"Deathly Business. (Funeral Insurance: Frederick Rockwood)"

By Martin Kihn
4 March 1991

Deathly Business

WITH AMERICA'S death rate expected to remain around 2.1 million per year through 2010, there would seem to be no legal way to make death a growth industry. But Frederick Rockwood is doing nicely from an old business: selling funeral insurance policies to the undead.

Rockwood, 43, is president of the Indiana-based Forethought Group, a unit of Hillenbrand Industries, the casket and hospital bed maker (1990 sales, $1.1 billion). Forethought reports net revenues doubled last year, to $39 million. Although cost associated with its 1986 startup make profits unlikely until 1992, Forethought increased the number of policies it wrote last year to 77,500, or an estimated 8% of the market. Benefit reserves stand at $316 million.

A clever marketer, Rockwood is selling all of his policies through funeral parlors. Forethought hooks funeral directors with agents' commissions. And Hillenbrand offers all casket sellers a volume discount.

"We're very excited about the future," says the lively Rockwood--and not just because people will keep on dying for the foreseeable future. With the exit of archrival Family Service Life Insurance--a subsidiary of Service Corp. International--from the insurance business last year, Forethought appears poised to make a killing.

ILLUSTRATION: portrait CAPTION: Frederick Rockwood (portrait)