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At The Hartford, 200 Layoffs In '09, And More To Come


May 28, 2009

The Hartford has laid off about 200 employees in the Hartford region so far this year, and more job cuts are coming locally and companywide, CEO Ramani Ayer said in an interview Wednesday after the annual shareholders' meeting.

The company had previously said it was laying off staff in 2009 but had not given any numbers, and it still isn't saying how many more job cuts are coming.

The 200 brings the local total to 325 layoffs since the cutting began late last year as The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. struggles to regain its footing amid investment losses and depressed equity markets.

The company and its stock price have taken such a battering that a retiree of The Hartford asked Ayer at the annual meeting when he would resign.

"Congratulations on driving The Hartford into the ground," Justin Winthrop, 88, of West Hartford, told Ayer. "You've destroyed the image, reputation and the name of The Hartford. When may we expect your resignation?"

Winthrop said he has been a stockholder since the 1940s, retired from The Hartford in 1982 after more than 30 years, and had been a secretary of the company an officer level below vice president. He told Ayer if he didn't step down, the company's directors, who have "had their heads in the sand," should consider firing him.

Ayer, in response at the shareholder meeting, said nothing about resigning but said he understood it has been a traumatic time for shareholders and that he and the company are trying hard to restore its image.

In the interview, he added, "I feel we are in a very good place now with all the actions we have taken, the strategic thinking we have done. I really for now am focused on making sure we just continue that work."

In Connecticut, where the company had 12,500 employees at year-end, Ayer said the life and annuity operations "will certainly be impacted" by layoffs the variable annuity business is being scaled back and he expects property-casualty operations "would not be impacted anywhere near the same extent."

A big chunk of layoffs would be in international operations, Ayer said, because The Hartford is suspending sales in Japan and the United Kingdom and halting plans for sales in Germany. There will also be job cuts in U.S. locations outside Connecticut.

Ayer told shareholders Wednesday the company is finalizing details on the $3.4 billion in federal TARP bailout funds, having received preliminary approval earlier this month on the capital infusion. He noted similar investments have been completed within 30 days.

Meanwhile, The Hartford will invest in and grow its group life and disability business and plans to offer a new array of variable annuity products in the third quarter that focus on "simplicity, reasonable cost, and income solutions," Ayer said.

The company also plans to build market share in retirement plans and mutual funds, he added.

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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