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Bringing Innovation to Insurance

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2008-07-30 Print this article Print

For New York Life, “good enough” is never good enough. The company strives to serve its customers and expand its business by encouraging and funding creative business and technology initiatives.

Insurance and innovation. They don’t seem to go together, do they? Yet, one insurance company is making major investments in innovative programs and initiatives designed to provide better service to customers, while continuing to expand its business around the world.

Founded in 1845, the New York Life Insurance Co. is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, with 15,000 employees and 50,000 agents worldwide. Despite its longevity, the New York-based firm is not mired in the past. The company’s executives encourage, support and fund creative endeavors in all aspects of the business, and advanced technology plays a key role in those efforts.

Eileen Slevin is at the center of technology innovation at New York Life. As chief information officer and head of the Corporate Information Department (CID), Slevin directs a staff of 1,300 IT professionals in six U.S. locations, providing technology services for the company’s customers, employees and agents.

In addition, Slevin has responsibility for two other strategic areas: Corporate Internet and Business Resilience. Corporate Internet develops and leads the implementation of the company’s Internet and intranet vision and strategy. Business Resilience is responsible for protecting employees, as well as company and customer assets, in the event of a disaster; minimizing the impact of a business disruption; and managing records in accordance with business, legal and regulatory requirements.

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“Because life insurance is such a mature industry, we spend quite a bit of time thinking about how we can bring innovation to our company,” Slevin says. “About six years ago, we created a program called New Horizons, which is specifically focused on innovation. We encourage our employees to formulate ideas for building new businesses—not just new products, but actual businesses. Quite a few creative ideas come out of that program every year.”

As an example, Slevin says the company has developed different kinds of insurance, such as Family Protection Insurance, which is a comprehensive family life insurance plan that covers both parents and dependent children in one simple term policy.

“Every year, we have a new version of the New Horizons program,” she says. “All the executive officers contribute what we consider to be the equivalent of venture capital, and we vote on the 10 to 15 employee and agent proposals that we think have the best chance of becoming profitable businesses. These proposals are presented to our Executive Management Committee, which consists of our senior executive leadership, and they make the final cut of two or three proposals, which are then funded.”

Eileen Feretic is the Editor of Baseline Magazine.
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