Jasmine Jirele, President and CEO of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, is looking to open doors. This includes attracting more financial professionals to a retirement risk management framework for planning, making sure that technology helps planners better model insurance products in client portfolios, and helping the industry reach everyone who wants access to financial expertise. Opening each of these doors is an opportunity to introduce future retirees to our industry’s lifetime income products and the security they deliver.
Read on to hear Jasmine’s thoughts on the convergence of asset management and insurance as well as the path that led her to the CEO role at Allianz Life.
Allianz Life presents itself as a leader in “retirement risk management.” What does that term mean to you and how does Allianz Life approach this work?
As an insurance company, Allianz Life is all about managing risk for our customers – risk management really is in our DNA. When it comes to retirement planning, we believe there is an opportunity for financial professionals to take a more sophisticated approach to the concept of risk.
In the past, retirement planners’ discussion of “risk” was centered on “risk tolerance,” which usually meant deciding how much market volatility a client could stomach, and allocating a mix of equities and fixed income securities accordingly. Under a retirement risk management framework, insurance and related products are used to mitigate risks that, left unchecked, could cause the overall plan to fail to meet its objectives.
Products that can generate lifetime income in retirement while providing significant tax advantages must be considered in any truly holistic financial planning process. We see our role as helping financial professionals better understand the tools available to them to more effectively manage risks to the overall retirement strategy – not just to the investment returns.
You’ve spoken about the convergence of asset management and insurance. How do you see this convergence playing out and what does it mean for financial professionals?
The convergence of asset management and insurance is one of the most significant evolutions we are seeing in the retirement planning space. More and more financial professionals are quite correctly seeing insurance products as an integral part of their clients’ portfolios, and not just as something else off to the side. Successful financial professionals understand that clients are increasingly concerned about risk, and that the risk management role that annuities and insurance play is something that can help ease those concerns.
At Allianz Life we are investing in technology to help financial professionals better model and understand how insurance and annuities can manage risks along the customer’s journey from accumulation to distribution. Clients are looking for comprehensive solutions, which speaks to the need for a more holistic approach to retirement planning – one that helps those investing for retirement improve the probability of achieving their retirement goals.
You’ve held a variety of roles within Allianz Life. How have these roles prepared you for the job of CEO? Is there something in your past experiences that has been surprisingly valuable in your current role?
I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see Allianz Life from a variety of perspectives, all of which have helped me as CEO. I’m actually in my second go-around with Allianz Life. The first time, I was with the company for about eight years, in a variety of marketing, product and operations roles. Then I went to Wells Fargo for about three years before returning to Allianz in 2018. I rejoined the company as Chief Growth Officer, a position I held for three years before becoming president and CEO in 2021. Obviously my different experiences within Allianz helped me better understand the dynamics that drive this organization, and allowed me to form relationships with so many talented people from whom I learned a tremendous amount about not only the company, but about leadership.
In some ways, leaving Allianz and then coming back gave me the perspective I needed to transition into the CEO role. Wells Fargo is a great organization, but I found that I missed the focus Allianz Life has on its singular goal of helping protect the retirement dreams of our clients. My passion for this mission led me back to Allianz, and I feel incredibly fortunate to lead such an innovative, talented organization.
How do you think about diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to Allianz Life? What is your DEI focus and how can the industry as a whole do better in this area?
We believe diversity, equity, and inclusion inherently drive better decisions, and that different perspectives enable us to see challenges and solutions from new angles. That’s why we have worked hard to build a caring, diverse, and inclusive culture where employees can bring their authentic selves to work every day. Having diversity of thought and talent helps us innovate, grow, and succeed in our mission.
We also recognize the need to bring more diversity to the ranks of financial professionals, which will then empower the industry to better serve a more diverse client base. Allianz Life recently conducted a study which showed Black and Hispanic investors are increasingly interested in working with financial professionals when it comes to saving for retirement. We are exploring ways to partner with educational institutions and other groups representing diverse professionals to communicate the value of a career in financial services. There is much more work to be done, but I’m excited about where this could lead.
Allianz Life is part of a global organization: Allianz SE. How does that connection benefit Allianz Life and its customers?
Being part of a global leader in insurance and asset management is a huge advantage for Allianz Life. We have unique opportunities to work closely with our parent as well as other Allianz operating entities worldwide to help adopt best practices and leverage deep resources. And in turn, we are able to offer out own expertise to Allianz businesses around the world. We also partner nationally and internationally with our asset management colleagues to stay on top of trends impacting our business, and to create comprehensive asset management and insurance solutions.
What have you learned about leadership during the Covid era and coming out of it? How has this experience changed you as a leader?
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during the Covid era is that we are capable of rising to a challenge and doing things we never thought possible. Not only were we able to make remote work a part of how we operate, but we were able to seize the challenges brought on by social distancing to improve our technology to make underwriting and claims processing more efficient. In addition, we did not sit still strategically during this time, but made major inroads into new markets like the employer-sponsored retirement plan space, as well as launching our very successful suite of buffered exchange traded funds. At a time when some days it was difficult to just do “business as usual,” we were able to do what we’ve always done: grow the business, advance our strategies and innovate for the future.