A self-described “Unapologetic feminist whose career is helping independent financial professionals learn innovative ways to market life & annuity products,” Jennifer is a Vice President of Independent Distribution serving some of National Life’s largest relationships. She is a Certified Financial Planner who is passionate about continuous learning and helping change the face of success in the financial services industry.
What’s your career pathway been like? How did you get to where you are now?
Before I graduated college in 1991 as a Finance and Economics major, I thought my career path would take me in a very different direction. When I did graduate (during a recession) I learned the benefits of pivoting and taking advantage of the opportunities that life brings you.
This is a lesson I would turn to at many times during my career, but at that time, it brought me to the life insurance industry as an underwriter, which provided a great opportunity to learn this business.
In a home office environment, I was exposed to many opportunities in different departments, and I spent seven years at that company in roles ranging from licensing and contracting, annuity sales and marketing, to compliance management.
There was a time after seven years that I thought, “I could easily be comfortable here and probably eventually retire. Or I could see what other challenges are out there.” So, as a temporary career pivot, I joined a large law firm conducting financial analysis for their national practice.
I eventually made my way back to the field of insurance working at Provident Mutual and then finally found my home here at National Life in 2007.
Has the industry landscape changed during your career? If so, what changes have you seen?
Yes. There are many more women in positions as successful leaders and recruiters now. There’s also much greater diversity in our field — ethnically, culturally, in terms of gender, and age — really just much more representative of our country.
Part of my mission is to help change the face of success in our industry and it’s been exciting to see the growth of unrepresented groups in our profession. Of course, there’s always room for growth, but the great thing about this industry is that there is room for everyone!
In honor of women’s history month, is there a woman who has inspired you in your life?
I find inspiration every day — I get to meet women who are doing amazing things through my relationships at National Life and with my field partners, as well as in organizations I volunteer with and the friends I’m surrounded by.
I see women in my agencies who start out learning the business, eager to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. They learn, gain experience, and begin to trust themselves and the value they bring.
It’s so exciting to see these same women who began their careers with little more than hope and determination grow into powerful leaders, building success and bringing the next generation of people into our industry.
On a personal level, my mother is also a huge source of inspiration for me. Although she passed away when I was 12 after a long battle with cancer, she dealt with her challenges with dignity, love and kindness. And I’m incredibly lucky to have my step-mother in my life. She is a lifetime caregiver and has given of herself all her life, as a visiting hospice nurse, among many nurturing roles.
What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?
I’m glad to see different types of leadership styles being celebrated nowadays. Success isn’t “cookie-cutter” and being true to yourself is more important than trying to align with what is traditionally “supposed to work,” in my opinion.
Embracing vulnerability and being accessible will serve to inspire others. For me, having a good sense of humor helps create connections. As long as the effort and results are there, why not have fun, too?
We know how important “Do good” is to you — how does a VP of Independent Distribution take this mantra outside the walls of National Life?
I am incredibly fortunate, so I believe it’s vital that I spend some of that karmic capital by giving back. In fact, one of my biggest challenges is saying “no” when it’s something I believe in. So, as a result, I don’t tend to have a lot of free time! But these projects are important and if I can help, then I want to try.
I’ve been a member of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) for almost a decade now and currently serve as President of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter. I also serve on the boards of Women for Greater Philadelphia and The American College’s Center for Women’s Studies. And I recently became an Advisor for the University of Vermont Grossman School of Business’s Women’s Leadership Program. Outside of women’s initiatives, I’ve also been an Ambassador for Best Friends Animal Society…there’s definitely a soft spot in my heart for shelter animals!
The way you title your LinkedIn Profile is distinctive. Can you tell us more about it?
One thing I’ve learned about successful marketing is to make yourself memorable. My headline for LinkedIn is “Unapologetic feminist whose career is helping independent financial professionals learn innovative ways to market life & annuity products.” I wanted to align my professional profile with my passion and this brings things together. At first, I questioned how it might land, but I believe it’s important to plant my flag in the sand.
What are you most looking forward to – either personally or professionally (or both!) – in 2023?
I expect 2023 to be another exciting year. One of the things I’m looking forward to is my continued involvement in WIN, National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network. The team who participates in WIN are true servant leaders who uplift one another. And I’m excited about helping to lead our Field Leader Development Program with John Saad and Kara Leclerc and others. It’s a newer role for me and I anticipate learning a lot and seeing how we can impact the future of Independent Distribution for the better!