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biznotes-pacificlifePacific Life’s mission of helping clients achieve financial security can only be accomplished through its people. For this reason, the company takes the development of its leaders very seriously.

The company, a gold-level member of the Daniels Corporate Partners program, strives to cultivate seven core leadership competencies among its executive and management team, all of which revolve around a theme of developing talented, nimble leaders that help the organization meet its goals.

To achieve this, the Retirement Solutions Division (RSD) within Pacific Life turned to the Executive Education team at the Daniels College of Business to create a customized leadership program, branded the Leading Edge Institute. “We have long fostered leadership development internally, but felt that the external, academic perspective that Daniels brings would be valuable,” says Rob Goodman, assistant vice president, program management office and strategic alignment of RSD. “The Leading Edge Institute complements RSD’s leadership philosophy and aligns well with the leadership competencies that we consider essential.” Located at Pacific Life’s headquarters in Newport Beach, California, RSD has over 900 employees. RSD meets clients’ needs through a variety of multi-product retirement solutions including variable annuities, fixed annuities and mutual funds.

The Leading Edge Institute was launched in 2014, with 118 officers, directors and sales leaders from RSD participating. The inaugural session focused on managing change and quality decision making and addressed specific challenges and strategies in the current environment. In 2015, 126 employees—including the original 2014 cohort and newly hired or promoted leaders—learned about the latest thought leadership in the areas of collaboration, negotiation and talent management. Pacific Life will send a third group to Daniels in fall 2016 and cover topics such as managing ambiguity in today’s environment of unprecedented dynamic forces (economic, demographic, technological and regulatory change), how to drive vision and purpose, embracing a strategic mindset, and planning and aligning resources. Due to the Leading Edge Institute’s success, Goodman adds, Pacific Life will invite leaders outside of RSD to participate.

“We’re so excited about the Leading Edge Institute and this partnership with Daniels,” says Dewey Bushaw (MBA 1980), executive vice president of RSD. “It truly has become part of our culture; concepts that are brought up while our leaders are at DU are woven into the fabric of our day-to-day operations. The Daniels team has done a tremendous job of getting to know our company and our leaders and building a message and program around which everyone can rally.”

To encourage its leaders to apply what they learn at the Leading Edge Institute, RSD built a sustainability program for each cohort that includes ongoing teambuilding events and brown bag lunches to discuss session topics in action. RSD has also established a structured communication program that incorporates a Leading Edge Institute iPad app. The app offers participants access to the program curriculum as well as supplemental materials and information. The idea, Goodman says, is to facilitate practical application so that RSD leaders can take what they learn during their time in Denver back to their day-to-day jobs.

Outside of its work with Executive Education, RSD has gotten involved with Daniels in other ways. In 2015, a group of five MBA students conducted an academic review of the RSD business strategy document, which includes the division’s mission, vision and strategy statements, strategic priorities, and more, and presented suggestions for improvement in organization and communication. When Pacific Life leaders are in Denver for the Leading Edge Institute, many attend events on campus, such as Voices of Experience, the College’s signature speaker series.

“Pacific Life’s commitment to the continuous cultivation of its leaders is admirable and most certainly has strengthened the organization overall,” says Scott McLagan, professor of practice and lead faculty of the Leading Edge Institute. “We’re proud to team up with such a forward-thinking company to offer a program that equips Pacific Life’s senior team with the skills and mindset to meet its goals in today’s challenging, constantly evolving environment.” 

Offering insurance since 1868, Pacific Life provides a wide range of life insurance products, annuities and mutual funds, and offers a variety of investment products and services to individuals, businesses and pension plans, including more than half of the 100 largest U.S. companies. Pacific Life refers to Pacific Life Insurance Company and its affiliates, including Pacific Life & Annuity Company. Client count as of June 2015 is compiled by Pacific Life using the 2015 FORTUNE 500® list. Learn more at