By Maria Saporta
It had been 20 years since Primerica last held an annual shareholders meeting, and then the life insurance company was known as the A.L. Williams Corp.
But on Wednesday, May 18, the new, independent Primerica held its first annual shareholders meeting at its headquarters in Duluth — an uneventful meeting that lasted just 22 minutes.
Chairman and Co-CEO Richard Williams stood in front of a large sign with bold letters: “Let Freedom Ring.”
Williams told employees and shareholders how Primerica has had to establish an internal audit team and an investors relations team since it split off from CitiGroup on April 1, 2010. He also said that the company was focused on enhancing its core business and that it had strong earnings in 2010.
Fellow Co-CEO John Addison, the more gregarious of the two, spoke passionately about how Primerica wasn’t about selling products — either insurance or financial. “What matters are the people,” he said. “We change people’s lives.”
The annual meeting of Primerica actually seemed more like a TV studio production that a gathering of shareholders. It had several cameras in the room, which were webcasting the meeting to Primerica associates around the country.
The formal business of the meeting also was routine. Two of the eight directors were elected to three-year terms — Addison and Robert McCullough, a former CFO with Amvescap and a former Atlanta managing partner of Arthur Andersen accounting firm.
Shareholders also approved KPMG as the company’s public accountant as well as a proposals on the compensation and incentive plans.
After the meeting, Addison said the transition of Primerica having gone from “being a division of a big company for 20 years and to now being independent” has been smooth.
But the problem is that Primerica’s target market — the middle class — still hasn’t fully recovered from the economic recession.
“It has been challenging,” Addison said. “The economy for middle America isn’t really good The average guy on Main Street still doesn’t feel great about the economy.”
But Addison, an eternal optimist, said he truly believes the economy will pick up and business will improve.
In the meantime, he and the Primerica team remain focused.
“This is a business when the water is choppy, you just hit the accelerator,” Addison said. “When things are challenging, you just have to work harder.”
Primerica currently has about 1,700 employees at its Duluth headquarters and a total of 2,000 employees in North America. It also has more than 90,000 licensed agents that sell its insurance and financial products to families across the country.
In mid-June, Primerica will hold its major convention at the Georgia World Congress Center and the Georgia Dome. The mega-event, which occurs every other year, is expected to attract about 40,000 people.