In the Nation's Interest
2017 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Roger Crandall
Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?
First, I would say our commitment to ethics and integrity. More than five million people rely on us each day to help them secure their future and protect the ones they love. That is both an awesome and humbling responsibility, and we take it very seriously. Delivering on our commitments and doing the right thing for our policyowners and customers have been core to who we are since our founding more than 166 years ago.
Second, I would point to our passion for constantly getting better. We are not a company that rests on our success. With the rapid pace of change and millions of people financially underprepared, we can always do more to reach as many people as possible. That mindset has led us to grow our number of advisors to an all-time high, develop online tools to help people make better decisions regarding their benefits, and significantly reduce the time it takes to apply for and obtain insurance coverage. All of this work helps individuals, families and business owners build a more confident future, and for us, that is tremendously satisfying.
What advice do you have for those who aspire to careers in leadership, or have just started to serve in a leadership capacity?
Build a team you can trust. You need to understand what they do, but it’s equally important to know when to step away and let them do their jobs. Everyone brings something to the table, and you can always accomplish more by relying on their talent and expertise than trying to do everything yourself.
Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Because at some point, you will. Failure can be the best teacher, as what you learn from your mistakes ultimately makes you a better leader. And, as a leader, it’s important to set that tone at the top. With disruption happening in virtually every part of the economy, employees must be given the latitude to try and fail if it leads to a better solution or outcome. Sometimes it can take multiple tries to get something right, and the sooner you embrace that, the sooner you can pave the way for the most innovative thinking.
What has been the best career advice that you’ve received?
In graduate school at Wharton, I had the opportunity to attend the officer candidate school for the Marine Corp in Quantico. There, a commandant taught us the “70 percent” solution, which means that once you get 70 percent of the information, go ahead and make a decision. Great leaders collect all the data they can and take action. It may not be perfect, but they take action and adjust along the way.
Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share?
The best way to build a more secure financial future is to start young. If you learn good money habits before you’re even able to earn a paycheck, the rest will take care of itself. That’s the goal of our FutureSmart program, which provides financial and career lessons to middle and high school students throughout the U.S.
Since 2014, we have collaborated with NBA teams to hold engaging, interactive FutureSmart Challenge events for thousands of students in arenas across the country. And, with smartphones and tablets now as common as pencils and backpacks, we recently launched a free digital curriculum in English and Spanish available to schools nationwide, and also introduced an app with a fun, interactive experience that broadens the reach of this program.
We’re proud to have reached more than 650,000 students with FutureSmart. Our goal is to reach two million students by 2020, ultimately helping them get on the right path to success.