Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company is implementing a step in its leadership succession plan.

Roger Crandall, 44, the president and chief operating officer of MassMutual, Springfield, Mass., will succeed Stuart Reese as chief executive officer Jan. 1, 2010, the company says.

Reese, who has been CEO of MassMutual since 2005 and also is the company’s chairman, will continue to be the chairman.

Crandall has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in business from the University of Pennsylvania. He began working for MassMutual in 1988.

Crandall has issued a statement emphasizing his respect for MassMutual traditions.

“MassMutual’s employees, career agency system, and partners share a commitment to the interests of our policyholders that has guided how we do business for 158 years,” Crandall says in the statement. “This will remain our focus going forward.”