The Minneapolis-based Lutheran Brotherhood and the Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL) in Appleton, Wis., announced a merger that will take place before the end of the year. The joint organization will serve three million members and attempt to expand on the previous charitable outreach established by both groups.
The merger would form a $57 billion financial services firm -- a number that would place the organization in the middle of the pack of Fortune 500 companies.
Both organizations have more than just the merger on their minds. Lutheran Brotherhood and AAL are under fire for allegedly over-charging a population of their policyholders. A group of insured has sued the organizations claiming that the organizations continued to charge them premiums, even after their limited term policies had expired.
A judge in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota recently ruled that hundreds of thousands of other policyholders have the right to join in on the lawsuit. The case has been put on hold so the organizations have time to challenge the ruling.
Whether the lawsuit affects the merger has yet to be determined. But, plans have Bruce Nicholson, president and chief executive officer of the Lutheran Brotherhood, assuming the position of CEO for the yet to be named company while AAL President, CEO and Chairman John Gilbert becomes chairman of the new board of directors.
"As a merged organization we can eliminate the duplication of effort, which thereby frees up even more money to go to our Lutheran communities," explained Nicholson. "It also gives us a platform from which we can grow and as we grow it will allow us to do even more in terms of our philanthropy. We see the merger as a huge win not just for our members but the entire community that we serve."
Nicholson said he expects that the merger will allow an increase in funding, programs and overall impact in the Lutheran community Recipients of Lutheran Brotherhood and AAL dollars traditionally have included churches, schools and other Lutheran organizations.
It's a transition that is made less stressful due to the fact that both organizations share the same constituents. It should be easy to put the two philanthropic pieces of our businesses together with hopes focused on making it easier for institutions to deal with one whole rather than two entities, Nicholson said.
As with any integration changes are necessary but not imminent, as the focus will continue to be placed on members.
"Obviously we are going to look for opportunities to reduce costs and look for synergies but it's not like we're looking for them to occur in the first six months of operation like a commercial company would," Nicholson said. "We're not going to be reducing staff levels or anything like that which would impact our members. Over time, I think you'll see synergies develop so that you could say five years from now, for example, we will have less expense in the combined organization than we would have if both had stayed apart."