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Global Atlantic Financial Group is growing in downtown Hartford despite industry

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HARTFORD — When Global Atlantic Financial Group moved its Connecticut offices from Simsbury to downtown Hartford in 2018, it relocated about 85 employees. Today, about 220 of the insurance firm’s employees are based in the city, and its head count in the “insurance capital of the world” is growing. 


Global Atlantic reiterated its intent to keep hiring in Hartford by announcing this month a plan to add about 100 employees during the next few years, with the potential of six-figure state funding supporting the expansion. The company’s growth contrasts with downsizing across much of the insurance industry in recent years, but state economic development officials said they believe that commitment like that of Global Atlantic demonstrates Connecticut’s ability to attract and retain leading insurers.

“If you’re an insurance company, it helps having a presence in Hartford,” Dan O’Shea, Global Atlantic’s chief administrative officer, said in an interview this week in the Hartford offices. “Hartford is still the capital of the insurance industry. It’s good, as we continue to grow and play a significant role in the insurance industry, to have a presence in Hartford.” 

Growing in Hartford

Global Atlantic was founded within Goldman Sachs in 2004 and spun off into an independent, privately held company in 2013. It offers annuities and life insurance to individuals. At the same time, it provides reinsurance and does pension-risk transfers for companies focused on life insurance and annuities. 

In February 2021, investment giant KKR acquired a majority ownership stake in the company. Today, Global Atlantic operates as a subsidiary and standalone business, with about $130 billion in assets under management. 

The company has maintained a presence in Connecticut since becoming independent. The Simsbury offices comprised its first in-state home, and it stayed in the town for five years.  

Seeking a more central location, Global Atlantic moved its Connecticut offices in 2018 to its current address at One Financial Plaza, also known as The Gold Building. Throughout its time in the 26-story landmark, it has occupied the entire 24th level, which offers panoramic views of Hartford and its suburbs. 

The approximately 220 employees based in Hartford today work in human resources, marketing, legal and compliance, sales and distribution, financial and actuarial, and operations. The company expects to have approximately 320 to 330 Hartford-based employees by 2025. 

“We loved it while we were out there” in Simsbury, O’Shea said. “But if you’re going to grow and attract talent from a broader geographic area, it’s easier to do so in a space that’s easier to get to. For us, that was part of the calculus of coming down here to Hartford.” 

To accommodate its growing contingent, Global Atlantic expanded at One Financial Plaza to half of the 10th floor and built out that space in 2019. It subsequently took the other half of the 10th floor and is now building out the remainder of that level. The under-construction section of the 10th floor is scheduled to be ready for occupancy by the third quarter of this year.

After the build-out is completed, Global Atlantic will occupy about 46,000 square feet across the 10th and 24th floors. 

Today, Hartford ranks as Global Atlantic’s second-largest location by head count. The company’s offices in Des Moines, Iowa, which is another insurance hub, are the base for nearly 300 people.  

The company has about 1,400 employees. In addition to the offices in Hartford and Des Moines, those professionals are based at the company’s corporate headquarters in the Hudson Yards complex in Manhattan, as well as offices in Boston; Atlanta; Berwyn, Pa.; Batesville and Indianapolis in Indiana; and Hamilton, Bermuda. 

‘This is a big win for the state’

To support Global Atlantic’s growth, the state Department of Economic and Community Development will provide a grant “in arrears” of up to $695,640. That amount is contingent on the company creating and retaining 100 full-time jobs during the next seven years.

“Global Atlantic was a great candidate because it met all the criteria for the [DECD incentives] program,” Alexandra Daum, DECD’s commissioner designate, said in an interview. “They’re increasing by a really large number of employees, and these are good jobs. This is a big win for the state with this high level of new employment.”

Some companies that receive subsidies previously considered relocating to other states, but Global Atlantic officials said the company always planned to remain in Hartford.  

“This [funding] was in the spirit of partnership and continuing to advance our growth in Connecticut,” O’Shea said. “It wasn’t a responsive or defensive move.”   

Other insurance companies have also received state funding in recent years. Through the First Five Plus program that DECD launched in 2011, Bloomfield-based Cigna, the largest company headquartered in Connecticut and the No. 12 firm on last year’s Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. corporations, received a $6 million grant, a $15 million loan and $30 million in tax credits. The company had $10 million of the loan forgiven, or essentially converted into a grant. 

Cigna created a net total of 619 jobs with the support of First Five Plus, with about 4,500 full-time jobs in the state, as of June 2019, according to DECD’s most recent data on the program.

Cigna has not responded to messages inquiring about its assessment of the First Five Plus funds. 

Stamford-based Navigators received a $3.5 million grant and an $8 million loan that was fully forgiven. It created a net total of 238 jobs, the same amount as its in-state tally of full-time positions, as of June 2019.

Six years after signing its First Five Plus agreement with DECD, Navigators was acquired in 2019 by The Hartford, No. 160 on last year’s Fortune list. The Hartford declined to comment on Navigators’ First Five Plus funding.

An industry in transition

Global Atlantic’s expansion contrasts with less promising industry-wide employment trends in Connecticut. 

The financial activities sector, which includes insurance, lost 400 jobs in 2022, one of only two sectors in the state to see its employment decline last year, according to the state Department of Labor. The sector’s in-state head count last month totaled 116,300, down about 20 percent from 144,500 in March 2008, which marked the state’s all-time peak in overall employment.  

“We have seen a decrease of jobs in the industry. That’s not specific only to Connecticut,” Daum said. “I think that has to do with the way that insurance firms are consolidating and going to a less manpower-heavy model.” 

In contrast, Global Atlantic has kept growing in large part because it is a much younger company than many of its industry counterparts. 

“We had a unique story to be able to tell to talent about what we were doing. A lot of that was based on us being younger, having growth ambitions, being well-capitalized and building something,”  O’Shea said. “A lot of the competitors and some of our peer companies have been around for decades, if not hundreds of years. For us to be so much earlier in our journey, it necessitated growth, even though the industry itself wasn’t growing.”  

While the industry was struggling to add jobs in the state long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the proliferation of remote working during the past three years has contributed to lower employment levels in Connecticut at some companies. The Hartford’s in-state head count decreased 10 percent between 2021 and 2022, a drop that resulted in large part from more employees working remotely from other states.  

Last year, the company had about 5,500 employees based in Connecticut, compared with around 6,100 at the same point in 2021. Its Connecticut contingent included approximately 4,000 employees based in Hartford. It had approximately 18,100 employees last year, compared with about 18,500 in 2021. 

The Hartford had previously confirmed some layoffs through its Hartford Next program, which focuses on reducing costs. But it said last year that “a very small portion [of the decrease in the in-state head count) has been involuntary separations.” 

Despite widespread downsizing, Connecticut is still a locus of the insurance industry. It ranked No. 1 nationally in insurance carrier employment as a percentage of total employment, at 3.7 percent, with more than 60,000 insurance carrier and “related full-time” employees, according to a report published last year by professional services firm PwC and Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services, a statewide initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance. The state also ranked No. 1 in the country in insurance payroll as a percentage of total payroll, at 6.5 percent. 

The industry’s largest employers in the state were CVS Health, which acquired Hartford-based Aetna in 2018, with 9,900 employees; Travelers, with 7,400; UnitedHealthCare, with 5,600; The Hartford, with 5,500; and Cigna, with 4,300, according to the report. 

“Connecticut continues to do a really good job of being a home for these companies,” Daum said. “I think the prospects for the industry in Connecticut are strong.”; twitter: @paulschott

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