Lisa Weber is an avid fan of reading children's books that teach life lessons. The latest was Gideon's Dream: A Tale of New Beginnings, a children's book that has an Aesop feel to it. MetLife's president of Individual Business doesn't just use the book with her two children, though, it's work material, too.
"It's about a grub who becomes a butterfly. The lesson in the book is that you can become something and then you can still become something else; it's never too late to change and grow," Weber says. "It's a book I used at most of our conferences this year as I talked to our advisors about expanding their businesses and finding new ways to differentiate themselves."
The equity and economic markets have proved a strain on the industry. MetLife understands these stresses as well as any firm, given that the company has $100 billion in separate-account assets. But she likes to tell her advisors that this is an opportunity-perhaps the best the company has seen. Despite a tough first half of 2008, the Individual Business division fared fairly well with operating earnings of $323 million in the second quarter, down 28.1 percent from last year. But she managed a nine-percent rise in life sales during the same period.
"The positive side is that with the equity markets being what they are, and the housing crisis and all else that's going on, the reality is that there's never been a better time for us than now because of the guarantees that we provide," Weber says. "We've weathered incredible storms here as a company and as an industry and it bodes well for people who are turning to a company they can trust. So it's actually been a positive story in a really difficult time."
Weber, who climbed the ranks through human resources, is in her fourth year as president. Under her watch operating income for MetLife's retail business has grown 50 percent.
Today her group accounts for $15 billion of the company's revenues, or 36 percent. Meanwhile, its $2 billion of operating earnings represents about 50 percent of the company's total.
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