In MetLife’s New NC Tower, The Insurance coverage Big Hopes To Discover The Subsequent Massive Concept


Inside MetLife’s latest constructing in Cary — its third tower overlooking Lake Crabtree — the insurance coverage large is hoping to search out the way forward for the insurance coverage trade, or no less than a aggressive benefit.

That is the place, simply off the foyer, groups of startups are laborious at work growing know-how that would make offering insurance coverage extra environment friendly and worthwhile and preserve potential prospects more healthy.

Whereas insurance coverage is commonly considered as a boring, rote job the place folks present up in fits and ties, MetLife’s new workplaces off Weston Parkway have all the trimmings of a tech startup or co-working workplace.

Inside its new innovation area, younger employees in denims and short-sleeve button downs make espressos in a shared kitchen in between charting out concepts on an inside wall that has been co-opted as a whiteboard.

The workplace is open idea, with not a cubicle in sight — simply shared tables and desks and some personal rooms for use by 9 younger firms which might be all briefly calling Cary house.

“All industries are beneath fixed stress to innovate and adapt, and insurance coverage isn’t any exception,” mentioned John Bungert, an assistant vice chairman of innovation at MetLife, explaining why the corporate is trying to nurture startups.

Bungert is one among 13 workers on MetLife’s innovation crew, seven of whom are based mostly out of MetLife’s increasing presence within the Triangle. The Cary workplaces, house to greater than a thousand workers, has been designated the corporate’s World Know-how Campus. The third tower on the campus simply opened earlier this summer season.

Discovering new methods to maintain the insurance coverage firm related and dominant in an period of disruption is important to the corporate’s success going ahead, Bungert mentioned.

Enter the tech accelerator that MetLife created final 12 months with Techstars, a company that helps develop younger startups by way of mentorship and by connecting them to assets, like enterprise capital.

The concept is to search out firms working in insurance coverage know-how or adjoining areas, in order that MetLife can check or uncover new concepts that will probably be useful to both its prospects, its personal workers or its backside line.

“As an trade chief,” Bungert mentioned, “we have to keep away from the temptation of resting on our previous successes and as a substitute deal with our subsequent development alternative.”

The corporate has made innovation a precedence since 2011, when simply off the heels of the Nice Recession, it started on the lookout for new methods to maintain the corporate rising. Bungert famous that, simply within the first half of 2019, there have already been 70 enterprise offers globally centered on insurance-tech firms price almost $three billion, which means there may be numerous potential competitors on the market for MetLife.

With its accelerator, MetLife brings cohorts of startups to Cary, the place they work with MetLife and Techstars leaders in an intensive 13-week program. The corporate appears for startups which have concepts or applied sciences that probably may very well be fast-tracked to have an effect on the insurance coverage trade, nudging them in instructions that they assume may very well be fruitful.

“Once we usher in these startups, our purpose is to identify the chances in each disruption,” MetLife Chief Digital Officer Greg Baxter mentioned earlier this 12 months. “If an answer can enhance our buyer expertise and sort out actual enterprise challenges or alternatives, we then look to supersize it. The result’s a constructive collision of commercial scale and innovation velocity. And for a corporation like MetLife, scale issues, as it is a key differentiator for us.”

Its present cohort of 9 startups contains firms engaged on a spread of concepts, like:

— Zogo Finance, a Durham-based startup created by Duke College college students making an app to show youngsters private finance. Bungert described it as just like Duolingo, an app with in-game incentives that teaches folks international languages.

— Slighter, a sensible cigarette lighter created by a Lebanese entrepreneur that tracks smoking habits and trains customers to scale back step by step till they give up.

— Lazarus, a Cambridge, Massachussetts, firm, that makes use of historic affected person well being knowledge and machine studying to assist predict the early onset of most cancers.

This system has already been considerably profitable for MetLife.

Of the 10 firms that participated in final 12 months’s program, eight may have launched or accomplished a venture with MetLife by the top of 2019, Bungert mentioned. One firm, Singapore-based Aligned Enterprise, which went by way of the primary accelerator final 12 months, is designing a digital insurance coverage pilot program for South American and Asia.

Whereas the startups solely work out of MetLife’s Cary workplace for 13 weeks, Bungert mentioned all of them completely turn into a part of the MetLife and Techstars community. (MetLife and Techstars get an undisclosed quantity of fairness in firms that settle for a place within the accelerator, a regular a part of the Techstars mannequin.)

Bungert added that the groups are welcome to return and may proceed working with the Metlife Innovation Workplace and different Metlife groups for brand new alternatives and partnerships.

The accelerator may additionally function an opportunity for the Triangle to lure new startups, with a connection to one of many largest insurers on the planet, to remain right here. Whereas they’re solely tied to the Cary workplace briefly, that’s nonetheless a 13-week interval for a corporation to mainly check drive how they could match within the Triangle’s startup scene.

The genesis of the innovation hub dates to 2013, when New York-based MetLife started to make big investments into North Carolina, opening a number of workplaces throughout the Tar Heel state.

That funding was sparked by state monetary incentives.

In 2013, MetLife acquired state incentives price greater than $87.2 million in trade for creating greater than 2,600 high-paying jobs, evenly break up between Cary and Charlotte, The Information & Observer beforehand reported.

Further state and native incentives introduced the overall package deal to about $100 million.

The corporate plans to ultimately attain a hiring purpose of 1,500 employees within the Triangle.

This story was produced with monetary help from a coalition of companions led by Innovate Raleigh as a part of an unbiased journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial management of the work. Study extra; go to


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