Assistant Vice President/Marketing & Communications
New York Life Insurance Company

How does your organization use ethnic insights to drive growth?

New York Life’s Hispanic market initiative is an example of how New York Life uses ethnic insights to drive growth. At 45.9 million strong, Hispanics have become the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S., and their rapidly increasing buying power will reach $1.4 trillion by 2013. However, they’re also one of the most underserved markets when it comes to understanding their own needs for financial protection and accessing professionals who can provide this information. This knowledge led us to expand and advance our efforts to recruit highly trained, culturally proficient agents who can provide financial recommendations to Hispanic families and businesses.

We knew that ensuring a robust human infrastructure would not suffice if it wasn’t accompanied by a serious commitment to facilitate relevant market data, in-language resources, and culturally sensitive sales training to our agents, who would in turn pass it on to clients and prospects in the community. We decided last year to make significant investments to expand our core team of technical experts in marketing, training, and development, dedicated to supporting the work of existing and new agents at any stage of their career.

Our efforts are paying off. By the end of 2009, our strongest recruiting year in the Hispanic Market, we added close to 500 agents dedicated to serving the Hispanic community. A growing team of seasoned professionals was also in place to provide branding, advertising, and media relations opportunities, as well as marketspecific promotional activities, culturally sensitive sales know-how and a growing list of in-language materials. Even further, in a year of great economic challenges, our overall sales results were significantly stronger than 2008 figures. Hispanic market agents sold 22 percent more life insurance policies than the year before.

List the various ways your organization begins to understand the culture of the groups it wants to reach.

A diverse corporate culture is necessary to anticipate and serve the needs of the cultural markets we serve. In this way, our recruiting, employee training, and professional education efforts are focused on ensuring that the entire organization reflects the cultural sensitivity that’s needed to serve all of our clients. This commitment to diversity and integration helps us ensure that a robust infrastructure of multicultural and product-specific marketers is in place to provide our agents with culturally sensitive sales ideas, technical assistance and product support.

How does your organization show how your products or services will benefit and/or meet the needs of different groups targeted?

As members of the community, our agents understand the issues that are most important to their neighbors, and this grassroots-based knowledge helps them deliver tailored financial solutions to meet their needs. From a service delivery standpoint, our financial professionals are not only the primary distribution point for products and services: they’re also the first, and often the only, company representative with whom clients will interact over the years. Their success is built on the quality of the relationships they establish with the people they serve. By putting our agents in the driver’s seat of our multicultural marketing approach, we ensure that cultural competence becomes intrinsic to every aspect of our operation.

Is it important for the marketing team and front-line sales force to reflect the target markets? If so, why?

Focused recruiting is essential to ensure the success of our multicultural marketing efforts. Our agents, and the people who support their work through dedicated marketing and training, must mirror the demographics of the communities in which they live and work. More than half of last year’s recruits were women or members of an ethnic group. Also, our growing network of agents who are recruited from within their communities are the conduit through which we can gauge the market’s needs for our products, service delivery preferences, and required support through community involvement. Our growing team of marketing professionals, who work to support the efforts of all of our cultural market agents, share the ethnic, language, and/or cultural heritage that are so essential in forming enduring, trust-based agent-client connections.