How This CEO’s Inclusive Approach Is Growing Her Business

John Hancock President and CEO

Marianne Harrison, President and CEO of John Hancock.

John Hancock

Product Innovation and Market Growth

As of 2018, every John Hancock life insurance customer is included in the Vitality program, which helps keep them healthier using data tracking and nudges, made famous by Nobel Prize winning economist, Richard Thaler. This offering, in partnership with Vitality, a South African firm, is a prime example of shared value: creating measurable business value by helping to solve relevant social or environmental problems.

John Hancock partnered with Vitality about four years ago, and since 2018, a basic version is included with all of its policies. Policyholders opt in to tracking various behaviors, including physical activity, meditation, medical visits, and sleep, and win points toward rewards from partners like Amazon, REI, Hotels.com and CVS. The app nudges them to do simple everyday things that scientific research has proven to improve physical and mental health and longevity.


This approach of recording behavior, nudges, and rewards is working. Over 20 years of global operations, Vitality participants live 13-21 years longer than other insured populations. These results are clearly significant to the individuals who are living longer and healthier lives. But the exciting part is that this positive impact also increases revenue and decreases costs for insurers, as well as ultimately benefitting the families and communities around the now-healthier policy holders. It’s a prime example of the win-win-win that can be generated by stakeholder capitalism, or shared value.

John Hancock is unique in the US insurance industry for this enlightened self-interest approach to keeping its policyholders healthy, which baffles Harrison. She expects others to get involved eventually, and indeed, hopes they will for the good of the industry and our society’s health!

The Vitality program is universal: we can all benefit from healthier lifestyles. But Harrison’s customer discovery has gone much deeper, also with great results. “Our customers are diverse, and while they know what they need, they don’t always know how that translates in insurance or financial services. We’re using more and more human centered design to understand their needs and translate them into products, informed by our 157 years of expertise.”

One specific outcome of this customer-centricity is John Hancock Aspire, the first insurance solution designed specifically for patients with diabetes. There are 30 million people living with diabetes in the US, 47% of whom are worried they don’t qualify, and 45% worry it’ll be too expensive. They aren’t supported or incentivized to proactively manage their diabetes, despite the medical knowledge we have about simple behaviors that mitigate the disease’s impact.

There’s no way to know the sales or customer loyalty that this product will generate for John Hancock (it launches on November 18), but playing alone in a new market segment equivalent to more than 10% of the current market can’t be bad for business.



Helping Employees Belong

Like all effective CEOs, Harrison is keenly aware that her employees are a critical element of the firm’s success. No amount of customer engagement can inform the company’s growth if employees aren’t motivated to listen. Based on her commitment to inclusive leadership, when Head of Communications Anne McNally suggested a TEDx-style event inviting employees to share something personal on stage with all of their colleagues, Harrison didn’t flinch. “I never even thought about the downside of having people get up and speak honestly,” she said.

The result was their first annual Signature Series event. In September 2019, 10 employees (chosen from 84 who applied) from across the firm were trained by TED in public speaking to refine and deliver their talk. I got a sense of what the room must’ve felt like from watching a few of the videos that are now posted publicly on John Hancock’s site.


I’ve never seen such an authentic Who We Are page, and was not expecting it from a 157-year-old insurance company. I strongly encourage you to watch a few, particularly if you’re thinking about the theme of belonging in your team or company. Chris Porter’s “The Stigma of Male Depression” and “The Evolution of K88901” by Emily Kim Ae Sun Hunter were among my favorites.

93% of employees surveyed said the Signature Series event made the firm’s values “seem real to them,” and 92% said it made them proud to work here, a key driver of employee engagement and retention, as evidenced by Great Place to Work and other research. How’s that for inclusion that moves the needle?


As a member and vocal proponent of the private sector’s role in solving our most important social and environmental problems, it is music to my ears to hear a CEO caring so creatively for ALL of her stakeholders, and earning this kind of internal and external business success as a result.

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When Marianne Harrison took over as President and CEO of John Hancock two years ago, she applied the inclusive management style that she’s developed over more than 15 years in leadership at the parent company, Manulife. She has been validated in this approach by innovation and growth in the business, as well as increased employee engagement. Indeed – John Hancock Vitality Life insurance sales increased by 52% in 2018! These real life examples of shared value are so important and valuable to strengthen the mandate that businesses serve the interests of all stakeholders, not just maximize profits for shareholders on a quarterly basis.


Product Innovation and Market Growth

As of 2018, every John Hancock life insurance customer is included in the Vitality program, which helps keep them healthier using data tracking and nudges, made famous by Nobel Prize winning economist, Richard Thaler. This offering, in partnership with Vitality, a South African firm, is a prime example of shared value: creating measurable business value by helping to solve relevant social or environmental problems.

John Hancock partnered with Vitality about four years ago, and since 2018, a basic version is included with all of its policies. Policyholders opt in to tracking various behaviors, including physical activity, meditation, medical visits, and sleep, and win points toward rewards from partners like Amazon, REI, Hotels.com and CVS. The app nudges them to do simple everyday things that scientific research has proven to improve physical and mental health and longevity.


This approach of recording behavior, nudges, and rewards is working. Over 20 years of global operations, Vitality participants live 13-21 years longer than other insured populations. These results are clearly significant to the individuals who are living longer and healthier lives. But the exciting part is that this positive impact also increases revenue and decreases costs for insurers, as well as ultimately benefitting the families and communities around the now-healthier policy holders. It’s a prime example of the win-win-win that can be generated by stakeholder capitalism, or shared value.

John Hancock is unique in the US insurance industry for this enlightened self-interest approach to keeping its policyholders healthy, which baffles Harrison. She expects others to get involved eventually, and indeed, hopes they will for the good of the industry and our society’s health!

The Vitality program is universal: we can all benefit from healthier lifestyles. But Harrison’s customer discovery has gone much deeper, also with great results. “Our customers are diverse, and while they know what they need, they don’t always know how that translates in insurance or financial services. We’re using more and more human centered design to understand their needs and translate them into products, informed by our 157 years of expertise.”

One specific outcome of this customer-centricity is John Hancock Aspire, the first insurance solution designed specifically for patients with diabetes. There are 30 million people living with diabetes in the US, 47% of whom are worried they don’t qualify, and 45% worry it’ll be too expensive. They aren’t supported or incentivized to proactively manage their diabetes, despite the medical knowledge we have about simple behaviors that mitigate the disease’s impact.

There’s no way to know the sales or customer loyalty that this product will generate for John Hancock (it launches on November 18), but playing alone in a new market segment equivalent to more than 10% of the current market can’t be bad for business.



Helping Employees Belong

Like all effective CEOs, Harrison is keenly aware that her employees are a critical element of the firm’s success. No amount of customer engagement can inform the company’s growth if employees aren’t motivated to listen. Based on her commitment to inclusive leadership, when Head of Communications Anne McNally suggested a TEDx-style event inviting employees to share something personal on stage with all of their colleagues, Harrison didn’t flinch. “I never even thought about the downside of having people get up and speak honestly,” she said.

The result was their first annual Signature Series event. In September 2019, 10 employees (chosen from 84 who applied) from across the firm were trained by TED in public speaking to refine and deliver their talk. I got a sense of what the room must’ve felt like from watching a few of the videos that are now posted publicly on John Hancock’s site.


I’ve never seen such an authentic Who We Are page, and was not expecting it from a 157-year-old insurance company. I strongly encourage you to watch a few, particularly if you’re thinking about the theme of belonging in your team or company. Chris Porter’s “The Stigma of Male Depression” and “The Evolution of K88901” by Emily Kim Ae Sun Hunter were among my favorites.

93% of employees surveyed said the Signature Series event made the firm’s values “seem real to them,” and 92% said it made them proud to work here, a key driver of employee engagement and retention, as evidenced by Great Place to Work and other research. How’s that for inclusion that moves the needle?


As a member and vocal proponent of the private sector’s role in solving our most important social and environmental problems, it is music to my ears to hear a CEO caring so creatively for ALL of her stakeholders, and earning this kind of internal and external business success as a result.

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