MetLife, Inc. is the holding corporation for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company or MetLife for short. The firm was founded on March 24, 1868. For most of its life the company was a mutual organization, but it went public in 2000.
The origins of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) go back to 1863, when a group of New York City businessmen raised $100,000 to found the National Union Life and Limb Insurance Company. The new company insured Civil War sailors and soldiers against disabilities due to wartime wounds, accidents, and sickness. In 1868, after several reorganizations and five difficult years, the company decided to focus on the life insurance business. A new company was chartered to sell "ordinary" insurance to the middle class.
1868 March 25, one day after the Company opened its books, the first policy carrying the name of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was issued. Dr. James R. Dow, a retired physician from Brooklyn, NY, was named Metropolitan Life’s first President. He held this position until 1871. The Company’s office consisted of two and a half rooms; it was located at 243 Broadway in lower Manhattan. By the close of business in 1868, the Company had issued 1,477 policies for $4,340,000.
In 1869 Metropolitan moved its office to the 3rd floor of 319 Broadway.
1870 By the end of the year, Metropolitan had on its books in excess of $13,000,000 of insurance, an increase of 93 percent over the previous year. The Company’s Field Force numbered approximately 80 agents.
1871 Joseph F. Knapp was named Metropolitan Life’s second President. He held this position until 1891. The Company began a series of health and safety messages in Company periodicals for distribution to its employees and policyholders.
1873 Despite a depression, Metropolitan issued 12,242 policies for $17,753,000. These figures placed it third in number of policies and fifth in aggregate of insurance for that year.
1875 The Company purchased its first home of its own. Located at Park Place and Church Street in Manhattan, it was occupied early the following year.
1877 Two Metropolitan firsts: a female clerk was hired, and the Company used its first typewriter.
In 1879, MetLife President Joseph F. Knapp turned his attention to Great Britain, where "industrial" or "workingmen's" insurance programs were widely successful. By importing English agents to train an American agency force, MetLife quickly transferred successful British methods for use in the United States. By 1880, the company was signing up 700 new industrial policies a day. Rapidly increasing volume quickly drove down distribution costs, and the new program proved immediately successful.
1879 President Joseph Knapp traveled to England to observe the operations involved in selling Industrial, or workingman's, insurance. On November 17, the Company began issuing Industrial insurance -- insurance issued in small amounts on which premiums are collected weekly or monthly at the policyholder's home.
1880 A total of 213,878 Industrial policies were written, with a value of more than $9,000,000.
1902 The Parker Building was acquired by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1902. The acquisition was brokered by Frank E. Smith through John F. Hollingsworth. The latter accepted the Westminster Hotel, at Irving Place, as partial payment.
In 1907, the company commissioned the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower to serve as its headquarters in Lower Manhattan; completed two years later, the building was the world's tallest until 1913 and remained the company's headquarters until 2005. For many years, an illustration of the building (with light emanating from the tip of its spire and the slogan, "The Light That Never Fails") featured prominently in MetLife advertising.
Beginning in the 1930s, the company broadened its tradition of public service from promoting individual health to fostering national social and economic goals. In 1930, MetLife was the undisputed leader of the insurance industry, insuring every fifth man, woman, and child in the United States and Canada. On the way it supported the country and the community in many ways. For example,
In 1980, the company completed the largest single building purchase (of the Pan Am Building) in history.
Since the 1980's Snoopy has been the mascot taken from the Peanuts cartoons, apparently as a MetLife rep. Many other characters from the Peanuts cartoons have also been featured in MetLife television commercials.
In 1998, the board of directors authorized demutualization.
In 2000, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) launched the seventh largest IPO ever held in the United States.
In 2001, MetLife was the first insurance company to establish a financial holding company with a nationally chartered bank. Leveraging its unparalleled distribution channels, MetLife entered the retail-banking arena with the launch of MetLife Bank.
In 2001, immediately after the September 11th terrorist attacks, MetLife invested $1 billion in the US stock market.
The MetLife Headquarters building was featured in Spider-Man: The Movie (game), released in 2002.
In 2005, Working Mother magazine honored MetLife by naming the company one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers," for the seventh consecutive year.
In early 2006, MetLife was also named to the National Association for Female Executives’ annual list of Top 30 Companies for Executive Women.
In 2006, MetLife appointed C. Robert (Rob) Henrikson chairman of the board of directors, president and chief executive officer of MetLife, Inc. Henrikson was appointed CEO on March 1, 2006 and chairman of the board on April 25, 2006.
The 2008 top-selling video game, Grand Theft Auto 4, featured a parody on the MetLife building in New York City with an identical building named "GetaLife".