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Jackson National Life's Rapid Growth Drives Facilities, IT Expansion

As part of his effort to accommodate an IT organization under increasing demand, CIO Mark Clark envisions the creation of an innovation-friendly workspace to foster collaborative work.

Mark Clark, CIO, Jackson National
Mark Clark, CIO, Jackson National
Carriers across the insurance industry spectrum continue to struggle to achieve growth aspirations, but Jackson National Life's success has driven the company to embark on a $100 million expansion of its Lansing, Mich. campus, where the firm is headquartered. The expansion is expected to provide capacity for more than 1,000 jobs, and some of them will be in an IT organization under increasing demand from the business, according to CIO Mark Clark.

"When we opened this building in 2000 we thought we had plenty of capacity, but now we're bursting at the seams," comments Clark.

[For more on Elite 8 2012: Mark Clark Powers Jackson National's IT Through Explosive Business Growth.]

When Clark joined Jackson in 1997, the IT organization consisted of only 8 people because the function was outsourced to EDS. Under George Napoles, the organization grew to 500, and Clark's team is currently around 800 and growing. "Every year we go to budget and demand for services is greater," he relates. "If the trend continues, we will be bigger."

Rapid Growth

For the year of 2012, Jackson was ranked number one in total annuity sales, with a market share of 10.2%, and second in variable annuity new sales, with a market share of 13.8%, according to the LIMRA U.S. Individual Annuities Sales Survey, Fourth Quarter 2012. Jackson reported record IFRS net income of $992 million for full-year 2012, up from $572.8 million in full-year 2011, driven primarily by higher fee income from variable annuities.

The company's growth doesn't appear to be slowing down. Jackson has reported more than $6.2 billion in total sales and deposits during the first quarter of 2013, an increase of 6.3 percent from the first quarter of 2012. The company's Elite Access variable annuity, introduced in March 2012, played an important role in Q1 performance, accounting for over $835 million in sales.

[For more on Jackson National Life's "Genius" Project Boosts Annuity Service, Reduces Errors.]

Clark's workload will require new hiring for a variety of ongoing initiatives demanding both legacy COBOL and Java programming skills.

From 8 to 800

Until the late 1990s, Jackson's IT department completely outsourced to EDS (Plano, Texas), now part of HP. Napoles, a 2007 Insurance & Technology Elite 8 honoree, founded an IT team of eight individuals and built it up to 500 strong. Clark has since expanded the team to about 800, but, he says, he runs a shop that is far more concerned with quality than quantity.

Clark's team is continuing work on the JPOD (Jackson Process On Demand) system, which uses an inference engine to automate business rules, freeing associates to perform higher-value tasks. Most of the firm's new development is in Java. However, Clark notes that, "We're still training people in COBOL and encouraging colleges to do the same."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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