Unum Group is laying off 30 employees in Portland as part of a broad restructuring effort designed to help the disability insurer adapt to changes in the marketplace.

The company, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Friday that it is laying off 120 employees nationwide. In addition to Maine and Tennessee, Unum has major operations in Worcester, Massachusetts; Columbia, South Carolina; and 40 other field offices across the United States. The layoffs do not affect Unum’s international operations, which are primarily in England and Europe, the company said.

A company spokeswoman said the layoffs are related to an ongoing company-wide restructuring and streamlining effort. She said Unum is beefing up services such as leave management for companies, providing new voluntary group benefit packages and also managing its relatively new dental and vision insurance packages.

Unum also is making additional investments in digital services, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

Analysts say consumers are increasingly demanding digital services as they move more of their banking and other financial tools onto mobile devices.

As a result of those shifts, which began early this year, Unum has hired about 200 employees in Portland and 1,000 company-wide, and it continues to hire, the spokeswoman said. Unum employs about 3,000 workers in Maine and 10,000 worldwide.

She said the layoffs are not related to the coronavirus pandemic, and that the restructuring effort actually began early in the year, before the virus had begun to spread worldwide and a pandemic was declared.

Laid-off workers have received 60 days’ notice, and their benefits will be covered through the end of November, the spokeswoman said. Those laid off also will be offered career transition services, she said.

Unum’s stock price fell by nearly 2 percent Friday, declining 35 cents to end the day’s trading $18.26. Investors didn’t seem fazed by the layoff news, with the stock closing near the same point it was at when the layoffs were announced around 1 p.m.

Unum had been trading at about $30 a share early this year, but it was among the stocks hit hard when the pandemic spread. Its share price declined to nearly $10  in late March and has been generally trading between $15 and $20 a share since then.

In its most recent earnings statement in July, Unum said it had $231.9 million in adjusted operating income from its North American operations during the second quarter, a decline of 8.8 percent from the same period in 2019. Like most companies, Unum has suspended offering guidance on its financial performance for the rest of 2020 because of uncertainties over the impact of the pandemic.

Beyond the pandemic, insurers are coping with a tough business environment. Along with the coronavirus pandemic, which has scrambled markets worldwide, insurers are coping with an aging workforce in which more employees will retire and leave behind their on-the-job health and life insurance benefits.

Estimates are that the number of Americans 65 and older – and therefore eligible for Medicare health insurance – will grow from 12.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2000 to 21.6 percent in 2040.

Interest rates also remain low, limiting the return insurers can get from investing money they get from premiums.

Unum was created through the 1999 merger of Portland-based Unum and Chattanooga-based The Provident Companies. Up until the mid-80s, Unum’s name was Union Mutual Insurance.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: