Episode 22

MetLife’s secrets to success with Bill Pappas

MetLife is seeing a massive amount of growth in the life insurance marketplace through its ambitious moves.

Bill Pappas, Head of Global Technology and Operations at MetLife, explained MetLife’s strategies, objectives, and the secrets on finding success as an insurance company.

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Time Stamps

  • 00:00 Introduction to MetLife & Bill’s role
  • 03:50 MetLife’s five specific priorities
  • 11:11 Advantages and challenges to upholding the brand
  • 14:55 Improving the customer journey through digital transformation
  • 16:45 Bill’s digital initiatives he is most proud of
  • 18:56 The importance of maintaining a competitive edge in the market
  • 21:03 MetLife’s approach to transformation and innovation
  • 23:39 Closing


MetLife’s secret to success? Looking outside of the industry.

MetLife is an insurance company dedicated to providing working-class Americans with financial protection and has helped generations of customers protect their property, finances, family and future. They are an insurance company that not only focuses on selling insurance, but they push people to live better and healthier lives.

Bill Pappas, Head of Global Technology and Operations at MetLife, shares his role in the company, the strategies they implement that has led them to success, the digital capabilities they are adapting, and their objectives to win over the marketplace.

Listen in to hear how MetLife is transforming and creating an impact in the insurance market.

Key Takeaways:

    • The number one priority for an insurance company should be the customer - making sure you are meeting their needs, developing emotional connections, and keeping them in the center of your organization.

    • Digital transformation brings everything together in order to simplify and modernize the end-to-end customer journey, giving them the right digital tools to be able to interact with ease.

    • In order to keep a competitive edge in the insurance market, you need to practice a few things: understand the customer needs, provide digital tools to simplify your service, and focus on your pricing.

I look at digital innovation and transformation end-to-end. Not only the good that the customer sees, but our ability to be able to simplify it and modernize the whole end-to-end customer journey.

Bill Pappas

Head of Global Technology and Operations, MetLife

Our Guest

Bill Pappas

LinkedIn Website

Bill Pappas is MetLife’s Chief Technology and Operations Officer whose team puts their customers at the center of everything they do, delivering remarkable experiences when and where they need us most. He is a senior business executive with a proven track record of transforming Technology and Operations areas into strategic, innovative, industry leading business.

Pappas joined MetLife from Bank of America, where he was the head of operations for the consumer, small business, wealth management and private banking businesses. In this role, Pappas directed a team comprised of more than 50,000 employees and contractors delivering integrated service and operations solutions to approximately 63 million consumers and clients. In addition, Pappas led the global business services team that provides integrated technology solutions across Bank of America.


Bill Pappas: I look at digital innovation and transformation end-to-end, not only the good that the customer sees, but our ability to be able to simplify and modernize the whole end-to-end customer journey.

Anthony O'Donnell: I'm Anthony O'Donnell, and this is Life Accelerated, A podcast for life insurers striving to achieve digital transformation.

In this episode of Life Accelerated, we spoke with Bill Pappas, MetLife, executive Vice President and head of the Global Technology and Operations Organization, noticed the GTO. MetLife is one of the most iconic life insurance brands, and as such, it felt suitable that our guest would give us some emblematic statements.

When discussing what the GTO does, bill repeatedly emphasized MetLife's purpose, which is to be always with you, building a more confident future with our customers, being at the center of everything we do. That objective brings together life insurance as social utility. It highlights the need for competitive excellence in the marketplace, and it implies the importance of the role of technology in meeting customers, changing needs and expectations.

Here's my conversation with Bill. Hi, bill. It's such a pleasure to have you on life accelerated today. Tell us a little bit about your professional background, how you got where you are today, and when you took on your current role as head of MetLife's Global Technology and Operations Organization, or the GTO as we'll refer to it.

Bill Pappas: Yeah, I actually worked for three Fortune 50 companies throughout my career, but the reality is I spent the majority of my career in one. I started a General Electric back when Jacque Welz was the c e o, and I spent seven years with GE really honing into my audit and financial skills. And then I joined Bank of America, which I spent the last 20 years.

And within Bank of America, I really spent the majority of my time running technology and operation. Across the different line of business. So think about capital markets, the wholesale business, but also the consumer and the wealth management business as well. And I joined MetLife in November, 2019, so I'm bringing a lot of that banking and financial services experience, but with the finance technology and the operation lenses to in the insurance, And one of the things that everybody asking me is, how did you make the jump from a bank to an insurance company?

And I always tell the story that I got a call from my boss, then new C of MetLife, Michelle Kala. And he really talked to me about his vision, the purpose, and the strategy of MetLife and the way that he's looking at MetLife, not only within the insurance in DC but as a financial institutions. And he talked about a purpose, which has always been with.

To be able to build a more confident future and think about with our associates, our customers, our shareholders, obviously, but also the communities that we've been part of, and we activate the purpose with a strategy, which is putting the customer at the center of everything that we do. So I felt very excited to be able to make a huge impact within MetLife with that purpose in that.

Anthony O'Donnell: So the mission really resonated with you. So Bill, tell us what your current role encompasses, both in terms of your specific responsibilities as well as what we might call your strategic brief, meaning what you're expected to get accomplished. I understand it's a role that's existed before, but you're bringing something new to this role.

Bill Pappas: I think that's what I was more excited. That is a company that has a purpose and a. That puts the customer at the center, but also the scope of my organization is able to really enable that activation of the strategy. So if you take a step back, my literacy team really manages everything after the customer.

So think about we are here to develop technologies. So think about new capabilities and digital solutions for our customers. We manage the infrastructure that brings a lot of those capabilities to life on a daily basis for our customer. We're here to protect the company. So think about information in cybersecurity and data strategy that really makes sure that data fits for purpose on a daily basis as we're servicing our customers.

And on the other end, we have our teams that they speak to the customer every single day. So think about our customer care and operations that the processes claims across 40 plus different c. And in addition to all of that, would somebody will say it's a classic way of looking at technology and operations.

Our team is responsible for business continuity and corporate security, which obviously has been incredibly relevant over the last three years as we went through the pandemic. So we are half of the company, we have more than 43,000 people that we manage every single day to bring a lot of our customers capabilities to and going back to what you just said, what is so unique about that we see ourselves with that type of scope that we are responsible to enable the business within the marketplace.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, let's talk about how you're going to achieve those objectives by reviewing your organization's priorities. I understand that there are five specific priorities that guide the organization, and maybe you could go through those briefly and discuss some of the major, current or recent initiatives associated.

Bill Pappas: So based on what you just talked about it, our GTO priorities are really grounded on MetLife's purpose. I always talk about it that there is not a need for a technology and organization function to exist if there is not a customers and if there is not a customer that needs to be able to take advantage of the process in the solution that we provide.

So we created those priorities. Based on that, and we grow them on the purpose and our strategy. So they're five and those have been very consistent over the last three years. But we started with seeing the first one, which is enable the business differentiate. So goes back to what we just talked about it.

We are here to enable the business to stay competitive with the marketplace. And we are doing that by putting in place what we call a high take and a high tides strategy. The whole idea that we need to be developing digital. To be able to really take the transactional nature of our customer interaction in a way that is easy for them to use those tools.

But we also balance that with the ability to be able to be there and speak to somebody when they need us the most. So that's how we develop difference in the marketplace. And at the same time, we always ensuring that we understand the customer preferences and we tailor our solution based to what they.

The second thing is how do we keep simplifying and modernizing our infrastructure? Not only we developing new, but we need to make sure that we stay contemporary around our infrastructure. We've been around for 154 years, so we've paying very close attention to have contemporary platforms, to have the right automation and also have the right level of cloud to be able to stay competitive.

Third for us is all around protecting the company. And there is two things there. One is the work that we're doing from a cyber perspective to ensure that we safeguard customer and company assets. And the second one is around data governance. Ensure data fits for purpose and data is always protected and we need to do all of this.

And at the same time that we need to be able to manage our business in a competitive unit. Cost a lot of the products that you've seen. From an insurance perspective are C commodities. So the two things that differentiate that one is the service that we provide. The other one is the price. So we pay very close attention to that unit cost and we cannot do any of those priorities.

You cannot build more, you cannot simplify, you cannot protect if Q are not able to have the right work before so on last priority, but also the most exciting priorities to make sure that we build a contemporary work. Our ability to attract, our ability to retain, but also our ability to build a culture that people feel passionate and comfortable to achieve the career aspiration.

So those five key priorities have sustained very consistent for us, and it's becoming our roadmap map to execution.

Anthony O'Donnell: I feel like it's worth developing the workforce discussion a little bit more. We've heard about the great resignation. The world went through some difficulties with the pandemic, and people had to work from home.

People's attitudes towards work are changing, the generations are rolling over. How has it changed to attract the right kind of people? How much does it help that you have this focus on purpose at MetLife to inspire people to work there?

Bill Pappas: I think it's everything that you just talked about it. So for us, when you look at it, our priorities to make sure that we always being able to attract the skill sets that we need to be able to stay competitive, the marketplace.

So, we are taking a step back in ensuring that we have a really good understanding of what those contemporary skill sets look like. How do we make sure that we have the right. To make sure that we are always upskilling our workforce. And also how do you make sure that those skill sets are competitive from a conversation perspective across the market.

So, one is making sure that skill sets and training is available to everybody else. The second thing is people want to be able to have a career, and we pay very close attention to what is the career path and the learning path that all our associates need to have. So, they feel that not only they stay competitive, But also they're able to lead in a very different environment from even what we had six and 12 months ago. So we're paying very close attention to both the what, but also the how and how do we ensure our leaders are staying really sharp on what does it takes to be able to manage today's workforce. And the last but not least, we pay a lot of attention on how we develop a culture. That really makes people comfortable to be able to not only achieve their career aspirations.

But they're comfortable enough, they can bring the whole selves to work. So we've been very close to attention in terms of having the right D N I focus and the lenses on our decision making process. We have the right sustainability to be able to ensure that we are there for all the communities that we've been part of.

So for us, while it's evolving, it's going back to some of the basics and traditional pieces of attracting, retaining, and developing the. But also be open minded to be able to learn. And what we also found over the last couple of years, we are learning. We are learning through how we work, which is very different today when it was even before the pandemic.

So the whole idea to ensure that we're comfortable enough to capitalize on the good learning. But also acknowledging when things are not going well and our ability to pivot and our ability to be able to try something new. It's also very important in today's world and the way that we as leaders manage the workplace learning is vital to successful change or successful pivots, as you mentioned.

Anthony O'Donnell: So I thought we could discuss MetLife as a platform for change initiatives. It's a global organization that has been a trusted brand for more than a century and a. What are the advantages and the challenges that go with that? And what are some of the current pressures associated with upholding the brand reputation?

Bill Pappas: So for us, I think you said it, I mean transforming, in my view, our customer growth Fortune 50 company. It's an exciting opportunity, but also it's an opportunity that we need to be able to be faced thoughtfully in terms of how we doing. For us, we're going back and said, because we are so customer focused, how do we make sure that we understand what the customer needs from a solution perspective?

And then we always talked about how do we deliver those needs in a way that meets the way they want to be serviced? And what we are founding and what we have learned over the last three years. They want both the high techs and bushings keep me portable, easy to use technology solution that I can do a lot of the transactional nature of our interactions where I need to, but also make sure that you have that customer care when it matters most to me.

So not only give me tools, not only give me the digital. But also I want to talk to somebody that not only understands our tool is, but they understand who I am as a customer, who understand the products, and that we're able to make the motion connection and ensure that we are meeting the requirements.

So that is where paying a lot of attention and based on that, How do you make sure that you have the right digital skill sets and solution? How do you make sure our customer care team has the right level of people that they understand and being able to manage empathy and also always being there with them, navigating the customer through the lives. And the one thing that we always talk about, we started this journey at least of the last three years, thinking with the lenses of our insurance company. And one thing that we are really kind of challenging ourselves is to make sure that we are looking through the customer and looking through the financial services because at the end of the date, our customer wants the best experience that they had. And that may not be an insurance company, maybe somebody else. And what we have seen out there, they expect it to be serviced. They expect it to be protected the same way, regardless of which bucket you put. Those companies, insurance, financial services or something else.

Anthony O'Donnell: That's interesting because when you went over your five priorities, the first priority was enable the business and the immediate gloss on that was high tech. And it strikes me that you're aiming for the best that can be delivered by both humans and machines. Always with an emphasis on empathy.

Bill Pappas: Right. And again, one of the things that we are trying to do always is really take that also of our customers. And if I look at everything that we look over the last three years in those customer needs, if fluctuated, and obviously through the pandemic, the digital, it came out more broadly because there was a need for.

Very quickly went back and balanced that I need that, but I also need to speak to somebody that I can see, that I can make the emotional connection, that it has, the empathy, but also they're there when I need the most beyond that transactional nature. And we believe that having the right balance gonna keep us to differentiate in the marketplace.

Anthony O'Donnell: Figuring out the balance of high-tech and high touch requires understanding the customer and the available technology, and that comes down to innovation. Very important topic for us is innovation more broadly at MetLife as an imperative within the G T O and also your concept of digital transformation and how important that is to MetLife's strategic goal of building more confidence.

Bill Pappas: For me, I think when you look at digital transformation, it just brings everything together. I call it the lean spin of what needs to get done, and I look at digital innovation and transformation end-to-end. Not only the goodly that the customer sees, but our ability to be able to simplify and modernize the whole end-to-end customer journey.

So not only we talking about detail transformation on the tools to be able to give and to our customers that they interact, but also make that experience to be as freely as you needed to be end-to-end. So a lot of work for us is to make sure that the simplification of those processes take the friction out of that interaction and then automate it and ensure that you have the right digital tools at the hands of our customers to be able to interact at ease.

And then going back to what we just talked about it, and this is good, but it's not good enough if you don't have the high tags, if you don't allow your customer to be able to interact with us when and if they need us, the. So I will definitely say that digital transformation from an end-to-end perspective, but also underpinning with a process that has less friction and a process that is agile enough to be able to scale as you manage across the region and across the four different countries that we have.

But at the end, always have that human TAs that is able to be there with you when you need it the most.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, I have to say, bill, as the host of Life Accelerated, which is a podcast about digital transformation at life endurance companies, I'm very happy to hear you say that digital transformation is the linchpin of everything. Well, that's a good segue for my next question, which is, what are the digital initiatives that you're most proud of?

Bill Pappas: A lot of what we have seen the last couple of years is the need for those digital transformation and tools and solutions that help folks to be able to do a lot of the transactional nature.

So we start developing digital in three different categories. How do we make sure that we're able to help them secure people's health and wellbeing? Making sure that we're supporting a more resilient environment and also looking at creating stability economics that built in opportunities in the communities that we've been part of. So for that, a couple of, for example, will develop secure and flexible portable solution, including up wise. Which is a financial wellness application that really focus on helping our customers build more positive financial habits, and that was one of the key feedback that we got throughout the pandemic.

How do we make sure that I understand that I have enough to be able to navigate through what we have seen. Right now we develop a 360 Health, which gives customer access to more than 40 health service. From the palm of your hand, so they will be able to manage the health more holistically. We have been able to develop our pet insurance application that gives access to a lot of the pet parents, the services that they need, and at the same time, again, based on the feedback, we were able to streamline and automate a lot of the core service.

Both from a distribution perspective, but also from a service perspective. So they will be able to access our service capability and a distribution capability in a way that is easy to use, intuitive, and quite friendly, secure as well. So those are just an example of some of those, these initiative that really you can see, it goes back and meet some of the feedback that we got through our customers throughout the last couple of years.

Anthony O'Donnell: Yeah, we've focused a lot on the essential purpose of the company and how you put the customer at the center. I want to ask a question in more of a business vein of how you think of digital transformation as a competitive imperative. How important is it to maintaining a competitive position in the market?

Bill Pappas: I think it's huge and I think it's always gonna be there. So for us, I just don't see a difference between what we are doing versus the business. So again, we talked about we enable the business to win in the marketplace, and what does the business need to win in the marketplace? A fairly good understanding of what the customer needs on an ongoing basis and how those leads are able to change, and our ability to be able to develop those solutions to meet those needs underneath all of.

It's how do you provide those technology? And the technology is the digital tools, but also the cation of how you service them on ongoing basis. So I always go back and say, if you look at a lot of the products that we all and our competitors are giving to the customers, I call them commodity. So how you gonna be able to differentiate?

You cannot differentiate with the way that you service the costume. and you cannot differentiate with your price. So for us from a digital transformation or building those digital capabilities, it's becoming imperative. So our line of business are able to meet those over the needs that changing for our customers, but also to be able to compete effectively within the marketplace.

And going back to the discussion we had around the workforce and our people, we are bringing people in and we are developing our associate. In such a way that they understand this and they understand the commercial nature of what we do. So this is not digital for the sake of digital. This is not technology for the sake of technology.

This is understanding what it takes to service the customer, what it takes to be able to be competitive and win, and then develop those digital capabilities to help you stay competitive and different.

Anthony O'Donnell: The InsureTech movement has provided new resources for insurers to be more competitive in terms of their enabling technology.

I'm wondering about MetLife's approach and your approach as a leader to innovation, modernization, and transformation through working with InsureTechs.

Bill Pappas: For me, a couple of things. We don't innovate to the sake of innovation, and I like the word innovation, but we believe innovation is everybody's responsibility and we also believe innovation needs to be targeted and we don't, in.

If it doesn't have an outcome for a customer, which means either you innovate to provide us solutions that meet the needs, innovate to be able to service them better and innovate with the idea to be able to reduce the friction that your customers may feel as they come into our companies. So innovation is huge for but we need to make sure that, again, we need to make sure that it is very targeted innovation. You can see the outcomes. At the same time, we are also paying very close attention to what's happening in the market, and we look a lot of the insurance tech companies to make sure, a, we understand who they are, but also make sure that we understand what is approach and how do we actually put our arms around it.

As we look at it, we invest in some. First acquisition was a very specific move that we made to be able to invest on some of the Insuretech that we believe that utilizing our skill and utilizing our subject matter expertise, we're able to make them available to a broader customer base. In some cases, we partner with them because we believe that we can sell economics and we can actually be able to deliver. And in some cases when we see some of those FinTech companies trying to take a market sale for us, we also compete. So we invest on them to make sure that they're able to capitalize on that. We partner with them when we feel that we can scale the economics and we also compete with them. Innovation as a culture, we believe it's everybody's responsibility is very targeted.

I don't have an innovation labs. The people go in and just in. Because we feel that they completely, they disconnect from the commercial aspect of what needs to get done every day and they disconnect from our customers. So for us it's targeted innovation, but also very targeted on understanding the insured tech opportunities and investing. You partner and you compete.

Anthony O'Donnell: I think we're gonna end there because I had that idea for a further question, but I think you actually gave me the answer already. What a great interview. Thank you so much.

Bill Pappas: I appreciate your time and I appreciate the questions as well. Bill took us through the

Anthony O'Donnell: GTO's five Major priorities enable the business, simplify and modernize infrastructure, protect the business through cybersecurity and data governance excellence, reduce cost, and build a contemporary workforce.

All of these objectives are critical, and the interdependence between them is obvious. However, I was especially struck by what the GTO sees as crucial to enabling the. High tech, high touch. In addition to being just great copy, as we editors say. Bill's statement crystallizes the moment in insurance innovation.

Digital transformation is at the center of life insurance transformation and refers not just to the immediate transactional experience of customers, but all the technology behind it that makes it possible. Thank you for joining us for the Life Accelerated Podcast. For more relevant content to help you achieve digital transformation, visit equisoft.com/life accelerated.


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