The 20 Most Creative People In Insurance

“Please join me in congratulating Maria Ferrante-Schepis for being selected as one of the 20 most creative people in insurance by National Underwriter. She is among an impressive list of innovators. It is a pleasure to have her on our team at Maddock Douglas, working with an elite group of insurance executives to transform the future of the industry.” — Mike Maddock, co-founder and CEO, Maddock Douglas


Click here to read the full article by LifeHealthPro Staff
Below is an excerpt from the article:


“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs famously said, making one of the most pursued attributes in the business world sound beautifully simple and obtainable.

Insurance is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and so, of course, millions of connections happen every day. Most of them go unnoticed. But every now and then, it’s worth pausing to dwell on the impressive innovation that comes from a few of the industry’s great leaders. It’s worth acknowledging the smart product design, the intuitive risk modeling, the technological leaps and the fine art of selling a complex product to meet an individual need. It’s worth celebrating all this industry accomplishes year after year, against great odds.

There are many creative minds making a difference in the industry today. Here, we present 20 of the greatest, a cross-generational, cross-disciplinary, cross-regional group that is truly making a difference in how we sell, market and think about insurance today.

Maria Ferrante-Schepis

Managing Principal, Insurance and Financial Services Innovation, Maddock Douglas,

Maria Ferrante Schepis_2014

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?

MFS: I fell into insurance by accident in 1984. I had a rough transition during my first year in college. I decided to take a breather, and I needed a job in the interim. I got an interview for a job as a file clerk in a small life insurance company. However, when I arrived, the job was filled. There was an entry-level opening in the marketing department for an “Illustration Clerk.” I was happy to learn it was not an artist job, but one that required math and computer aptitude. I was given the job, at The North Atlantic Life Insurance Company of America. The company was small and all the different disciplines worked closely together, so I learned a ton. And being 18 years old, I was not afraid of computers (even though back then they weighed more than I did). My boss, Jack Salerno, gave me an instructional book that I will never forget. It explained the origins of life insurance and how the concept of pooling money together helps protect people better than they could on their own, which made so much sense. Eventually, I decided to go back to school locally at Hofstra University for a marketing degree. I attempted to quit, but Jack offered me a part-time job while I studied, and then he offered me a full-time job when I graduated. I always thought I would try something else, but I never did. I am grateful because I would not have met my husband, Jim, if not for staying in the industry. Since North Atlantic, I’ve worked for three other insurance carriers prior to getting into my current role. These include Bankers Life of NY, Prudential and Guardian.

LHP: Describe what you do.

MFS: My role is to inspire leaders in the insurance industry to make positive change, and shape the future of their companies and the industry versus having it shaped for them by outsiders. I am employed by Maddock Douglas, Inc., which is an innovation consultancy in the Chicago area, and works with Fortune 100 brands in many industries to help them figure out what’s next and build toward it. I also am a partner and investor with Ring Leader Ventures, which is affiliated with Maddock Douglas and helps to find new startup companies with new capabilities that can accelerate the launch of new products, services and business models. I am grateful to have found this creative group of co-workers and an elite list of insurance executives to work with on a variety of innovation challenges.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.

MFS: I am especially proud of having cowritten the book “Flirting With the Uninterested: Innovating in a ‘Sold, Not Bought’ Category” with Mike Maddock. This book is the by-product of many years of observations and inspirations to positively impact the industry, and intersect innovation with insurance. Writing a book is not only hard, but it makes you very vulnerable. I remember worrying quite a bit about how readers would react to it, and even if anyone would read it. What happened was the opposite. Thousands of copies have been sold, the reviews have been terrific, and it has been in the No. 1 spot on the Amazon bestseller list in its category. I often run into people in the industry who tell me their copy is written in, dog-eared, highlighted and sticky-noted all over, and they use it as a reference guide. That makes me really happy because it means people are using it to change some aspect of their work.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?

MFS: I have my own personal definition of creativity that is on the back of my business card. It is “the ultimate solution to discomfort.” Think of an irritating grain of sand in an oyster and how it creates a pearl. I know that insurance is not considered creative, mostly because of constraints of regulation, complex math, anti-selection and other prickly attributes. However, creativity can actually be fueled by constraint if we are uncomfortable enough with the present state. I recall having to be super creative in my early days in the industry because I worked for small companies with significant budget constraints in addition to the other constraints. The only way to cut through and stand out is to leverage any and all talents of yourself and your team within the constraints — or to change the constraints if it makes sense to do so. And, yes, it is possible. Disruptors change the rules of the game all the time. However, I am not a fan of creativity that jeopardizes the true intent and purpose of insurance, or finds unintended loopholes. To me, that is just icky and perpetuates negative perceptions.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?

MFS: I am most excited about the innovation pipelines of some of the insurance companies we have been working with over the last few years. There are some super creative and different ideas that have tested well in consumer quantitative tests and map to future trends we have been tracking. Among those trends are digital/mobile (of course), aging in place, mortality/morbidity, technology assisted advice, quantified self, the sharing economy and others. New innovations take a while to develop and launch, so the things we were working on four or five years ago are just coming to fruition now, and the things we are working on now will come to fruition in a few more years. It is also nerve-racking because execution is key, and the insurance industry isn’t accustomed as much to learning from mistakes in market. More often, if something isn’t executed well or doesn’t have immediate success, the plug gets pulled too quickly. So I am excited in a way that people at NASA get about their space missions or a parent is about their kid’s first day of school. There is risk, but it is imperative to (wisely) take it even if it means having some failures.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next ten years?

MFS: My prediction is that many companies will become better at innovation and at finding and partnering with or acquiring startup companies with emerging technologies that will enable the insurance experience in new ways. The pace of change is faster than ever before, and new startups are popping up everywhere that have intentions of disrupting the business. There will be higher levels of transparency demanded by consumers that will be delivered by new kinds of interactive technological platforms versus static disclosure and forms. I also believe that there will be a mainstreaming of models that enable self-selecting groups to start their own insurance pools versus buying into traditional insurance companies. Finally, and this may be 20 years out there, but I believe that some life insurance companies will get in on the game of extending the human life span and begin offering their customers ways to access technologies that enable this versus just paying out money after a death. If that were to happen, the “sold, not bought” paradigm would be completely flipped, and life insurance would take on a whole new meaning.

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