OneAmerica grows bullish on its future: New leadership hopes to sustain steady growth

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OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. kept busy with a brand change, a record year for retirement services and the arrival of several new leaders in 2004.

New President and CEO Dayton Molendorp plans to keep the positive momentum flowing with 34 key projects outlined in the 2005 business plan. But analysts say the Indianapolis company will have to grow in the face of strong competition and a pressing need to keep up with technology.

The company formerly known as AUL unveiled a new identity last fall when it stuck a OneAmerica sign atop its 38-story headquarters downtown.

OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. sits near the top of the holding company’s organizational chart. Others under it include Pioneer Mutual and American United life insurance companies.

Company leaders launched the rebranding because they wanted a more inclusive name for their product line, which includes retirement services, individual life insurance, and group life and health. They’ve used sponsorships of sporting events like May’s mini-marathon to get the word out.

“The OneAmerica name, I think, has a ring in the marketplace,” Molendorp said. “It’s been well received by our distributors.”

Before the rebranding, OneAmerica announced several leadership changes. The biggest took place at the top, where Molendorp, 57, took over for longtime CEO Jerry Semler in September.

Other promotions included J. Scott Davison to chief financial officer, Emet Talley to vice president of systems and chief information officer, and Bill Yoerger to vice president of retirement services. All are company veterans.

All told, the company put eight executives in new positions over the summer and used internal promotions in each situation, Molendorp said.

“While we’ve had a lot of change, it hasn’t been a lot of wholesale change,” he said. “We’ve built on the strength that’s in the house.”

The management team received a positive review from the New Jersey-based rating firm A.M. Best Co. Best has kept American United Life stable at an “A” rating, or excellent, for about four years, said David Tauber, a financial analyst there.

He said Best thinks the management team “is guiding the company in the right directions.”

That direction includes more growth in retirement services. The company saw a record year in that segment for 2004, with $1.1 billion in deposits. Retirement services make up $7 billion of the company’s $15 billion asset total.

The company brought in $350 million in new 401(k) business last year. Molendorp believes that new-business total can grow to $1 billion annually over the next five years. OneAmerica specializes in the small-business market.

“With the economy coming back, there’s been a fair amount of growth in the smallbusiness marketplace and we’ve been able to capture our share of that growth,” Molendorp said.

However, other companies have noticed the potential in the small-employer market. The biggest retirement service companies target the largest clients but are also starting to expand their range.

“More and more people are starting to look at this,” Tauber said. “If everybody is beating their brains out in the large marketplace, as profits go down they look for other alternatives to generate their returns.”

Mutual fund companies, banks and brokerage firms are among the businesses that have made the market “very competitive,” according to a 2004 report from New York-based Moody’s Investors Service.

The report adds that retirement services also will feel long-term pressure from “the continuing need for heavy technology spending.”

Davison and Molendorp say the company has invested heavily in technology. It also has seen results outside retirement services. The company saw 22-percent sales growth in individual life insurance and 12 percent for group life and health, Davison said.

Growth like that makes the company’s new leaders optimistic. OneAmerica’s key projects for 2005 involve no fundamental changes. Instead, they focus on “a series of very specific efforts to improve over time,” Davison said.

“We’ve never been more enthusiastic about the future,” Molendorp said.

CEO Dayton Molendorp hopes to keep up the positive momentum.

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