Steve Kennedy believes that success is all about the people you surround yourself with. After leading his own insurance consulting company for over 15 years, Kennedy is now VP of Supplemental Insurance for Ullico’s life and health insurance division, The Union Labor Life Insurance Company. Surrounded by a team of quality people, Kennedy is leading the development of an ambitious direct mail and e-commerce insurance marketplace—Ullico Select. In a recent Q&A, Kennedy spoke about some of the key decisions his team has made during that process and what customers can expect when Ullico Select launches on Labor Day this year.
Your team is launching a direct mail and e-commerce insurance marketplace called Ullico Select. Why “Select”?
It’s not just the word “Select,” it’s also the word “Ullico.” We have tremendous brand recognition — Ullico is a name that’s been in the insurance business for many decades, and we have been selling life and health insurance for over 95 years. So, the first decision we made was that the new name was going to lead with Ullico.
Next, it was a matter of deciding what should follow. Ultimately, we decided on “Select.” The name “Select” suggests that only a select group can access these benefits. In our case, that is union members and their families. The name also conveys that a client can select the coverage that is best for them. Our goal over the last couple of years has been to broaden our product portfolio so that no matter what stage of life an individual is in we have a product that fits their needs. So “Select” means finding the insurance that best fits your needs.
Finally, when you shorten “Ullico Select” it becomes “US,” which emphasizes that we not only serve unions and their families—we are also part of the labor movement as a union-owned company. With all this in mind, we moved forward with Ullico Select and are excited for the Labor Day launch.
Well put. You all have clearly thought this through! Why did your team focus on an e-commerce approach?
Direct mail will always be the foundation for how we get our products out to union members. Still, once we decided to start offering individual products, we began thinking about the best way to consistently get our message out to the greatest number of people in a cost-effective way. It was clear to us that the easiest approach in today’s society is via electronic and digital means.
Now, if we are going to promote ourselves through social media and work to gain a foothold there, people must be completely comfortable with our website. We are focused on producing a great customer experience where an individual can easily find the product that best fits their needs and then complete a simple application process. Achieving that type of dynamic drives every decision we make with the development of the new website.
Earlier you spoke about how these products are for a specific clientele—union members and their families. You’ve worked both in and out of the union marketplace. What do you think makes the union insurance space different?
I think the biggest thing is that it’s underserved. There aren’t enough people out there talking to union members about what kind of insurance coverage makes the most sense for them. Most have a union life benefit, which is helpful, but generally that sum is just enough to bury you. On its own, that union benefit won’t provide for your family. It may sound morbid, but it’s important for people to ask themselves “if something did happen to me, how would my family get through the next couple of years?” When your family is grieving and they are going through the toughest moment of their life, the last thing they want to do is worry about paying the bills or potentially losing the house.
You want to be prepared, and that’s why we talk with union members and try to make them fully aware of the situation. Things happen in life, and you have to make sure that your family is protected.
You have a great deal of experience in the insurance field. Prior to joining Ullico, you founded an insurance consulting company. You’ve worked as part of large and small teams, and you’ve performed a variety of roles in the industry. What is an important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
It is all about the people you surround yourself with. You will accomplish some amazing things if you can build a team where everyone is knowledgeable, motivated, and willing to work together.
When we launch on Labor Day, you’re going to see two or three new products that we’ve never had before. You’re going to see a completely redesigned website. That is a lot of work and it was all made possible through the phenomenal efforts of our entire group across the organization—from compliance, policy development, IT, marketing, and our policyholder services from an implementation perspective. All these people working together drives success. I’m incredibly proud watching what this group is accomplishing.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.