Aflac names new top sales director amid push to boost U.S. business

A longtime Aflac sales executive from the Midwest has been chosen to lead the firm’s sales operation as the insurer looks to restructure and generate strong growth in that area of its business.

Michael J. Tomlinson, who started as a sales associate with Aflac 34 years ago, becomes senior vice president and director of sales, the Columbus-based supplemental health and life insurer said Tuesday.

Tomlinson, 56, succeeds Thomas R. Giddens, who is retiring at the end of this year. Giddens has been with Aflac since 1983, rising through the ranks and becoming the youngest person ever selected to the Aflac Sales Hall of Fame, the firm said. He racked up the all-time sales record in 2006 and currently serves on the boards of director at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Aflac Credit Union.

Aflac Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Amos called Giddens “the best of the best,” noting he will become an adviser to Tomlinson in the coming weeks as the new sales chief gets up and running in his new role.

Teresa White, the company’s U.S. president, said in a statement of the retiring executive: “Through his long tenure at Aflac, Tom mentored and guided hundreds of successful sales agents. He is a true leader, respected by his team, his protégées and his industry.”

Climbing the company ladder also has been Tomlinson’s route to his new job. In 1980, he was hired as a sales associate in Minnesota, working his way up through district and regional coordinator jobs before becoming a state coordinator for North and South Dakota in 1989. He became Central Territory director six years ago.

Amos pointed out Tomlinson led the Dakotas operation to the “highest penetration level” in the U.S. The company said that area currently is tops in sales per capita and in-force premium per capita.

“He commands the respect of the hard-working field force and is admired throughout the company,” the CEO said. “Mike has the proven track record and capability to create a new era of dramatic sales growth here at Aflac.”

Amos has said bluntly that growth in U.S. sales is not an option. Last summer, while releasing second-quarter earnings data, he called domestic sales “disappointing” and announced a restructuring of the operation. That includes replacing commission-based state sales coordinators with company-paid “market directors” eligible for bonuses based on results. District sales coordinators and front-line sales associates will continue to be paid on commission as independent contractors, the company said.

Of note, John Shelby Amos II, a cousin of Dan Amos, retired Oct. 1 as a director on the firm’s board, but remains an emeritus director. He becomes market director for Alabama/West Florida, a salaried position. He had been a commission-paid state sales coordinator since 1978. Wanda Amos, the wife of Shelby Amos, owns the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey team.

Aflac sells insurance policies in the U.S. and Japan, with about 80 percent of its business coming from the Asian nation. Earlier this month, the firm reported a third-quarter profit of $706 million. That was on total revenue of $5.7 billion.

The firm has nearly 9,400 employees in the U.S. and Japan. Of the roughly 4,800 in the U.S., nearly 3,900 earn a paycheck in Columbus.