Aetna CEO: HQ move to have ‘minimal impact’ on most Hartford employees

Aetna

Aetna headquarters in Hartford

Aetna’s chairman and chief executive, Mark Bertolini, told his employees Friday that designating another city as the company’s headquarters would have a “minimal impact” on the “vast majority” of employees in Hartford.

“A new headquarters location will consist of a few hundred associates who would be a mix of new hires and existing leadership staff who would relocate over time,” Bertolini said in an internal message.

Aetna has more than 5,000 employees in Connecticut. Its total employment is 49,500.

“I find it reassuring,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. “And that’s why we’re very hopeful the vast majority of those jobs will remain in the state, one of the reasons. I mean, it’s a very helpful sign.”

Bertolini said the company’s strategy, as he has previously shared with them, is to “continue to grow in the digital space and bring new innovations to market, requiring us to expand our access to talent for the knowledge economy.”

The company acknowledged Wednesday it was in negotiations with other states for a new headquarters location, saying a final decision would be made early this summer. The company already has a significant presence in New York City, where Bertolini has a residence.

“I want you to know that we remain committed to the Hartford community,” Bertolini said. “Several of our business units would continue to be based in Connecticut. We remain committed to supporting a vibrant and healthy Hartford as it has been our home for 164 years.”

Aetna’s relationship with Hartford and Connecticut is unique.

Morgan G. Bulkeley, the president of Aetna Life Insurance Co., as the insurer was known before it expanded to a broad array of coverage and then narrowed to health insurance, was mayor of Hartford, governor of Connecticut and a U.S. senator at various times during his 43-year tenure as CEO. He was succeeded as Aetna’s president by his nephew, Morgan G. Brainerd, who led the company for the next 35 years, until the late 1950s.

Bulkeley famously had Aetna pick up the state’s bills for nearly two years when the legislature refused to fund state government during a legal battle over the outcome of the 1890 election to pick his successor.

Under Bertolini, Aetna has focused on health insurance.

In his message to employees, he alluded to the fiscal problems facing the city and state without directly saying they played a role in his decision to base himself and senior staff elsewhere.

“The State of Connecticut  and the City of Hartford face significant economic challenges and we hope that our political leaders will come together and make a long-term commitment to make our state vibrant once again,” he said.

“Our headquarters location project represents an exciting opportunity for us to create a renewed energy around our transformation into a health company and will be emblematic of the type of environments we want to create at all our major locations in the future.”

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