Their job is to invent big new ideas—find out what makes this Protective team tick

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Innovation Team
Innovation Team at Protective (Bham Now)

Most big companies have so much to manage on a daily basis, there’s not much room to come up with big, new ideas. Not so at Protective Life Corporation (“Protective”), where startup veteran Will Wright heads up the Innovation Team. It’s their job to invent new things that will dramatically benefit their customers. Find out how they do it.

Meet Will Wright, Head of Innovation at Protective

Will Wright, head of Innovation at Protective
Will Wright (Will Wright)

Although he’s only been in Birmingham for a decade, Will Wright has made an impact in his time here, including co-founding health tech startup Pack Health and being a constant presence in the innovation ecosystem of Birmingham. Originally from California, Wright worked in New York with an early-stage startup before joining consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he had the opportunity to work with a number of large health insurance companies and on the Affordable Care Act.

He’s driven by the desire to be a change agent, always trying to make things better for people.

Early on, he became interested in human health through the lens of insurance and innovation, and said that “even though people may think insurance is a boring industry, it’s actually an incredible service that protects what matters and encourages people to be healthier.”

At Protective, he’s been able to knit together his experiences in big companies, as a consultant working with startups, then starting his own. Now he invests what he’s learned along the way into coaching his team and building a culture of innovation.

Innovation at Protective

Innovation Conference at Protective
Members of Protective’s Innovation Fellowship brainstorm creative solutions during an innovation exercise. (Bham Now)

Wright has made a point to bring people on his team who are not lifelong insurance people.

“My team is pretty diverse, interesting and creative. They’re all new to the industry, except for one person who’s been in it for a fair bit of time. We look for folks who can think differently and who are willing to question the status quo and push the edges a bit. Leading through innovation requires a student’s mentality and a confidence that there’s a better way to move forward, plus the ability to deliver that message in a way that’s both collegial and sometimes challenging.”

Will Wright, Head of Innovation, Protective

Wright does a lot of coaching with his team, and is a firm believer in the power of teaching innovation thinking.

Want to work with a company that embraces innovation? Protective is hiring.

Protective’s Innovation Fellowship

Innovation Fellows at Protective
This year’s Innovation Fellows. (Protective)

The Protective Innovation Fellowship institutionalizes that thinking outside of the Innovation Team.

  • What: a robust 12-week program that teaches lean, customer-focused ideation
  • Who it’s for: select leaders at Protective
  • Who leads it: taught by UC Berkeley + UAB professors + managed by Protective’s Innovation Team
  • Why: to invest in leaders so they can develop innovative solutions for their customers

“A lot of what we teach in the Innovation Fellowship is this idea that for you to solve a problem through innovation, you need to really understand who your customer is. Oftentimes, in big companies, people think their customer is their boss, but it’s not. Companies exist to sell to their end customers. Then you need to ‘fall in love with your customers’ problems’ and figure out how to build a solution that’s significantly better than the status quo.”

Will Wright, Head of Innovation, Protective

Innovating new solutions for customers

Innovation Fellows
Innovation Fellows at Protective (Bham Now)

Wright named a few of the 40 innovation projects his team has explored to date. These include:

  • Automobile extended warranty customers: Teaching people how to maintain their cars better, then giving them discounts on their maintenance contracts.
  • Investments: Investing directly in sustainable asset classes, like solar facilities.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Investing in AI + other new technologies that can dramatically improve how they run the business.
  • Social media: Promoting life insurance education through social media, for example, with YouTube and Instagram influencers.
  • Health promotion: Finding new ways to help customers get healthier.

“If you really dig into what insurance does for people as a social good, it’s an incredible product. What we provide in terms of financial services to help humanity thrive is pretty remarkable. Driving innovation in this industry is important, because when people do need to call in their life insurance policy on a loved on, it is transformative.”

Will Wright, Head of Innovation, Protective

Want to be part of a company that embraces innovation? Protective is hiring.

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Protective refers to Protective Life Corporation and insurance company subsidiaries, including: Protective Life Insurance Company, Nashville, TN, and in New York, Protective Life and Annuity Insurance Company, Birmingham, AL. Protective is a registered trademark of Protective Life Insurance Company.

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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