A History Built on Putting Customers First
Oregon Life Insurance Company, the company that would become The Standard, was founded in 1906 by Leo Samuel. A German immigrant, Leo Samuel arrived in New York City in his early teens. Through hard work and determination, Leo enjoyed success as a newspaper man but soon set his sights on a move westward. He settled in Portland, Oregon, at the turn of the century as the city was enjoying an economic boom thanks to the Northwest's abundant natural resources.
He spent 15 years at the helm of West Shore, a magazine devoted to Portland and the Pacific Northwest. West Shore captured some of the early milestones of Portland. The last issue of West Shore hit the newsstands in March 1891, Leo wasn't done making an impact on the Pacific Northwest.
In 1906, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest were still largely an untamed wilderness. The timber industry was king and the life of a logger was rough and dangerous. Equipment was primitive. On-the-job injuries could strike anytime. Social Security and workers' compensation didn't exist, so an injury or death could destroy a family's finances and their future.
Even if a logger managed to buy a life insurance policy, most of the companies were located on the East Coast. The long distances meant slow claims payments and impersonal service.
Leo saw the need to start an insurance company in Portland that was able to provide local service and contribute to the local economy. Long before someone coined the phrase “act local,” Leo designed this company with that ethos in mind.
As his company grew, so did his commitment to building community. According to his eulogy in The Oregonian, some credit Leo with Portland's nickname, The City of Roses, because he grew roses throughout his downtown Portland property and kept pairs of scissors tied to his fence so passersby could clip a few of his beautiful blooms.
The Standard, from the beginning, has blazed trails. If a logger couldn't work because of injury, chances were he'd lose his insurance from non-payment of premiums. The Standard became one of the first insurance companies to implement a waiver of premium — allowing disabled policyholders to keep their life insurance without paying premiums. That same pioneering spirit guides our products and services today.
As the company grew, so did the diversity of our products. The Standard began offering disability and life insurance to group customers — so that businesses and governments could provide coverage to their employees — in addition to annuities and retirement plans. The company began to work with organizations large and small to provide the same level of customer service and financial peace of mind to their employees as we did to our individual insurance customers. Our goal is to give everyone the kind of expert, empathetic service we wish for ourselves and our families.
In 2016, The Standard entered into a merger agreement with Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company of Japan. Leaders at Meiji Yasuda had long been interested in establishing a footprint in the U.S. to grow their business. They spent a great deal of time carefully studying the competitive landscape looking for a strong, stable, high-performing company — and critically, one that shared their values — to help anchor their new focus on growth in the U.S. The Standard emerged as the right partner to forge a path forward built on shared roots. While the ownership structure has changed, we are still The Standard. We're still headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and we continue to find ways to support the places we live and work, helping our neighbors through philanthropy and volunteerism.
When we received our first claim in the mail in 1906, we paid it in full that very day. More than a century later, our online services would amaze Leo. But we are still committed to expedient, personal support. Doing the right thing for customers, and our communities, is in our DNA.
The Standard's Key Events
1906 — Oregon Life Insurance Company is founded by Leo Samuel.
1929 — Oregon Life becomes a mutual company, owned by its policyholders. The company changes its name to Oregon Mutual Life.
1939 — Oregon Mutual agents begin selling annuities.
1946 — Oregon Mutual changes its name to Standard Insurance Company to facilitate growth in the Western States.
1951 — Standard Insurance Company sells its first group policy to the Oregon State Police and Penitentiary Guards. That policy is still in force today.
1952 — Standard Insurance Company sells its first individual disability policy.
1952 — Standard President Garnett L. “Ding” Cannon leads the effort to create Portland’s Forest Park, one of the largest continuous city parks in the world.
1957 — The first group long term disability policy is sold.
1963 — Standard Plaza building is completed in 1963, ushering in an era of urban renewal in downtown Portland. The Standard Plaza was the tallest building in Oregon at the time.
1963 — The first group annuity is sold.
1982 — Standard Insurance Company introduces its 401(k) product.
1983 — The company begins marketing group dental insurance.
1989 — Standard Insurance Company becomes licensed in 49 states (accredited for reinsurance only in New York).
1999 — On April 16, StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., the holding company of Standard Insurance Company, begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange as SFG.
2000 — StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., opens a New York subsidiary: The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York.
2006 — The Standard celebrates its 100-year anniversary by sponsoring 10,000 employee volunteer hours, 12 months of nationwide community involvement activities and the creation of The Standard Charitable Foundation.
2015 — Employee Giving Campaign raises $2.2 million for schools and nonprofits.
2016 — Merger between The Standard and Meiji Yasuda becomes final.
2018 — Employee Giving Campaign raises $4.7 million for schools and nonprofits.