Travelers' NYC address = HQ move?by Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's oldest company is changing its address. The Travelers Insurance Co. is still incorporated in St. Paul. But in a recent regulatory filing, the insurance giant said its principal executive offices are now in New York City. While Travelers is not explicitly calling the move a headquarters shift, that's how many business observers are seeing it.
St. Paul, Minn. — You might wonder whether they'll even tell the post office to forward their mail. That's how subtle Travelers is being about the address change. They didn't even issue a press release.
But in the fine print of a recent corporate filing, Travelers listed its principal executive offices in New York -- not St. Paul.
Travelers spokesman Shane Boyd said the new corporate ZIP code just reflects that Chairman and CEO Jay Fishman spends most of his time in New York.
Boyd says none of this is going to affect the 2,500 workers in St. Paul, who make up the company's second biggest office. The largest location in Hartford, Conn., has about 6,000 workers.
Analysts and insurance industry types have long assumed Travelers' CEO Jay Fishman ran the company from the East Coast. They point out he never moved his family to the Twin Cities after he become head of the St. Paul Companies in 2001.
Fishman merged it with his former employer a few years later. Many believed the new company created in 2004 -- St. Paul Travelers -- would not stay headquartered here. That idea gained steam when Travelers dropped the "St. Paul" moniker from its name a couple years ago.
But Travelers spokesman Shane Boyd was vague about whether St. Paul is still formally the headquarters.
True, he said, most people would probably now call the company New York-based. But if, say, a news organization identified the headquarters in St. Paul, Boyd said, "I'm not going to call you to tell you you have a mistake you ought to fix, because I could see how you would say either."
For the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the move is not nearly so ambiguous.
"We're not surprised to hear that Travelers is changing the address of its corporate headquarters to New York," said department spokeswoman Kirsten Morell.
As far as the state is concerned, Morell says, it's a change in corporate headquarters. But it's not a grave loss.
"It's not great news, but it's not the worst either," said Morell. "To our knowledge, the company is not going to be changing its number of employees here, the type of work that it does here, or its commitment to the community."
"Maybe it isn't a big deal," said Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. "But there's some symbolism here that speaks to, and relates to, a really important feature of our state's economy."
Blazar also sees the move as a headquarters change. He's glad Travelers will still keep important executives in St. Paul like the company's general counsel, HR head and chief administrative officer.
But corporate headquarters, Blazar says, are important symbols for a state and lend cache.
"Any time you lose even a little bit of that, you want to take stock and reflect on how you're doing," says Blazar, "and see if there's anything we can't do to ... keep the corporate headquarters that we have, and hopefully keep more of them."
But could the state have done anything to prevent Travelers' seemingly inevitable march east?
"In this specific case, I don't think so," Blazar says.
Kris Johnson at the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce is not ready to bid the headquarters goodbye. He says call it St. Paul pride. But Johnson says it means something that Travelers isa big philanthropic donor and that the company is keeping jobs here.
"They have been as equally engaged -- if not more engaged -- in the community as they have been in decades, so I still proudly call them a St. Paul-based company," said Johnson.
Johnson says he has communicated with Travelers to see if there is anything his organization can do to keep the company's existing jobs in Minnesota and even expand the workforce.
No matter what you call it, though, there's a little less of the state's oldest company in the city that used to be its namesake.
- All Things Considered, 03/11/2009, 5:53 p.m.