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Columbia Business Monthly

Colonial Life CEO Tim Arnold joins S.C. Chamber as chair-elect

Oct 10, 2019 02:13PM ● By Leigh Savage

Tim Arnold has overseen impressive growth at Columbia-based Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co., and now he's bringing his expertise and perspective to the S.C. Chamber of Commerce as chair-elect.His stint as chair-elect begins October 1, and he'll take over for Spinx Co. CEO Steve Spinks as chair in 2020. 

The Colonial Life president and CEO accepted the role in large part because of Chamber leader Ted Pitts. "I respect the work he does and the impact the Chamber has,"� Arnold says of state Chamber's Chamber president and CEO. 

Arnold felt the role was a good fit, as the organization's priorities and align with his own. "The key initiatives are around workforce development and support for infrastructure reform,"� he says. "I believe that workforce development is truly the key to the success of this state."�

Leading 1,400 employees, including 1,200 in Columbia, has allowed him to see firsthand the importance of working to educate, attract and retain talented staff members. 

Arnold says another reason he accepted the Chamber post is the supportive atmosphere in the legislature. "(The S.C. Chamber) has incredible respect over at the state houses, and good access to legislators, who respect what the Chamber has to say about areas to work on and improve,"� he says.

His legislative priority this year, which he says is common among area business leaders, is acceleration on the education reform bill.

Arnold has long had a passion for education and has made that a priority at Colonial LIfe. "We've given $2.5 million across the Midlands and the state, and at least half of that is for education,"� he says. Employees have also donated 11,000 hours to nonprofits.

Colonial works with local educators through the Midlands Educator Leadership Experience, which aims to help teachers and administrators become more effective, as well as through scholarships and professional development programs. 

The benefits business

After stints in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Maine, Tim Arnold settled in Columbia in 2011, joining Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company as COO. After heading up sales and marketing, he was named president in 2014 and CEO in 2015. 

Colonial Life provides financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company, which partners with 14,000 independent sales reps in addition to its in-house staff of 1,400, supports nearly 95,000 businesses and organizations, representing 4.6 million of America's workers and their families. 

Despite recent growth"the company employed around 900 people five years ago"Arnold sees tremendous opportunity in the industry. "Most Americans have inadequate life insurance and disability,"� he says. "Many have health insurance with high deductibles."� The products his company offers target middle-income workers and their families that can provide a lifeline when illness or accidents strike. 

"There are six million small businesses in the U.S. that have fewer than 100 employees,"� he says. "We think that small market is a rich opportunity, and we feel its very underserved."�

The flip side is, with great market opportunity comes great competition. "There are a lot of new entrants into the space,"� Arnold says.

Over the past four years, Colonial has hired 100 people per year and promoted 300. "Our sales growth rate has been approximately twice the industry average, so that creates tremendous opportunities for people,"� he says. 

Arnold attributes the growth in part due to a unique distribution system and an inclusive, diverse culture that supports employees and encourages them to recognize that they are working to benefit others. "We have people focus on the fact that what we do has tremendous social value,"� he says. "It helps American workers and their families. That's a lot of motivation for people."� 

"Our mission is to serve five million American workers by 2020,"� he adds. "It's a very ambitious goal, and we need strong growth to achieve it, but we're making great progress. Now we're at 4.6, so I feel good about the progress we have made."�