How National Life manages organic growth from the inside out

One of the fastest-growing American life insurance companies focuses on transformation in a traditionally staid industry

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National Life Group’s headquarters is nestled in the foothills of Montpelier, Vermont, just across the Winooski River from the Vermont State House. The company has been a fixture for the better part of two centuries, as much a part of the landscape as Barre granite or covered bridges. Yet its focus is entirely future-facing: providing life insurance and annuities to an estimated 60 million underinsured American households.

“We have been, by many measures, the fastest growing major life insurance company in the United States over the past five years or so, and we’ve experienced double-digit growth for the past several years,” says senior vice president and CIO Tom Anfuso. “Growth and scalability in my tenure here has been one of our greatest challenges.”

Anfuso, who joined the firm in 2014, focuses on the operational basics – in his words, “security, availability and quality.” National Life’s growth has been purely organic, rather than the product of a merger or acquisition. Since the company has increased its own output and increased sales accordingly, Anfuso reports that it is imperative that IT staff provide consistently better tools to operations and agents to ensure larger volumes of business.

“I’ve been focused on really reinventing the IT shop in the sense of becoming more process-oriented and operationally focused,” he says. “And we’re trying to adapt our skills and our workforce to what is really an entirely different set of technologies than what we were focused on when I started.”

Rejuvenating a staid digital landscape

“Annuity and life insurance policy owners have been really underserved by the carriers in terms of digital,” Anfuso says. “They tend to not have very robust digital capabilities, whether that’s customer portals or mobile apps. And so almost everything a customer wants to do results in them calling their agent or calling the carrier, so delivering even rudimentary self-service is a win in our industry.”

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