encouraged them to save their pay to buy back the property.

In 1936 Wilde succeeded Huntington as president. Wilde emphasized high-quality products and a good sales force. Ten years later he supported a new approach to marketing life insurance that would have a major impact on the company: estate planning. Stuart Smith, who had joined the company during the Depression, brought the estate-planning concept to CG. Smith emphasized the sale of life insurance as part of complete estate planning. When he was promoted to the home office in 1946, CG made estate planning its only approach to selling insurance. Smith taught the technique to Connecticut General agents, which enabled them to plan insurance coverage by taking into consideration a clients total assets, family circumstances, and plans for the future. Smith emphasized planning services for CG policyholders.

Another area of emphasis after the war was developing group hospital and surgical benefits to compete with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that had just been developed. Just as CG had supported emerging technology after World War I by insuring airline pilots and passengers, after World War II the company began insuring atomic energy workers, covering employees of the Brookhaven and Argonne laboratories.

CG established a group pension service in 1929 to serve its group insurance policyholders. The Revenue Act of 1942 provided some tax incentives for employers to establish pension programs; and the Social Security Act, passed in 1935, stimulated private savings for pensions to supplement the government program, and thus benefited CG. After 1960 changes in Connecticut state law led to significant growth in CGs pension business.

Also in the postwar years, CG pioneered financing of shopping centers, in addition to financing commercial agricultural enterprises and providing loans on residential and business properties in the cities. Company investment became a major factor in the development of the modern suburban shopping mall.

In 1962 CG purchased Aetna Insurance Company (Aetna), a major firm in fire and casualty insurance, in order to broaden its position in insurance. Aetna brought a history even longer than its new parents to the acquisition. The company was established in 1819, and two years later it became the first U.S. company to sell insurance in Canada. In 1851 the company began to sell life insurance too, but just two years later this part of its operations was spun off into a separate company, now known as Aetna Life and Casualty Company. Aetna faced the same marine insurance risks as did INA, and was also hit by massive claims due to urban fires in the late nineteenth century. Aetnas directors acted on a policy they voiced frequently after the Chicago Fire in 1871: Every dollar must be paid, and pay they did. The company paid $3.78 million after the Chicago Fire, $1.6 million a year later in Boston, and almost another $3 million following the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Aetnas ability to cover all its losses in full enhanced its reputation as a major fire insurance company.

By the 1960s the acquisition of Aetna, with its sound fiscal management and preeminent position in fire and casualty insurance, was attractive to CG, which aimed to gain market position in property and casualty insurance, where it had virtually no operations at all. The acquisition was part of a trend in the industry toward larger companies that could offer full lines of insurance.

After acquiring Aetna as its property and casualty arm, CG began dramatic expansion of employee benefits programs, such as group health insurance and pensions. CG was most successful in life, health, and pensions, and its property and casualty operations remained small. By 1981 group life and health benefits accounted for 33% of its operating income; individual life, health, and annuities accounted for 28%; and property and casualty business for only 18% down from almost 35% a decade earlier.

As the trend toward larger multiline insurers continued, in 1981 INA and CG announced that they would bring their complementary interests together by forming CIGNA Corporation. INA was most successful in the property and casualty fields where it had operated the longest, and group insurance had remained a relatively small part of its operations. INA also had a strong international presence, while CG had focused primarily on U.S. markets. By March 31, 1982, all necessary approvals had been secured and CIGNA was formed. Robert D. Kilpatrick of Connecticut General and Ralph Saul of INA became co-CEOs, and the board of directors was drawn equally from both predecessor organizations.

The new company got off to a difficult start because of a declining economy in the early 1980s, but the anticipated economies of scale did materialize, and the company continued to expand. In 1984 CIGNA acquired AFIA, formerly the American Foreign Insurance Association, to strengthen its position abroad. AFIA had been formed in 1918 by a group of insurance executives to offer insurance written by its members overseas. After exploring conditions for insurance sales in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and Singapore, the board of AFIA established agencies in South America, Asia, and the Far East. AFIA weathered the Depression, but World War II, which engulfed many of the areas where it was most profitable, slowed growth and cut profits. By 1949, however, AFIA was back on its feet and ready to expand along with the booming postwar economy. In 1984 the company had contacts in over 100 countries and offered CIGNA a good way to expand its international market. Merged into CIGNAs own substantial international operations, AFIA Worldwide became part of CIGNA International, which was renamed CIGNA WorldWide.

By 1990 CIGNA was operating effectively in an insurance marketplace noteworthy for ever-larger competitors, and it continued the trend when it acquired EQUICOR-Equitable HCA Corporation, a large group insurance and managed-health-care company. The acquisition accelerated the growth of CIGNAs managed medical-care programs.

CIGNA is still subject to the perils of insurance. Fire and natural disasters in 1989 that included Hurricane Hugo and a California earthquake resulted in losses and led CIGNA to raise rates. CIGNAs growth and acquisitions, however, have made the company strong in a broad line of insurance products and financial services, both at home and abroad. This foundation has positioned it to perform well against growing competition.

Principal Subsidiaries

Connecticut General Life Insurance Company; Insurance Company of North America; CIGNA Property and Casualty Insurance Company.

Further Reading

James, Marquis, Biography of a Business: 1792-1942, Indianapolis, Indiana, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1942; Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1865-1965, Hartford, Connecticut, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1965; Carr, William H.A., Perils: Named and Unnamed, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Ginger G. Rodriguez

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1991. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1991. Encyclopedia.com. (August 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2840700087.html

"CIGNA Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1991. Retrieved August 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2840700087.html

Facts and information from other sites