Skip to content

2017 Innovation Winners

LIMRA is pleased to announce the winners of our contest to recognize this year’s Rising Stars of Innovation under 40 in the financial services industry. The contest searched for industry professionals who demonstrate innovation within their companies.

Sandeep Ajith

Director, Advanced Analytics

“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

Lincoln Financial Group

Justin Baker

Vice-President of Life-Health Administration

“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

COUNTRY Financial

Bernardo Ferreira Castello

Superintendente Ejectutivo

“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

Bradesco Vida e Previdência S.A

Daniel Clauson

LTC Sales Desk Manager

“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

Pacific Life Insurance Company

Gordon Collins

Director, Sales Development & Productivity

“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

Allianz Life Financial Services

Christina Eng

Senior Client Representative, Employee Benefits

“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

Voya Financial

Mark Hardy

Senior Manager, Direct Life & Health

“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

TD Insurance

Ja’Nene Kane

Vice President, Enrollment | Workplace Solution

“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

MassMutual Financial Group

Jean-Michel Lavoie

Assistant Vice President, Product Development, Group Benefits

“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

Sun Life Financial

Nichole Lecher

Director – New Business Transformation

“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

Northwestern Mutual

Kevin Mechtley

Corporate Attorney – Conflicts Counsel

“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

Sammons Financial Group

Ewelina Mroczek

Senior Consultant, Product Management, Annuity Solutions

“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

Lincoln Financial Group

Alan O’Donnell

Director Advice Experience

“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

Thrivent Financial

Ben Ogorek

Director, Predictive Modeling

“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

CUNA Mutual Group

Silvana Orezzoli

Directora de Marketing y Clientes

“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

Mapfre Peru

Eric Pahl

Associate Actuary, Life & Annuities

“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

Sentry Life Insurance Company

Tim Poppert

Director – Digital Innovation and Research

“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

Northwestern Mutual

Jaime Proman

Director, Digital Innovation

“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

Securian Financial Group

Kristi Rackliff

Manager, The Competitive Services Group

“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

Lincoln Financial Distributors, Inc.

John C. Roberts

Vice President, Distribution Performance

“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

Northwestern Mutual

Shatrunjai Singh

Senior Data Scientist

“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

John Hancock Insurance

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

Ameritas

Edrick J. Touma Taveras

Vice-President of Operations

“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

Trans-Oceanic Life Insurance Company (TOLIC)

Tung Hsiao Ley

Head of AIA Vitality

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

AIA Malaysia

MacKenzie Welch

Competitive Market Research Analyst

“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

Lincoln Financial Group