Aflac has hired an insurance industry veteran away from one of its competitors for the job of chief financial officer.
The Columbus-based supplemental insurer said Frederick J. Crawford, effective Tuesday, will also take the title of executive vice president and will work closely with Kriss Cloninger, Aflac’s longtime president and chief financial officer who has promised to stay as an active executive with the company until age 70, which is less than three years.
Crawford, who turns 52 in September, comes to the company from Carmel, Ind.-based CNO Financial Group — formerly Conseco Inc. — where he has served as chief financial officer since 2012. Launched in 1979, the firm markets and sells health and life insurance policies in the U.S., with subsidiaries that include Bankers Life and Colonial Penn, both of which advertise routinely on television. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is the arena home of the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
Aflac Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Amos, in a statement, called Crawford “a well-respected leader and seasoned insurance executive” who brings the qualities and experience necessary to help the insurer grow smartly and steadily in the coming years. Amos himself, now 63, has pledged to remain at the helm of the firm at least until age 70.
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“Fred’s appointment emphasizes our continued focus on disciplined financial management and our ongoing commitment to building a leadership team to enable us to achieve our long-term growth aspirations,” the CEO said.
Crawford’s departure from CNO Financial Group apparently came suddenly, with the company announcing Wednesday that he had resigned “effective immediately” and that John Kline, CNO’s chief accounting officer, and Erik Helding, its treasury and investor relations chief, were jointly overseeing the firm’s financial operations temporarily until a replacement is found.
The new Aflac CFO called his jump to the Columbus firm — which does business in the U.S. and Japan — a “tremendous opportunity” at an “exciting time” in the insurer’s history. Aflac is marking its 60th anniversary this year.
“As I embark on my new role, I look forward to applying the experience I’ve gathered and opportunities I’ve been given to build on the reputation Aflac has established for transparency and financial strength,” Crawford said.
Word of the new hire comes a little more than a month after Amos, during a meeting with Wall Street analysts in New York, said top Aflac executive Ken Janke had decided to not seek the chief financial officer position. No reason was given for Janke, 57, bowing out of the company’s succession planning.
With the firm since 1985, Janke had been considered a natural candidate for the CFO job. He had worked his way up through Investor Relations to deputy chief financial officer and then rose to president of Aflac U.S. in 2013. Last September, he returned to deputy CFO after Teresa White was promoted to president of Aflac U.S. He became executive vice president of Aflac Inc. in May.
At the analyst meeting, Amos said the company must remain “fluid and flexible” in its search for a successor to Cloninger, but stressed management was determined to find its new top executive by the end of June.
“It is very important that we bring in someone who not only has a new perspective, but who, as a leader, also enriches our corporate culture,” Amos said.
Aflac did not release any salary figures for Crawford. As chief financial officer at CNO Financial Group in 2014, he earned a base salary of $577,333 and incentive play of about $889,000, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Factoring in stock and option awards, and executive perks, his total compensation package came to just over $2.3 million.
That compares to Cloninger’s nearly $6.6 million pay package in 2014, which included a base salary of $975,000 and incentive pay of nearly $2.2 million, with the balance in stock and option awards, and executive benefits.
Before joining CNO Financial Group in 2012, Crawford spent just over a decade with Radnor, Penn.-based Lincoln Financial Group, including stints as chief of corporate development and investments, corporate treasurer and chief financial officer. He also worked with Bank One Corp., serving as president of Bank One Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Crawford holds a bachelor of arts degree in marketing from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa.
Aflac, famously known for its duck advertising and branding campaign, employs more than 9,000 in the U.S. and Japan. Its stock (Ticker: AFL) is now trading at more than $63 per share on the New York Stock Exchange, with total market capitalization in the area of $27.5 billion.
The stock of CNO Financial Group (Ticker: CNO), which has more than 4,000 staffers in the U.S., is trading at roughly $19 per share, with a market cap of just under $4 billion.