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The Head Of New York Life Ventures Invests $200M In Start Ups

5/1/18
By Peter High, published on Forbes

New York Life is an enormous company with a storied history. Like other companies of comparable size and age, they can be caught flat-footed by the disruption forced upon them by newer, more nimble companies. New York Life has elected to be the source of disruption through the development of New York Life Ventures, which was founded in 2012.

Joel Albarella has run New York Life Ventures since its inception. He ensures that the investments support and create faster paths to achieving the broader business strategy at New York Life. Moreover, for the roughly $200 million that has been invested, there have already been some meaningful exits, such as the company’s investment in the security company  Skycure, which was acquired by Symantec in 2017. Albarella discusses all the above and more in this interview.

Peter High: When New York Life Ventures was founded in 2012, what was the rationale for its creation?

Joel Albarella: New York Life Ventures was founded to accelerate the pace of innovation at New York Life. This has included developing a trusted, ever-expanding network of participants within the start-up community to better understand their efforts and provide support. We also seek opportunities to tie their innovative work back to New York Life’s value chain and business strategy. The objective is to deliver a return while also driving value to the business.

Back in 2012, we decided to take a closer look at how the digital environment was evolving. Society was largely embracing exciting new trends related to e-commerce, mobility, the Internet of Things [IoT], among others. The time was right for New York Life to launch the group to better understand the evolution of technology and how it could be used to improve and digitally transform our businesses.

No one – and especially not a large, Fortune 100 company – can wake up one day and decide to suddenly be more innovative. True innovation is an ongoing process that involves commitment and deliberately making non-traditional decisions that pay off over the long term. That’s what our leadership understood and embraced.

New York Life was ahead of the curve as being one of the first life insurance companies to launch a corporate venture capital arm. Six years later, New York Life Ventures has performed approximately 150 proof of concepts [POCs] with emerging technologies and invested in more than $200 million in 30 venture capital investments. We are a key innovation driver at New York Life and within the industry.

High: How does the mission of New York Life Ventures marry with the mission of New York Life more generally?

Albarella: The mission of New York Life is to empower people to achieve financial security throughout their entire lives. New York Life Ventures plays its part in this by connecting the financial strength of New York Life with the speed and agility of the start-up community. Through a strategic testing and investing approach and an on-site research and development lab, we can accelerate the pace of innovation across the enterprise while fostering a powerful external network rooted in trust. All of this is ultimately focused on enhancing customer experiences and better serving New York Life’s policy owners and clients now and well into the future.

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