BU Financial Life (GBU) has seen many changes since its founding in 1892, and now helps members across the country to plan a secure financial future for their families.

In 1992, GBU employee Julie Gaita worked closely with author Wilson J. Warren to put together pieces of history for a biography of GBU Financial Life’s first 100 years. This April, the company marked its 128th year providing life insurance, annuities and member benefits to families throughout the United States. “So much has changed, even in the last 28 years,” said Gaita.
GBU Financial Life was founded as the German Beneficial Union, one of many great fraternal benefit societies that formed between the close of the 19th century and the Civil War. This period marked a great time of growth for the Pittsburgh region as household names such as ALCOA, PPG, Heinz and D.L. Clark were just getting their starts, and immigrants were flooding into the city to begin their American dreams. Since many arrived poor and unsure what lay ahead of them, they looked to fellow countrymen who had come to the US before them for support. This support was the foundation of the fraternal benefit society system, which formed to help provide benefits and social interaction to fellow immigrants.

In 1935, the enactment of Social Security brought country-wide health and retirement benefits, but many still leaned on fraternal benefit societies for social activities, life insurance and retirement savings programs. Although GBU Financial Life was founded by a group of German-Americans, it quickly became a melting pot for all nationalities. German, Lutheran, Slovak and Hungarian influences can still be seen throughout GBU’s social gatherings, along with a welcoming spirit of community for anyone who is looking for a secure way to grow their savings.

Throughout its 128 years, GBU has weathered the storm of stock market panics, depressions, pandemics, wars and political change to quietly become one of the largest fraternal benefit societies in the country. “We have always been a nimble organization,” said current GBU CEO Bill Hunt, “that’s what has allowed us to be successful in times of change.” The company’s conservative approach to investing has also led to a financially strong foundation, allowing it to grow over the years at an even, steady rate.”We pride ourselves in being real long-term stewards of our members’ money,” said Hunt.

What can we expect from GBU Financial Life during its second century as a now national company? “We are focusing on modernizing the model of the fraternal benefit society,” said GBU National Vice President Matt Blistan. “We are looking at new ways to bring our members together to serve their communities, through online forums and action teams.” The company is looking to bring its more than 65,000 members across the US closer together for community projects and to grow key programs such as the GBU Foundation Scholarship program and Operation Reach Out (ORO). ORO is set to help more than 10,000 deployed troops and veterans this year. GBU will also be expanding its offering of life insurance products while continuing to offer popular annuity products. “Everyone should consider life insurance and annuities to grow and protect their savings and retirement,” said Blistan. “GBU just offers a little extra in the way of member benefits, community service and programs for its customers.”