A Life Insurer Projects Calm During the Storm

With the credit and housing markets in turmoil, insurance was, until recently, an overlooked piece of the financial picture. That changed when the government shored up the American International Group, the nation's largest insurance company, with an $85 billion emergency loan two weeks ago.

Edward J. Zore runs Northwestern Mutual, the largest direct provider of individual life insurance in the country with 3.3 million policy owners and more than $1 trillion of insurance in force. Mr. Zore recently discussed the changes that might be afoot in the industry, his company's traditional approach to business and why he resists becoming a publicly owned company.

The insurance industry held up very, very well. Our company had less than one-half of 1 percent of assets exposed to subprime markets at year-end. As the hedge funds were liquidating their subprime mortgages and the banks were trying to raise capital, the industry was in a positive cash flow position and was there to provide support to the market back in March.

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