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Women’s Leadership Series: Kristin Cook

Brought to you by the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) this Women’s Leadership Series intends to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of our female leaders here at National Life Group. This year we will be profiling a series of National Life leaders to hear their experiences navigating both life and the financial industry as a woman. Check back for more posts throughout the month of March and beyond.

Kristin Cook is the Head of Life & Annuity New Business and Vice President, Chief Underwriter at National Life Group.  Kristin has been with National Life Group for 18 years, providing seamless service to our customers through underwriting innovation and deep rooted relationship building. Kristin has a passion for leading people and approaches her business with a coach’s mentality – focusing on progress, not perfection. 

Kristin resides in Williston, Vermont with her husband Kevin who is a teacher at Rice High School and two children, Owen (13) and Benjamin (9).

What was your education and career pathway that brought you to where you are now?

I have a Liberal Arts degree, a major in Political Science with a minor in Biology from the University of Vermont. I was a pre-med undergrad student which was the start of a meandering path to my current role with National Life Group. It was a journey filled with lots of trial and error. 

After graduating from UVM, I dove headfirst into an internship in the medical field prior to applying to medical school. It was an experience I am grateful for as I ultimately chose not to pursue my passion in the medical field. During this turn of events and change in heart, I refocused my work towards the fitness industry and was coaching field hockey when a friend of mine introduced me to National Life Group.  My friend, a National Life employee, knew my medical background and spoke with me about underwriting within the financial services industry. She knew that National Life had an open position and a Career Fair within the near future. 18 years later, the rest is history…

What did you want to be when you “grew up”?

From a young age I always had a real interest in science. In middle school I set my sights on becoming a pediatrician.  I had experienced an injury at the age of 12 and had to have a spinal fusion, the doctors and nurses that worked with me at Boston Children’s Hospital were amazing. I admired them and it was during that time of my life that I knew I wanted to help others the way that my doctors and nurses had helped me.

What do you like most about what you do at National Life?

I love that National Life is a fertile environment to truly grow and develop as an individual.  Our culture and the people that work here help to foster that culture. Ultimately, I learned early on at National Life that if you have a hunger to learn, a strong work ethic, and a desire to continuously evolve, that it will provide those opportunities. It is a corporate environment that fosters and encourages true career growth and exploration.

Has the financial services / insurance industry landscape changed during your career? If so, what changes have you seen…

Yes!  The world around us has forced this industry to morph and adapt much more quickly now than when I started 18 years ago.  As it pertains to the practice of life insurance underwriting, we have dynamically shifted away from a more topical approach using common requirements (think, age or face value of an individual’s application) as the qualifying information being applied vs. a much more specific and personalized approach, based on an individual’s unique identification elements and overall risk profile – enabling less client invasive requirements to be gathered. 

Data and technology has also helped drive this change as well as the consumer’s desire to have a faster, simpler process.  I also see a change in the markets that we serve demand more from us, something better, something authentic – as a result I think we have been forced to make a historically complicated process easier to understand.

In honor of women’s history month, is there a woman who has inspired you in your life?

There are so many, but certainly my mom and my college field hockey coach. They have been two incredible influences in my life.  Each of them helped me to believe in myself and to trust the process that thinking critically, working hard, and being humble will take me down a positive path. 

What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?

Be hungry for information. Don’t shy away from who you are, speak your truth.

What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?

Authenticity. The ability to lead from a place that is genuine to who you are at your core.

Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion?

The American Red Cross. I have been an avid blood donor for many years and I really appreciate the work that this organization does, in both small and large times of crisis for our country especially as it pertains to unforeseen weather emergencies or fulfilling the ever growing blood demand for trauma victims.

What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us?

Our people – even from day one working at NLG I felt as though my contributions mattered and the people around me were caring and genuine.  I also appreciate the companies grounded nature – being imaginative, hopeful, and realistic all at the same time – maybe it’s the New Englander in me😊

Any other words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

Investing in yourself will always pay dividends – whether that is additional academic learning, making connections with others in the organization that help to fill gap areas you may have, asking questions about things you don’t understand or that intrigue you or taking time for self-care. 

In order to give of yourself to others, you need to be taken care of.

Thank you, Kristin!