Make Sure Everyone Understands Life Insurance: Jomil Guerrero

New York Life's new chief diversity officer says one way to serve diverse markets is to explain how the coverage works.

New York Life Insurance Company has picked Jomil Guerrero to help the company better connect to a wider market of customers.

Guerrero, the financial services giant’s new chief diversity officer, will influence New York Life’s employee benefits, investment and marketing strategies. Part of her job will involve supporting agents’ and advisors’ efforts to reach more people in culturally diverse markets.

Expanding people’s access to in-person guidance “is key to empowering individuals to make more informed decisions to secure their financial futures,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Central Florida. She started out in financial services as an accountant, then joined New York Life as an executive in the Insurance & Agency Group in 2011.

From 2016 through 2018, she worked in New York Life Investments project management and communications. Later, she spent three years as head of New York Life Investments’ global marketing operations, and about a year as the chief operating officer of IndexIQ, an ETF management subsidiary.

Guerrero has also been the co-lead of New York Life’s Social Justice Working Group.

She answered questions via email about her new responsibilities. The answers have been edited.

THINKADVISOR: Why should life insurers make an effort to serve diverse markets?

JOMIL GUERRERO: The need for life insurance is greater than ever. This is especially true for middle-market and culturally diverse families.

The industry has a tremendous opportunity to better support financial literacy in our local communities, many of which are underserved.

We all have different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives that shape our financial needs. The ideas and questions we hear from customers help us to think differently, innovate and create better customer experiences and solutions.

How is New York Life trying to do more to reach everyone?

New York Life maintains a field force of over 12,000 agents and advisors.

Our agents and advisors help people identify long-term priorities and make the decisions required to protect those they care about most. Shared backgrounds often allow for more intimate connections and long-lasting, trusted relationships.

We actively seek out talented individuals who represent the many different communities in the U.S. By growing the number of financial professionals with a diverse mix of talent that reflects the communities we’re serving, New York Life is better positioned to have positive impacts in these communities.

New York Life’s Target and Cultural Markets group focuses on meeting the financial protection needs of historically underserved markets, including the African American, Chinese, Korean, Latino, South Asian, Vietnamese and LGBTQ+ communities.

The program employs full-time staff members to help our financial professionals better engage with the needs of each community they represent, and the group continues to be a key driver of New York Life’s growth.

What should agents and advisors be telling individuals from diverse communities about life insurance?

Beyond boosting overall financial literacy in traditionally underserved markets, and supporting individuals in planning for their futures, agents and advisors need to educate individuals on what should be sought out in a life insurance partner. This includes:

• An insurers’ track record: At its core, life insurance is protection — a hedge against the unexpected. Customers are paying premiums in exchange for the promise that the insurer will be there when needed, so the financial strength and track record of the company backing policies is critical.

• Customer service: Life insurance should be a part of a broader financial strategy. The assistance of a financial professional is vital to ensuring the development of an approach that meets needs today and in the future.

• Flexibility in conversion: Life can be unpredictable. While term life insurance can cover loved ones through a critical period of time, individuals may need access to cash value as an important piece of their strategy. These individuals should clearly understand how term conversions work within their specific policy, how much time they have to make the decision to convert policies, and whether additional underwriting is involved.

• Payment options: Equally critical is understanding how often premium payments are required and what flexibility there might be.

How does New York Life manage its efforts to reach out?

New York Life has a general office system. We have 116 general offices around the country, each led by a managing partner who is a New York Life employee.

Our general offices are embedded in the communities where the agents and advisors live and work, and they have a direct line of communication to leaders at our home office in New York.

We also have development managers and a training system with additional support that continues as an agent’s career grows. Product consultants visit general offices not only to teach and train, but also to go out on appointments with agents.

We have formal councils to improve communication, collaboration and coordination between our headquarters and field force.

Our Agents Advisory Council was established in 1946 and our Managing Partners Advisory Council was formed in 1995. We continue to expand these types of efforts today.

Last year, we launched a pilot with eight general offices and appointed cultural ambassadors — agents who are working with our diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) corporate team to strengthen cultural competency and advocacy for inclusion and belonging, to help advance the company’s DE&I objectives on a local level.

Jomil Guerrero. (Photo: New York Life)