70+ years of history in the US

From GELICO to Banner Life and William Penn to Legal & General America, our history is rich.

History of Legal & General America

Our companies, Banner Life Insurance Company and William Penn Life insurance Company, have been in the business of protecting Americans with life insurance for more than 70 years. Today we are known as Legal & General America and are a proud part of the seventh-largest insurer in the world.

Our parent company, Legal & General Group Plc, is one of the world’s leading multinational financial services companies – and has been since 1836. Headquartered in London, the firm has over $1.7 trillion in total assets under management. The Legal & General footprint spans the US, Europe, and Asia.


Legal & General issued its first policy to Thomas Smith in 1836.

Our mission has been consistent through decades of issuing and protecting families and businesses with life insurance. Today we leverage enhanced digital technology to drive our processes and implement socially responsible business practices that allow us to give back to our community and minimize our impact on the environment.

darkblue-great-britain-iconHow it all began

In 1836, six respected lawyers met in a London coffee house where life insurance was the topic of discussion. They decided to form an association, eventually named Legal & General Life Assurance Society. Those founders had the same attitudes toward innovation as those which characterize Legal & General Group (L&G) today. Those six lawyers laid the foundation for our worldwide business.

Legal & General Group leveraged its expertise and dependable record to expand overseas in the 1980s. Our US business has a long history, all on its own. 


darkblue-america-iconOur US roots

Government Employees Life Insurance Company (GELICO), the company that became Banner Life Insurance Company, was chartered in 1949. GELICO was part of the Government Employees Group, which was founded by Leo Goodwin, a member of the Texas banking industry.

In 1966, the Government Employees Group was honored by the Newcomen Society, a nonprofit organization founded to study and recognize achievements in American business and the society it serves. GELICO ranked in the top 12 percent of US life companies at the time, issuing an average policy of $2,400 with an average annual premium of $50. 

By 1975, GELICO had assets of $124 million and $1.7 billion of insurance in force. In 1976, it was among a select group of companies to be rated A+ (superior) by A.M. Best, a rating we've maintained ever since.

Legal & General Group acquired GELICO as a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1981. The name officially changed to Banner Life Insurance Company in 1983, signifying its flagship position with Legal & General in the US.

Modern Life Insurance Company opened in 1963, offering individual life insurance to residents in the State of New York. The company changed its name in 1975 to William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York. In 1989, Banner Life Insurance Company purchased the William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

In 1995, the company changed its distribution network changed to include independent brokerage agencies. It joined the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA), a nonprofit trade association promoting financial security and consumer choice.

In 2011, after operating for many years under the Banner Life and William Penn names, the companies consolidated into one unified US brand: Legal & General America. Banner Life Insurance Company and William Penn Insurance Company of New York operate as the twin engines of the Legal & General America machine, continuing to administer and deliver the highest level of products and customer service. Both companies have grown together with a shared success — today we are a national carrier and licensed in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

The company moved its headquarters from Rockville, MD to Frederick, MD into a building certified as a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) interiors building. Legal & General America also earned the EPA’s Energy Star Certification from 2013-2019, supporting a corporate pillar to improve customer lives through environmental sustainability.

Until May 2015, William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York maintained a physical office location in Garden City, New York. Today the staff works remotely, and all business processes merged to support both Banner Life and William Penn business as one under Legal & General America.



Legal & General America (Present)

By 2023 Legal & General America had more than 1.4 million policyholders and was noted as a top-two provider of term life insurance in the US, issuing more than $105 billion in new coverage. Legal & General America has over $11 billion in assets and $836 billion of coverage in force as of 2023.

Legal & General America’s operating performance is backed by financial strength ratings from three of the world's influential rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings reaffirmed an AA- financial strength rating LGA, assessing its operations as “core” to Legal & General Group. A.M. Best has also reaffirmed an A+ rating.

Our highlights

1949: Government Employees Life Insurance Company (GELICO) is chartered.

1963: Modern Life Insurance Company is founded.

1975: Modern Life Insurance Company changes its name to William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York.

1981: GELICO is acquired by Legal & General Group Plc.

1983: GELICO changes name to Banner Life Insurance Company.

1989: Banner Life Insurance Company buys William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

2011: Banner Life and William Penn rebrand under one unified name, Legal & General America, to align with the global brand.

2015: Legal & General Retirement America (LGRA) forms to provide pension de-risking solutions.

2023: Legal & General America is the number one provider of term life insurance in the US.

A history of trust in the insurance industry

Trust translates to a provider who is financially stable, customer-centric and highly experienced. We're proud to have more than 20 years as a term-pricing leader, modeling consistency and predictability for our industry.

Learn more about our financial strength