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Insurer To Add Jobs In City

Hundreds Possible At Travelers; 100 In IT Being Cut

January 27, 2006
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer

The St. Paul Travelers Cos., whose merger two years ago raised uncertainty about jobs in the long term, said Thursday it plans to add 1,000 positions nationwide this year and signaled that hundreds of them could be in Hartford.

The company would not be specific, but said a "substantial" number of the 1,000 jobs will be in the city.

The hiring news, though, came as Travelers told nearly 100 information technology employees in Hartford, as expected, that they will lose their jobs soon because of outsourcing. A few dozen IT employees in St. Paul, Minn., will also be cut.

In addition, the company said Thursday it will add another 500 IT workers through outsourcing contracts during the next 12 to 24 months, but said they won't replace existing Travelers employees. The foreign workers will be needed to serve the company's growing business needs, Travelers spokeswoman Marlene Ibsen said.

Travelers currently has 500 IT workers through outsourcing agreements, many of them working in India. The company deals with three vendors - two U.S. firms that use foreign labor, and one Indian firm.

The outsourcing "is not primarily a cost-cutting measure," Ibsen said. However, the expanded outsourcing will make the company more "flexible" and "nimble" so it can "gear up quickly for major projects and we can dial down resources if our needs lessen," she said.

Travelers does not have the time or resources to hire and train the number of people it forecasts it will need, Ibsen said.

Travelers' IT budgets are actually expected to increase to meet "pent-up demand in business lines" and new technology initiatives in the personal insurance and small-commercial business, she said.

Meanwhile, Travelers' creation of new jobs will come as good news to the Hartford area, where other insurers have been laying off workers, too - even while some are adding different kinds of jobs.

Ibsen would not estimate how many of the 1,000 new positions will be in Hartford. But "since Hartford is our largest base of operations, we expect a substantial number of those to be here," she said.

Hartford is the home of the company's personal auto and homeowner's insurance, and the general commercial property-casualty lines. Travelers has roughly 5,900 employees in Connecticut, and more than 30,000 nationwide.

St. Paul, Minn., however, became the corporate headquarters when Travelers Property Casualty Corp. and The St. Paul Cos. merged in 2004.

The 1,000 jobs to be added nationwide will span a variety of functions, including claims adjusters, nurses, and IT professionals. The IT positions are expected to include business analysts and project leaders - different jobs from the ones being outsourced, which are largely programming and testing positions, Ibsen said.

In Hartford specifically, Travelers expects to hire product and pricing professionals who have strong math backgrounds and are good in predictive modeling and statistics, Ibsen said. The company will also be adding underwriting account executives here.

Despite the new hiring, Travelers is not promising no more layoffs. Like most companies, it's leaving the door open for possible cuts if business plans change.

"We don't have further announcements at this time," Ibsen said. "We're continually evaluating our business needs."

Some employees believe there will be more IT layoffs in Hartford.

Thursday's toll of nearly 100 in Hartford would have been larger, but Travelers says it was able to place some IT employees in different jobs within the company.

About 30 percent of the workers provided by vendors to Travelers work in its U.S. offices - mainly Hartford - and the rest are in India.

Sending jobs offshore has irked many U.S. workers. Ibsen said the outsourcing is a "painful step" that will keep the company competitive. "We believe this is the right thing for us to do for our company, our investors ... and long-term presence in our communities," she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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