Six months after she announced creation of the office, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell has named Barbara Fernandez to lead the state’s Insurance and Financial Services (IFS) Business Development Office.
The office was announced in May as an effort to attract and retain more insurance and financial services jobs following an Insurance Summit and the merger of Travelers and Metropolitan Life. The IFS agency is within the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“When I convened my Insurance Summit earlier this year, I heard first-hand from the state’s top insurance and financial services executives as to what steps were needed to strengthen Connecticut’s competitive position in this key industry,” Rell noted. “One recommendation was to create an office focused specifically on addressing the unique business needs of the insurance and financial services companies within our state, as well as strengthening our out-of-state recruitment efforts.
“Creating the IFS Business Development Office will go a long way in helping to ensure that Connecticut remains the Insurance Capital of the World. Having worked for years in the insurance industry, Barbara Fernandez brings a wealth of marketing, international and management expertise that will be a great asset to the state of Connecticut,” Rell added.
Barbara Fernandez has 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. She is a former assistant vice president for international business at The Phoenix in Hartford, where she assisted in the management of international operations for the insurance giant, including identifying and developing international joint ventures for the company. Prior to that, she served as director for corporate services as well as director of training and development for the company. Currently she serves as chief executive officer of Guakia, Inc., a bilingual school of Hispanic music, art and culture in the Hartford region.
Earlier this year, Rell and other public officials sparred with New York-based MetLife over keeping jobs in the state if MetLife’s proposed acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity, based in Hartford. The deal has since been approved.
Rell and MetLife Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche eventually announced an agreement to keep 1,310 Travelers jobs in Hartford. Rell said that the job losses, which stood at 1,200 when the talks began, would now total 490.
Rell said that creation of the IFS office underscores the importance of such businesses to the state’s economy.
“You need only look at the headlines to see the timeliness of this summit, and the creation of this office,” Rell said. “We literally worked night and day to save jobs in the Travelers-MetLife merger, and the potential job losses at Cigna are of great concern. Insurance and financial services made Hartford great and have always been a core part of Connecticut’s economy. We not only need to keep what we’ve got, we need to build on that legacy of success.
“We know – and insurance and financial companies are reminded every day – that the Connecticut work force is second to none,” she maintained. “In this incredibly competitive environment we need to reinforce that message every day. That’s one of the missions of the IFS Business Development Office. Another will be to help us be more aggressive in creating a business environment that encourages insurance and financial services firms to locate and grow here.”
The IFS is charged with helping the Governor and the DECD mobilize resources, shape public policy, engage state and local leadership and create a strategy to attract and retain insurance and financial services businesses.
A study of best practices used by states to attract and retain insurance and financial services jobs found that several states, notably Iowa and Vermont, have created similar dedicated offices that have proven successful in increasing insurance and financial services employment and investment.
“Recent restructurings and consolidations have shown us first-hand the impact these companies can have on the lives of our workers and their families, as well as on local and state economies,” Rell said. “If Hartford is to remain the Insurance Capital of the World we need to take action now.”
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