Metlife on Thursday said it’s rebranding its Charlotte-based U.S. retail business as Brighthouse Financial, the latest step in the insurer’s plan to split off the business.
New York-based MetLife said in January that it was shedding much of its retail business to decrease its size and limit federal capital requirements. Executive Vice President Eric Steigerwalt, who will continue to be based in Charlotte, will lead the separated unit.
The move announced Thursday has no impact on MetLife’s Charlotte employee count, MetLife spokeswoman Meagan Soffera said in an email. The company in March said it had about 1,500 workers in its Ballantyne headquarters.
The insurer said it’s still evaluating options regarding the timing and the form the separation will take. In January, MetLife said possibilities include a spinoff, sale or an initial public offering of shares in an independent, publicly traded company.
MetLife President and CEO Steven Kandarian said in a statement Thursday that, as a separate entity, Brighthouse “will benefit from greater focus and more flexibility in products and operations.”
The separation will also benefit MetLife, allowing it to focus on other U.S. and international businesses, he said.
In 2013, the insurer announced plans to consolidate its U.S. retail operation in Charlotte’s Ballantyne Corporate Park, in exchange for millions of dollars in incentives from the city, state and Mecklenburg County.
In announcing the separation plans in January, MetLife cited its 2014 designation by a U.S. panel as a systemically important financial institution. MetLife said the label, which it challenged in court, put it at risk of higher capital requirements the insurer argued could place it at a significant competitive disadvantage.
In March, a federal judge struck down the designation, a decision the government is appealing.
MetLife’s new name for the retail unit is similar to that of Bright House Networks, the New York-based cable company that Connecticut-based Charter Communications bought in May. Charter, which also bought Time Warner Cable that month, has said it will bring its Spectrum brand to its newly acquired customers.
Asked about the similarity, Soffera, the MetLife spokeswoman, noted the Bright House Networks name is being replaced.