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A Profile in Leadership: Aflac

From the brothers’ vision to the progressive leadership of the global powerhouse today, this consistent caring character lives at the very heart of why Aflac earned the distinction of a 2020 goBeyondProfit Champion.

Pull back the curtains of time and you can see the roots of a fledgling insurance business’s strength and stamina. In 1955 in the small Georgia town of Columbus, three business leaders and 16 employees in a six-room office strive to set themselves apart from others. How will it survive?

In the case of John Amos and his brothers Paul and Bill, they founded Aflac, then called American Family Life Assurance Company, with an abiding commitment to demonstrate positive citizenship.

From the brothers’ vision to the progressive leadership of the global powerhouse today, this consistent caring character lives at the very heart of why Aflac earned the distinction of a 2020 goBeyondProfit Champion.

Overall Philosophy

The Amos brothers understood that consumer trust was the lifeblood of a company selling insurance door to door. They sold a promise that would be tested in times of need – when the customer became sick or hurt. They knew they needed to demonstrate caring character in good times that accurately reflected their high level of service during those times of crisis.

In addition to focusing on the bottom line, they concentrated on creating a company worthy of respect and trust.

Now, 65 years later, Paul’s son Dan Amos is in his 30th year as CEO and widely recognized as one of the most effective in delivering long-term shareholder returns. Dan embodies this abiding character with a balanced commitment to business growth, external generosity and genuine care for Aflac’s customers, employees, sales team and neighbors.

Leadership Perspective

Dan Amos, Chairman and CEO, Aflac Incorporated

“Aflac has been guided since our founding by the principle that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the business. Today, we are an incredibly diverse company that continues to prioritize the health, safety and overall well-being of our workers, and we have no intention of ever changing this.”

“Today’s pace of change is faster than it has ever been, yet slower than it will ever be going forward. While we embrace innovation, one thing that has not and will not change is our founding principle: Treat people well.”

A lesson learned particularly helpful in turbulent times: “Bad news does not improve with age. Deal with bad news with authority and speed; people can handle it. And if you know that there is bad news on the horizon, tell people it’s coming. They’ll be more forgiving and more willing to listen to how you will solve the problem.”

“Giving back to the community in meaningful ways shows your employees, your customers and investors that you value them. Today, as we face an unprecedented pandemic, corporations need to step up. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s the right business decision because now, more than ever, people are watching … and they expect you to have some skin in the game.”

Cultivating Company Culture

The Aflac Way: The Amos Brothers’ Tenets Still Practiced Today

Each new Aflac employee receives The Aflac Way, a book of principles set out by the Amos brothers more than half a century ago. The principles include guidelines based on the Golden Rule, emphasizing unbiased respect, care and honesty.

Teresa White, president of Aflac U.S., drives the company’s passion for employee development as a cornerstone of care. She oversees wide-ranging efforts, including building a diverse and respectful culture, an open mentoring process, specialized e-learning courses and the Career Success Center, which assists employees in becoming “career empowered” with resources like resume consultation, leadership coaching and job shadowing. Through this care – and engaging communications – Teresa works to sustain Aflac’s culture and drive innovation for the future.

Volunteerism remains a cornerstone of Aflac’s philanthropic culture. Aflac offers employees a range of opportunities from building annual Habitat for Humanity homes and helping community children in need enjoy the holidays to donating blood on campus. Dan and Teresa annually recognize and celebrate the top 12 employees whose volunteerism especially excels.

COVID-19 serves as a timely lens and proof point of Aflac’s commitment to its people. During the pandemic, 98% of the workforce transitioned to a work-from-home environment in little over two weeks. Aflac has offered indefinite pandemic leave for workers unable to operate remotely so they continue being paid and has provided independent sales agents access to apply for zero- interest loans to bridge the crisis.

Deploying Company Resources

Constant Community Care, Responsible Operations

In the 1990’s Aflac launched philanthropic efforts to treat and cure childhood cancer and host families of cancer patients. Its commitment to curing childhood cancer includes more than $146 million donated over 25 years. Aflac’s annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report details how the corporation continues to put purpose into action.

Aflac policyholders have been granted grace periods on paying premiums along with assistance in using coverage if needed in response to COVID-19. Communities are benefitting from more than $10 million in donations supporting first responders and local communities during the pandemic.

The company’s community investments include ensuring responsible operations. Fred Crawford, president and COO of Aflac Incorporated, oversees sweeping environmental, social, governance efforts and transparent sharing through the award-winning ESG Hub, designed to communicate Aflac’s ESG performance, goals and strategies.

Focusing on Community Empowerment

User-Centered, Empathy-Driven

The Aflac team became aware that children facing cancer are often lonely and afraid. In partnership with Sproutel and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Aflac pursued an 18-month user-centered, empathy-driven process to help address this. The design team worked with more than 85 child cancer patients, parents, medical professionals and other experts. The result is My Special Aflac Duck®, a “smart” comforting companion that Aflac is donating to child cancer patients above the age of 3. With two patents, lifelike movement and emotions, and a mixed- reality app, the social robot uses interactive play to help distract children coping with cancer using functions that include medical play, feeding and bathing, music, emotional expression, soothing heartbeats and nuzzling.

Although the core focus is on the Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign, Aflac supports a range of empowering efforts. Teresa White’s passion to give back helped create Bold Moves, a mentoring program through Girls Inc. that has touched the lives of more than 90 girls in the community.

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