MetLife in Charlotte: 77,000 applications for 1,300 jobs

MetLife has received 77,000 job applications for the approximately 1,300 positions it plans to create in Charlotte, Eric Steigerwalt, head of the New York-based insurance company’s U.S. retail operation, said Tuesday.

Steigerwalt’s division is now based in Charlotte, where the company has consolidated its U.S. retail operations. New York-based MetLife, which is occupying two buildings in Ballantyne Corporate Park, began moving in and hiring for the retail hub last year.

Steigerwalt, who spoke at a Rotary Club of Charlotte meeting uptown, said the volume of applications for the Charlotte positions has exceeded MetLife’s expectations.

“77,000 applications,” he said. “Nobody anticipated that kind of response.”

Last week, the company said it has filled more than 900 jobs in Ballantyne, of which approximately 700 have gone to local residents. The company has said the Charlotte jobs will pay an average of roughly $58,000.

The company also plans to create about 1,300 jobs at its new global technology and operations hub in Cary, where employees will work for an average salary of $112,000.

State incentives require the company to create at least 2,098 jobs in North Carolina by Dec. 31, 2015.

MetLife’s move to North Carolina comes as the company seeks to reduce its overhead by $600 million. MetLife is also bracing for the possibility that U.S. financial regulators will designate it a systemically important financial institution, which would require the company to retain a large capital cushion to absorb losses.

The company has said putting its retail business in one location would create more collaboration within the division, which was less likely with employees spread across the country. Steigerwalt said Tuesday the move to Charlotte was part of an effort to “redefine” the culture of the division.

“This was not an expense play,” he said. “Yes, it’s nice to have lower real estate costs and maybe slightly cheaper labor costs than some of the other areas that we were in. The real reason that we’re here is this division needed a makeover.”

To lure MetLife, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have approved roughly $3 million in incentives. Under its state incentives, the company could receive benefits of up to $87.2 million over 12 years.

When a reporter asked Steigerwalt Tuesday whether MetLife will add more employees in Charlotte, he didn’t rule it out.

“I am an advocate for Charlotte,” he said. “The infrastructure’s fantastic, the labor pool’s fantastic, the culture is fantastic.

“We will see what unfolds here in the coming – let’s just call it the next year – if there’s the possibility to up the amount of jobs we have here in Charlotte.”