Aflac CEO Says Cruises for Salespeople Are a Thing of the Past

(Bloomberg) — Aflac Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dan Amos expects the coronavirus to reshape every aspect of our lives. For the insurer, that means halting the time-honored perk of sending sales agents all on one cruise.

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Empty balconies on the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Jewel cruise ship are seen as it sits anchored in this aerial photograph taken above Long Beach, California, U.S., on Friday, May 1, 2020. California Governor Gavin Newsom is directing departments to cut spending immediately amid projected deficits of $35 billion, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a budget that calls for civilian workers to take 26 furlough days during the fiscal year that begins in July.

“Putting everybody on a boat didn’t seem like an issue prior to Covid — now, all of a sudden, it is,” Amos said in an interview. “I’m not sure I’d ever be willing to put everybody in the sales force on a boat anymore.”

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Amos joined Bloomberg reporters and editors Tuesday for a virtual editorial board and discussed Covid-19’s impact, as well as topics including diversity and company leadership. Aflac, known for its commercials featuring a talking duck, has faced sales pressure in the U.S. and Japan because of the pandemic. Amos said that issue is improving this quarter and will probably continue to get better into next year. Still, the crisis will transform how the company does business.

More call-center employees will work from home in the long term, and when business travel resumes, it will mean smaller gatherings for salespeople, Amos said. At conventions, Aflac will place staff in different hotels to minimize risk.

Aflac shares fell less than 1% to $36.08 at 2:28 p.m. in New York and have declined 32% this year.

Diversity Push

Amos, 69, who has run the Columbus, Georgia-based insurer for three decades, said he’s most proud of the company’s diversity, in contrast to the lack of representation across the financial industry, particularly at its highest levels. Seven of Aflac’s 11 directors are people of color or women. Black people account for almost 17% of executives or senior managers and 34% of the total workforce.

“What I found is once you get it going, it’s easier to keep it going,” Amos said. “Whoever’s in charge has to dictate it. And I have this belief that it’s not the responsibility of the minority to have it work. It’s the responsibility of the White guy to make it work.”

Amos has no plans to leave Aflac anytime soon, but he’s also preparing its next generation of leaders, including President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Crawford, U.S. President Teresa White, Chief Financial Officer Max Brodén and Audrey Boone Tillman, the general counsel.

Still, the No. 1 figure at the company is the duck, Amos said.

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