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25 Rising Stars in Innovation

LIMRA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Rising Stars of Innovation under 40. These talented individuals represent many areas of financial services who are using an innovative approach to their business practice and day-to-day activities.

Winners, shown below with excerpts from their nomination along with their title and company, are under age 40 and were selected based on the nominations received from LIMRA member companies.

  • Sandeep Ajith

    Director, Advanced Analytics
    Lincoln Financial Group
    “Sandeep spearheaded the adoption of analytics into Lincoln’s daily operations. Under his leadership, the advanced analytics team within Marketing developed a predictive model to drive consistency and reduce the effort required by wholesalers to manage their territories. This model was Lincoln’s first predictive model, which leveraged the Advanced Analytics precursory efforts while incorporating industry and behavioral data, to form a predicted prioritization of the entire advisor population.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Justin Baker

    Vice-President of Life-Health Administration
    COUNTRY Financial
    “Justin’s has managed a multi-year program at COUNTRY Financial, which streamlined agency operations, technology and office locations, saving the company millions of dollars annually.  Strong communication and change management were integral elements of this work, driving successful outcomes.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Bernardo Ferreira Castello

    Superintendente Ejectutivo
    Bradesco Vida e Previdência S.A
    “Bernardo continues to be an innovator for Bradesco Vida e Previdência. He has created new endowment and life insurance products and developed a predictive model of cancellation in pension plans.”   — excerpt from nomination
  • Daniel Clauson

    LTC Sales Desk Manager
    Pacific Life Insurance Company
    “Daniel works in the hybrid LTC space and helps to bring intelligence to Pacific Life’s product committee to influence that product's future. He works on numerous system-oriented projects that help Pacific Life stay technologically current.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Gordon Collins

    Director, Sales Development & Productivity
    Allianz Life Financial Services
    “Gordon leads a team of dynamic individuals at Allianz Life who help to identify business opportunities and steer distribution. He understands the business from the territory level up to the president’s level, allowing him to understand where technology and mobility could solve current issues, enhance and bring forward bigger opportunities and address future roadblocks.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Christina Eng

    Senior Client Representative, Employee Benefits
    Voya Financial
    “Christina worked with her team at Voya to create a centralized tool that is now leveraged across all local service offices.  The tool guides virtual “huddle” calls, capturing discussion topics, documenting best practices, and housing team materials. She was also instrumental in enhancing implementation practices that are now foundational to the Voya employee benefits onboarding experience.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Mark Hardy

    Senior Manager, Direct Life & Health
    TD Insurance
    “Mark has put TD Insurance on a path that provides customers with proactive advice and guidance. His breakthrough innovative work has simplified the life insurance application process with fewer and easy-to-understand questions. Through the use of advanced data and analytics, questions were removed that did not provide commensurate protective value, improving the customer experience but not affecting the price of coverage. This customer-centric approach uses a layered decision engine, providing customers with the best possible offer that suits their needs.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Ja’Nene Kane

    Vice President, Enrollment | Workplace Solution
    MassMutual Financial Group
    “Ja'Nene has a background of running a technology company that provided benefits administration solutions to carriers and brokers. In her role at MassMutual, Ja'Nene is a driving force, moving the company forward as a new entrant into the worksite insurance market. This is truly an entrepreneur with a gift for providing an enterprise level of direction and corporate stewardship.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Jean-Michel Lavoie

    Assistant Vice President, Product Development, Group Benefits
    Sun Life Financial
    “Jean-Michel’s focus at Sun Life is on innovation, which includes finding new approaches to product development that has brought better and faster solutions to Sun Life’s clients. Jean-Michel has made significant contributions to the product strategy including innovations in high cost drug strategy, the launch of new solutions such as virtual/cognitive behavior therapy and the introduction of pharmacogenetics.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Nichole Lecher

    Director – New Business Transformation
    Northwestern Mutual
    “Nichole is leading Northwestern Mutual's transformation of the new business organization from a people, process, and technology perspective, covering over 600 employees and 450,000 policies issued per year. Her initiatives include leading a lean management value stream plan, a digital and analytics driven transformation of underwriting, and a shift to a relationship-based service model.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Kevin Mechtley

    Corporate Attorney – Conflicts Counsel
    Sammons Financial Group
    “Kevin has solidified himself as an industry leader and innovator on the most pressing issue facing the annuity marketplace -- the Department of Labor “Fiduciary Rule.” He is in charge of Sammons' compliance buildout of the rule compliance. Kevin has a way of taking very complicated information and presenting it in a way that is disarming and understandable. He understands all sides of the insurance business – not just legal and compliance, which gives him a unique perspective and an industry vision beyond his years.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Ewelina Mroczek

    Senior Consultant, Product Management, Annuity Solutions
    Lincoln Financial Group
    “Ewelina created Collision Corner at Lincoln Financial Group. The Collision Corner website is an online home for innovators to work. Collision Corner is where everyone can unleash his or her innovator within. Through her research, she has learned innovation does not happen in a vacuum, but rather, everyone needs to be in the conversation. She is working to optimize Lincoln’s innovation production by creating an environment that strips the hierarchy from the conversation yet relies on it for execution.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Alan O’Donnell

    Director Advice Experience
    Thrivent Financial
    “Alan focuses his attention and efforts on understanding and providing value to Thrivent’s members and their financial representatives. He gained the confidence and trust of management and his fellow workers through his consistency, dependability and good business ethics. Alan has made significant contributions to influence and to engage key talent and key stakeholders across the organization.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Ben Ogorek

    Director, Predictive Modeling
    CUNA Mutual Group
    “Ben has delivered advanced analytical capabilities to CUNA Mutual Group that seamlessly integrate into the complex environment of legacy systems and processes typically found in the insurance industry. Ben's efforts have lowered the barrier to entry for leveraging predictive modeling capabilities, opening up a rich dialog with our partners to explore new business opportunities and applications for analytics.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Silvana Orezzoli

    Directora de Marketing y Clientes
    Mapfre Peru
    “Silvana built the Digital Network of Agents of MAPFRE Perú, which was implemented in 2012. This network constitutes a clear example of an innovative digital business development, in response to the changing reality of the markets where MAPFRE operates.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Eric Pahl

    Associate Actuary, Life & Annuities
    Sentry Life Insurance Company
    “Eric’s knowledge and expertise of the life insurance sector along with his ability to educate and motivate others make him a rising star in this business. Eric developed a Rider for Sentry and assisted the sales training and education of the product to the field so that they are able to better understand it and how it can help customers with their life insurance needs.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Tim Poppert

    Director – Digital Innovation and Research
    Northwestern Mutual
    “Tim established himself as a rising star at Northwestern Mutual and in the industry by democratizing innovation. He and his team take innovation beyond the realm of technology professionals and engage employees across the enterprise. Tim has created programs and processes that break down traditional barriers to innovation, allowing people throughout the enterprise to generate ideas, share them, and bring them to life.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Jaime Proman

    Director, Digital Innovation
    Securian Financial Group
    “Jaime leads Securian’s efforts to apply innovation best practices to their business. She spearheaded the conception, build, and pilot launch of aimme, a new business model for Securian to better meet the needs of the middle market through credit unions.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Kristi Rackliff

    Manager, The Competitive Services Group
    Lincoln Financial Distributors, Inc.
    “Kristi has consistently created sales ideas and best practices that have moved the needle not only for Lincoln, but also for many of the partners that do business with Lincoln. She maintains an in-depth knowledge of the market and competitor activities and uses this information to create compelling presentations, and prepare comprehensive case analysis and strategic sales solutions.” — excerpt from nomination
  • John C. Roberts

    Vice President, Distribution Performance
    Northwestern Mutual
    “John helped to lead a transformation of how Northwestern Mutual thinks about distribution growth and support. He has contributed as a thought leader in many key initiatives, such as: serving as point person in creating a new support model for network offices that aren’t meeting company performance expectations and launching an innovative new network office.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Shatrunjai Singh

    Senior Data Scientist
    John Hancock Insurance
    “Shatrunjai embeds AI into everything that John Hancock Insurance does. His contributions were monumental in delivering tremendous amount of value in understanding the customer, improving customer experience and nurturing customer relationships.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Nicholle Taylor

    Vice President, Service and Operations - Retirement Plans
    “Nicholle has successfully brought new concepts and applications to her team, and is leading the Retirement Plans division at Ameritas into the future. She is the definition of a transformative leader, and embodies the Ameritas values.” — excerpt from nomination
  • Edrick J. Touma Taveras

    Vice-President of Operations
    Trans-Oceanic Life Insurance Company (TOLIC)
    “Edrick is recognized by his remarkable focus and creativity in reconfiguring TOLIC’s efficiency and setting up the standards for business expansion through maximization of technologic, finance and people resources, and for the raising the service level and service quality to TOLIC’s customers.”  — excerpt from nomination
  • Tung Hsiao Ley

    Head of AIA Vitality
    AIA Malaysia

    AIA Malaysia

    “Hsiao Ley led the development of a unified product strategy across two big organizations (when AIA acquired ING), creating the fundamental building blocks that would take the new AIA into the future. Armed with a deep understanding of the life insurance business, she spearheaded the introduction of AIA Vitality, a game-changer that promises to help customers live longer, healthier and better lives, and provides AIA Malaysia with a powerful differentiator across all areas of the business.” — excerpt from nomination

  • MacKenzie Welch

    Competitive Market Research Analyst
    Lincoln Financial Group
    “A graduate of Lincoln's Leadership Development Program, MacKenzie takes the initiate to explore new markets and trends. She finds innovative new ways to gather competitor information and industry research and present the research in a clean new format.” — excerpt from nomination

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