2012 WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE – INTERNATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Executive Vice President, Retirement Services Division, MassMutual Life Insurance Company; and Chairman, President, & CEO, MassMutual International LLC
Elaine Sarsynski, who has responsibility for two major business lines at MassMutual, has earned NAFE’s respect, even awe, for her breadth of experience coupled with her commitment to ensuring the success of the women with whom she works. Elaine joined MassMutual in 2005 as SVP and Chief Administrative Officer responsible for human resources, corporate communications, community relations and strategy. Soon after, she made the jump from the staff side (support) to the line side (revenue-generating) to run international insurance operations, including subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Japan, and Luxembourg, and joint venture relationships with companies in Chile and China.
In 2008, Elaine took on a second business line, MassMutual Retirement Services, which under her watch has had double digit growth and which was named 2012 “Retirement Leader of the Year.” Elaine describes a shift in their approach to this business: “We’re focusing on retirement readiness, so instead of an accumulation dialogue, we’re talking about monthly replacement income and about how we can have tools and products that promote healthy retirement.” She cites some scary statistics: “The 2010 census showed about 2 million Americans over 90, a number that will quadruple over the next 40 years. Three-quarters are women, and 3 out of 4 subsist today on $13,500.”
One way Elaine is tackling this issue is by placing a focus on building women’s confidence in their ability to invest for their retirement—starting early—as for example, “encouraging Gen Y women to save 10 percent of their salary in IRAs, which over 40-years at a six percent average rate will give sufficient income replacement in retirement.” With only 14 percent of people believing they’re prepared for retirement, Elaine stresses how important finding such solutions is for our society. “I want to ensure that when women reach 90—as many will—they will have a life of dignity,” she says.
NAFE honors Elaine for her work on behalf of women. Her colleagues report that she uses her platform to motivate and position women for leadership roles at home and abroad. She is a founding leader of MassMutual’s Women’s Leadership Network, which works to advance high-potential women. At MassMutual Asia in Hong Kong, where women are over half of agents, she is securing leadership training for field reps. In China, she is partnering with women leaders to move women into senior roles. And here are a couple of additional facts about Elaine: she was elected for two consecutive terms as First Selectman in Suffield, Connecticut, and she is a working mom with two sons and one daughter, the youngest now 20. Her advice: “Be efficient and effective with your time and focus determinedly on your task. Don’t allow distractions to steal your valuable time.”