Mutual of Omaha

Company History

  • Facts

    In 1909, Mutual of Omaha, originally known as Mutual Benefit Health & Accident Association, filed articles of incorporation with the Nebraska Insurance Department. The charter was issued on March 5.

    The company's first president was Harry S. Weller. He served in this role from 1909-1932.

    Getting started wasn't easy. The company needed 250 applications before it could obtain its state license. Charter Member Receipts were issued to applicants until the required number of policy owners could be 'signed up', which took 10 months. Then, a Certificate of Membership was issued.

    To be part of the association cost $5. In addition, Mutual Benefit's first policy from 25's" sold for $20 a year, plus and additional $1 in annual dues. As a point of comparison, at that time a one-way fare for Union Pacific train service from Omaha to Los Angeles or San Francisco cost $25.

  • Facts

    On January 8, 1910, the day the 250th policy was received, Mutual Benefit Health & Accident Association became authorized to issue health and accident insurance in Nebraska. In the next six months, only 29 more applications were received.

    Dr. C. C. Criss, a medical student at Creighton College of Medicine, was elected treasurer of the faltering company in July 1910.

    Under Dr. C. C. Criss's leadership, Mutual Benefit began to offer simplified, liberal policies to minimize an insured's liability from accident or illness. Underwriting rules were extended to provide disability coverage to the average person, including lifetime benefit periods.

    Innovate decision-making was critical in Mutual Benefit's early years as an increased emphasis was placed on superior customer service and expanding the policyholder base. The company rapidly increased the states it could do business adding:

    1914 - South Dakota on June 13

    1916 - Kansas in March and Wyoming on September 9

    1917 - Illinois on October 18 and Missouri on December 26

    1918 - Colorado on September 23 and Montana on April 1

    1919 - Indiana on March 18 and Iowa on May 20

    With thousands of men fighting in World War I, job vacancies were being filled by women. At a November 1917 meeting, Mutual Benefit board members voted to extend coverage to women wage earners for the first time.

    In 1918, Mutual Benefit consolidated with Omaha Health & Accident Association, a two-year-old company on the edge of collapse. Mutual Benefit assumed more than 3,000 policy owners through the agreement.

  • Facts

    With rapid growth, Mutual Benefit was no longer a faltering insurance company. By 1920, it was licensed to sell insurance in 15 states and its premiums went over a million dollars - $1, 296,482 - for the year.

    Mutual Benefit was quickly becoming more than a regional carrier by expanding into the following states:

    1920 - Arizona, Idaho, North Dakota and Oklahoma

    1921 - Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio and Utah

    1923 - Louisiana, Texas, Minnesota and Tennessee

    1924 - North Carolina and Oregon

    1925 - Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and Nevada

    1926 - Alabama and Georgia

    1927 - District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina, Vermont and West Virginia

    1928 - Washington and Virginia

    1929 - Rhode Island

    By its 15th anniversary, Mutual Benefit had 112 home office employees and ranked eighth among insurance companies in premiums received and seventh in claims paid. Many of the companies in comparison were more than 100 years old.

    Incorporated on August 9, 1926, United Benefit Life Insurance Company provides life insurance, pension and annuity products for groups and individuals.

    Mrs. Mabel L. Criss, wife of C.C. Criss, was elected second vice president of Mutual Benefit on February 11, 1928. She was the first woman officer in the company and also served as general manager.

    October 29, 1929, "Black Tuesday", the stock market crash occurred too late in the year to impact the company's financials. The company was fourth in premium income and third in claims paid and it surpassed the $10 million mark in premium income.

    The company was considered the largest organization of its kind in the world in 1929.

  • Facts

    In 1930, Mutual Benefit and its four-year-old life insurance company, United of Omaha, moved into three floors (and part of the basement) in the Faidley Building. At the time, there were 233 employees in the home office.

    Dr. C.C Criss was elected president of Mutual Benefit on Feb 11, 1933, by the board of directors. His position ass treasurer was assumed by his brother, Dr. N.L Criss.

    By 1934, the home office had 307 employees and was sanctioned to conduct business in Canada on Dec. 11.

    Despite the great depression, mutual benefit was expanding in the 1930's, taking over the following companies:

    1933 - Physicians Protective Casualty

    1934 - Health and Accident business of Independent Life Insurance Company of Nashville assumed on April 1

    1935 - Health and Accident business of Midwest Life and Casualty Association of Topeka, Kan., assumed on Aug. 7

    The need for individual hospitalization insurance became evident during the depression. Mutual Benefit's first hospital insurance, Form 3H, was issued in 1936. It provided payments for daily hospitalization; operating room, anesthesia, X-ray and laboratory costs; and physician and surgeon fees.

    By 1939, the company was licensed in all 48 states and our two territories adding:

    1930 - Maine and New Jersey

    1931 - Alaska on Sept. 24 and Delaware on Dec. 21

    1936 - Pennsylvania on Dec. 28

    1937 - New York on Aug. 3

    1938 - Connecticut and New Hampshire

    1939 - Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Hawaii

    Mutual Benefit began making plans to build a new corporate headquarters at 33rd and Farnham Street. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Sept. 4, 1939.

  • Facts

    May 1, 1940, Mutual dedicated the first structure in its home office complex. Vice president V.J. Skutt presided over ceremonies. Dr. and Mrs. C.C. Criss were the honored guests.

    The home office at 33rd and Farnham opened in Sept. 1940. There were 613 home office employees, 286,787 policy owners and life insurance in force was $160,763,849.

    Hospitalization business of United Casualty Company of Westfield, Mass. assumed by Mutual Benefit on July 1, 1940.

    In 1941, Mutual Benefit formed its Group Insurance Department.

    Pearl Harbor was bombed Dec. 7, 1941. Mutual Benefit released a war coverage bulletin to all policy owners changing the war clause provisions to from providing no coverage to providing full coverage for civilians "killed or injured in Hawaii, or withing the continental United States or Canada by bombing or any other act of war."

    A total of 108 home office employees volunteered or were drafted for military service during World War II. Of those, five were killed in the war.

    In conjunction with its 35th anniversary, the company introduced a nationwide radio program, "Freedom of Opportunity," in 1944. Each weekly, half-hour show dramatized the lives of famous Americans, such as Jane Addams and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. The award-winning show ran for more than 22 months and was heard on more than 200 network stations.

    In 1945, the company began a search for a new insignia. In 1949, Floyd Wilson, art director for the ad agency Bozell & Jacobs, completed the painting of an Indian chief in full headdress. The new insignia would debut in a "Saturday Evening Post" advertisement on Jan. 14, 1950. At the same time, the company name was shortened to Mutual of Omaha.

    In 1946, Mutual Benefit was ranked first in premium income with $58,574,029 for the year. That same year, Mutual expanded into Newfoundland.

    United Benefit Fire Insurance Company is incorporated on Sept. 21, 1946. It was officially licensed in February 1947 and offered fire and allied lines on dwelling and household contents.

    In less than 10 years, Mutual of Omaha nearly tripled in size with 1,926 employees. The company adds on to its existing location adding building II in 1948.

    When the New York Insurance Department began a movement to alter the commission structure of United Benefit, the company withdrew its operations from the state. However, that left the New York sales force without a life product to market. To help agents with a total package of health and life insurance, V.J. Skutt engineered the formation of Companion Life Insurance Company of New York in 1949.

    Dr. C.C. Criss resigns as president on April 10, 1949, due to ill health. He is appointed chairman of the board and on April 14, V.J. Skutt is elected president.

  • Facts

    Preferred Accident Insurance Company of New York is reinsured by Mutual of Omaha in April 1951.

    Dr. C.C. Criss passes away on March 9, 1952. That year also marked expansion for the company through:

    Approval of the Foreign Service Department to service policy owners residing in 55 foreign countries

    The company took over the health and accident business of London and Edinburgh Insurance Company, Ltd., of London in August, through its Canadian office

    Mutual is licensed in Canal Zone on Oct. 3

    V.J. Skutt was named chairman of the board and president of Mutual of Omaha in 1953. In that same year, the company:

    Underwrites Tele-Trip insurance

    United of Omaha reaches $1 billion mark on July 7

    United Benefit Fire Insurance Company dissolved in September

    Significant growth during the 1950s was attributed to increased advertising from 1948 to 1957. During this time, Mutual's premium income tripled from $66 million in 1947 to $180 million in 1957. Some significant sponsorship included:

    1950-1955 - Mutual of Omaha Calling, a program to reunite servicemen overseas with their families at home via a transoceanic telephone call

    1951 - "On the Line with Considine," a syndicated column (sponsorship continued for 20 years)

    1953 - Arthur Godfrey radio and TV programs (Godfrey broadcast lve from the home office in September 1957)

    Other momentous sponsorships included the "Breakfast Club" with Don McNeil, "The Today Show" with John Daly, "Father Knows Best," "The Tonight Show" and "The Lawrence Welk Show"

    Paying tribute to Dr. Criss, President V.J. Skutt established the Dr. C.C. Criss Award, giving $10,000 and a specially designed gold medal to an individual who had made a major contribution in the field of health, safety, and/or public welfare. It was hoped that the award would help stimulate research in the medical and science fields. Throughout the years, the award was given to:

    1950 - Drs. Hench and Kendall for the development and use of cortisone to treat arthritis

    1953 - Dr. Howard Rusk for his work in the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped

    1954 - W. Earl Hall for his work in the area of accident prevention and traffic safety

    1955 - Dr. Jona Salk for his discovery of the polio vaccine

    1959 - Dr. Tom Dooley for his medical service among the underprivileged in Southeast Asia

    Mutual reinsured hospital, health and accident business of Penn Life Insurance Company on March 2, 1955.

    In 1955, Mutual announces an addition of Building III East. Construction would begin in 1956 and employees would move into the building in 1958. At that time, the campus was 12 acres and there were 2,675 home office employees.

    Mutual became licensed in the Virgin Islands on Oct. 10, 1955.

    A precursor to a legacy sponsorship, "Zoo Parade," narrated by Marlin Perkins, was sponsored by Mutual in August 1955 to provide trip travel plans and 24 hour, all-accident protection to travelers all around the globe.

    Mutual ordered its first computer (IBM electronic data processing system) in 1955. Mutual was the first health and accident company to do this. The equipment was delivered in 1956 and put into service in 1957.

    In 1956, Mutual was awarded the contract to be the fiscal administrator for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS). The program provides civilian medical care for dependents of military personnel on active duty and retired servicemen and their dependents.

    On Oct. 23, 1958, Mutual of Omaha passed the $1 billion mark in benefits paid to its policy owners. This was the first time any insurance institution had paid that much in benefits during its first 50 years. Mutual purchased St. Paul Hospital and Casualty Company in September 1959. The company would later be known as Omaha Financial Life Insurance Company.

    The company sponsored the production of the film, "The Biggest Bridge in Action," which depicts the problems facing handicapped people in new jobs. The film was made available to businesses and community groups throughout the country for no charge. Mutual received the Distinguished Service Award from President Eisenhower in recognition for promoting the employment of the physically handicapped.

  • Facts

    In 1960, Mutual became the first insurance company to include a rehabilitation provision in its disability income protection policies. The company also assumed the business of Wisconsin Casualty Company on Dec. 1 of that year.

    The Dr. C.C. Criss Award, while not awarded annually, continued, and the honor was given to:

    1961 - J. Edgar Hoover for his contributions to America's security

    1965 - William Gargan for his rehabilitation work with cancer patients

    Mutual opened an office in Jamaica in 1961

    Mutual officially changed its name to Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company on Feb. 10, 1962. Also, American Standard Insurance Corporation was acquired by Mutual's Group division on Nov. 1 of that year.

    In 1962, V.J. Skutt and Marlin Perkins began discussions about a new wildlife program. "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" debuted on Jan. 6th, 1963. During its nine-year-network run, the series gained many honors, including four Emmy awards.

    Durward Ulfers is elected president of Mutual in 1964. V.J. Skutt takes over as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of United of Omaha. In that same year, Mutual exceeds $2 billion in benefits paid.

    Medicare started in the United States on July 1, 1966. Mutual was selected to administer both parts A and B of the program.

    Mutual acquired the charter of the inactive Equitable Casualty Company in 1967 and renamed it The Omaha Indemnity Company, offering automobile and homeowner coverages in 17 states.

    In 1968, Mutual of Omaha Fund Management Company was established - managing four mutual funds and one closed-end fund. Growth and Income Fund Companies were also organized at the same time.

    On Sept. 3, 1968, Mutual became licensed to sell in Great Britain and a headquarters was established in London.

    Mutual acquires Constitution Company of Canada, Harfree Holding Company and Trillion Insurance Services, Ltd. in 1969. During that same year, the home office Building III West was completed. There were 3,556 home office employees.

  • Facts

    The company expanded again, constructing Building III West and the Tower in 1970. There were 3,400 employees in the home office. Other milestones this year included:

    Mutual of Omaha Income Fund, Inc. and Supervised Shares, Inc. of Des Moines merged

    Company insignia added to the tower

    John D. Minton was elected president of Mutual of Omaha on Dec. 8

    Entering its 10th season, "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" premiered on the Mutual of Omaha National Syndication Network in 1971. More than 200 local stations received the newly syndicated program. That same year, the program received an Emmy award nomination.

    Mutual of Omaha America Fund and Mutual of Omaha Regional Research Shares formed on June 9, 1972.

    Dr. C.C. Criss Awards given to:

    1973 - Bob and Delores Hope for Bob's ability to heal through humor in addition to his many fundraising activities and Delores' efforts on the part of the Eisenhower Medical Center

    1976 - Marian Anderson and Helen Hayes for Anderson's extraordinary talent and drive as she overcame poverty and racial discrimination to become one of the world's most acclaimed contraltos and Hayes for her work in numerous charitable causes

    1979 - Dr. Benjamin Mays and Marlon Perkins for Mays' devoted efforts to upgrade education and provide inspiration for generations of students and Perkins for his discoveries and achievements in conservation and preservation of wildlife

    In 1973, "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" made broadcasting history by participating in a scientific exchange between the Soviet Union and United States. This was the first time a photographic crew had been invited to film the wildlife conservation programs of the Soviet Union. They filmed two reports: "Winter in Russia" and "Summer in Russia."

    The company assumed the accident policies of World Book Educational Insurance Company in 1974. Also in that year, Mutual paid over $5 billion in benefits to date.

    In 1977, St Paul Hospital and Casualty Company changed its name to Omaha Financial Life Insurance Company and the company reinsured Telephone Workers Insurance Company of Omaha.

    Mabel Criss, co-founder of mutual of Omaha, died on March 19, 1978.

    Mutual's new energy-efficient dome, a 3-story underground building, was completed in 1979. It added 190,000 square feet of space.

  • Facts

    United Benefit Life Insurance Company changed its name to United of Omaha Life Insurance Company in 1981.

    The last C.C. Criss award was given to Lt. General James Doolittle and his wife Josephine, in 1984 for personifying our nation's efforts during WWII and serving as an inspiration to all Americans.

    Mutual of Omaha purchased the investment firm of Kirkpatrick, Pettis, Smith, Pollan, Inc in August 1983. In that same year:

    United of Omaha purchased World Book Life Insurance Company

    Omaha Indemnity Company acquired Commercial Customs to form a new subsidiary called Omaha Property and Casualty Company

    Mutual of Omaha Gospel Choir was formed as part of the company's Black History Month celebration. The choir has performed for an array in individuals, organizations and events including President George W. Bush

    Groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new South Site building took place on July 19, 1983

    Thomas Skutt was named vice chairman and chief executive officer in 1984. In 1986, he was named chairman and CEO. Skutt served in these positions during a time when soaring healthcare costs and national legislation threatened the future of private healthcare. Under Skutt's leadership, Mutual continued to diversify its product offerings.

    Jim Fowler became host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" in August 1985. Fowler was joined by Peter Gros, wildlife reporter. Marlin Perkins remained with the show.

    In 1986, V.J. Skutt became chairman emeritus. Also in that year:

    Mutual and its affiliates paid over $21 billion in benefits since its founding

    Marlin Perkins hosted a 60 second radio show called "Nature Newsbreak"

    The South Side building, part of the home office complex, was completed. Two parking garages were also opened

    Marlin Perkins died at the age of 81 on June 14

    Jack Weekly was named president of Mutual of Omaha in 1987. In the same year, a series of six "Mutual of Omaha's Spirit of Adventure" television specials aired on the ABC network.

  • Facts

    The company's Japan operations began a joint venture in 1991 with ORIX Corporation, a Japanese based, diversified financial services company. The joint venture operated the business conducted by Omaha Seimei, United of Omaha's branch, which sold life and health insurance in Japan, beginning in 1985

    Mutual of Omaha's Wildlife Heritage Center was formed in 1992 to promote awareness and appreciation for the natural world by supporting conservation efforts at the community level.

    Former chairman and CEO V.J. Skutt died on Feb. 23, 1993. His career with the company spanned 69 years.

    Innowave, a company that marketed point-of-use water treatment systems through a network of dealers in the United States and Canada, was founded by Mutual in 1996 as a subsidiary. Also that year:

    Chairman Tom Skutt announced his retirement as chief executive officer. He continued to serve as chairman of the board of directors

    Mutual's Tele-Trip Company, Inc. was sold to Travelex on November 22

    In 1997, Mutual of Omaha launched its first internet web site

    Jack Weekly was named chief executive officer in 1996 and elected chairman and CEO in 1998, capping a career with the company which began with an entry-level data processing position in 1950. Under Weekly's leadership, the company merged business units, implemented ambitious customer service requirements and introduced numerous products to respond to the changing marketplace.

    In 1998, Royal Bank of Canada purchased Mutual's Canadian operations.

    Mutual of Omaha opened Health Care Service Centers to process claims in the following locations:

    1991 - Charlotte, N.C.

    1995 - Woodward, O.K.

    1999 - Aberdeen, S.D.

  • Facts

    Mutual launched an initiative to revitalize its brand in 2001. The branding initiative included an extensive advertising campaign, new "Begin Today" slogan, updated insignia and new corporate sponsorship of USA Swimming. "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" also entered a new dimension with the launch of its website.

    The tragic events of Sept. 11 touch the hearts of associates prompting them to donate $32,670.73. With a company match, more than $65,000 was donated to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in New York and Washington DC.

    In 2002, "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" Kids' Summit was launched and held in Los Angeles. The Summit challenged 9-12 year olds to think of innovative ideas to save threatened and endangered wildlife. The Summit was held each spring for four consecutive years. In that same year:

    The Heartland Chapter of the International Association for the Administrative Professional (IAAP) for at Mutual of Omaha and was open to all companies in the downtown area

    "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" specials roared back to television on the Animal Planet network with a series of all new specials that took viewers to the wildest place on Earth to see animals as they have never been seen before

    Mutual announced it would no longer carry Small Group products

    Smith Hayes Financial Services Corporation acquired most of the retail brokerage business of Kirkpatrick Pettis

    "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" special "Lost Elephants" was awarded as best in the "Television Documentary and Information, Environment and Ecology" category at the New York Festivals prestigious award programs in communications media in January 2003. Other significant events that year included:

    John Sturgeon retired as Mutual's president and chief operating officer in March

    Mutual of Omaha's Duel in the Pool was launched - pitting top American swimmers in head-to-head competition. USA prevailed in the pool; claiming top prize and ultimate bragging rights. Duels took place in 2003, 2005 and 2007

    Mutual began ceasing sales of individual major medical insurance policies in all states in February and all variable life and variable annuity products in May. Security Benefit group assumed the reinsurance of Mutual's existing variable annuity and variable life insurance blocks of business in 2004

    Taking a swing at a whole new audience, Mutual of Omaha expanded its brand efforts through a new sponsorship - golf

    Daniel P. Neary was appointed president of Mutual of Omaha on Aug. 20

    A new 100,000 square foot mail processing and records storage center in Blair, Neb. was dedicated on Sept. 17

    Mutual of Omaha's Drive, Chip and Putt Junior Challenge, presented by the Golf Channel, kicked off in February of 2004 and ran through 2008. It was the world's largest junior golf program that had golf competitions for kids ages 7-14 in 100 cities across the country. Other items to note in 2004 include:

    Mutual reached an agreement to sell Kirkpatrick Pettis Trust Company to Security National Bank of Omaha. D.A. Davidson & Co. acquired the remaining assets of Kirkpatrick Pettis

    Mutual completed an agreement with United Concordia Companies to allow Mutual to begin marketing the New dental Benefits dental insurance plans

    Chairman and CEO Jack Weekly passed away Dec. 17

    In January 2005, Daniel P. Neary was appointed chairman and CEO. He is only the fifth chairman of the company. Also in that year:

    "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" Adventure Tour, a unique interactive mobile experience that conveys excitement and adventure of the Wild Kingdom, kicked-off and visited fairs and festivals nationwide.

    Mutual and Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corp. (WPS) announced an agreement to jointly pursue a Medicare administrative contract under the reformed Medicare program. In 2007, 520 Mutual associates transitioned to WPS

    The Mutual of Omaha Foundation was established to handle the company's charitable giving

    Mutual teamed up with Coventry Health Care to offer the new Medicare Part D prescription drug plans

    A new subsidiary, Omaha Information Services Company (now called Continuum Worldwide), was created in 2006, offering a wide range of operational risk management services and consulting. In the same year, Mutual sold its Innowave affiliate to Waterlogic International Ltd.

    Mutual of Omaha unveiled a $250 million mixed-use urban development project called Midtown Crossing at Turner Park in 2006. It's the first major initiative tied to the Destination Midtown project. Midtown Crossing is scheduled to open winter 2009.

    In 2007, Omaha financial holdings, Inc. (OFHI), Mutual of Omaha's holding company for banking operations, was created to explore banking initiatives. Jeff Schmid was appointed president and CEO. OFHI opened Mutual of Omaha Bank with 13 locations and more than $700 million in assets when it acquired these three community banks:

    Nebraska State Bank in Omaha, Neb.

    Security Federal Bank in Lincoln, Neb.

    Peak National Bank in Golden, Colo.

    Coventry Health Care acquired Mutual's group health business in 2007.

    In 2008, Mutual of Omaha acquired the assets and personnel of Retirement Marketing Services (RMS), a Dublin, Ohio-based independent wholesaler specializing in marketing retirement products in the 401(k), 403(b), 457 and individual rollover markets. Also in 2008:

    The company sponsored the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational in June. The Swimvitational was the final swim meet in the country where Olympic hopefuls could qualify to compete at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials

    Mutual of Omaha Bank acquired from the FDIC the deposits of the failed Reno, Nev. based First National Bank of Nevada and its affiliate, First Heritage Bank of Newport Beach, Calif.