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Brighthouse to Expand Headcount by 200-Plus Amid Growth Push

By Greg Shulas August 9, 2017

Brighthouse Financial has offered details on its future business strategy as an independent company now that it is officially spun out from MetLife.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based firm plans to hire more than 200 employees in the future, the Charlotte Business Journal reports. Meanwhile, Brighthouse is offering insight into how it will use its $79 billion investment portfolio to hedge future risks and strengthen protections for investors, according to Bloomberg.

On the hiring front, Brighthouse is seeking to add marketing, digital technology, actuarial, finance and operations jobs, among others, with the majority located in its Charlotte area homebase. Some jobs will also be added to the firm’s satellite offices in Morris County, N.J., Tampa, Fla., and Boston, Mass. While 61 open jobs are posted on the firm’s website, CEO Eric Steigerwalt told the CBJ that he expects 200 to 300 positions to be added overall to help support the firm’s growth plans.

Brighthouse Financial CEO Eric Steigerwalt rings the Nasdaq's closing bell

Some distribution-related jobs of note include an external wholesaler position (Dallas), a brand marketing director role (Charlotte) and chief product and strategy officer position (Charlotte). Brighthouse has 1,200 employees overall, including roughly 800 staff in its headquarters in Charlotte’s upscale Ballantyne neighborhood, the CBJ reported.

The hiring binge stands in contrast to the firm’s previous existence under the roof of MetLife, where the large New York-based insurer was focused on reducing costs via headcount reduction, business expense reductions and other means, Bloomberg notes.

Brighthouse, a retail life insurance and annuity provider, has already revealed key personnel appointments, including tapping MetLife investment executive John Rosenthal to be the lead manager of Brighthouse’s investment portfolio, which is allocated mainly to bonds, Bloomberg reports. His appointment is part of a long-term strategy that's expected to result in the use of external asset managers to invest certain allocations of the investment fund.

“It’s a sleep-at-night investment portfolio, so that when we make these guarantees, we know that we’re going to be there when customers need us to pay off on our promises,” Steigerwalt told Bloomberg last week in a phone interview before Monday's first trading day. Steigerwalt added that since Brighthouse manages products with "market sensitivity," it had to hedge such risks to "make sure that the company is protected always."

Steigerwalt's focus on portfolio security first, as opposed to maximizing investment returns, is positioned to help safeguard it from peers that saw investment portfolios damaged by the 2008-09 financial crisis, including The Hartford Financial Services Group Bloomberg notes.

Brighthouse (Nasdaq: BHF) closed its second day of trading at $56.90, down $4.82 or 7.81% from Monday and below the consensus mean price target of $71.00 per share from Thomson Reuters. The company has a market capitalization just shy of $7 billion.

The spinoff will help MetLife focus on less interest-rate sensitive and capital intensive business such as group life insurance, employee benefit products, retirement services and asset management. MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian expects a solid portion of post-spinoff growth to come from international markets where interest rates are more attractive than in the U.S. He also believed MetLife’s retail life insurance and annuity business (i.e., today’s Brighthouse) would be able to grow faster and more nimbly as an independent company. MetLife owns a 20% stake in Brighthouse and will take up to five years to dispose of its shares.

Brighthouse began its first week as a company with an ad and video campaign highlighting MetLife's influence on the independent firm, its veteran management team, strong financial ratings, $219 billion in assets under management, and 2.7 million customers, Life Annuity Specialist reported. The retail insurer placed ads in influential business publications such as the New York Times, Barron’s, and the Financial Times. Brighthouse’s tagline in the advertisement campaign is “established by MetLife.”

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