Creating a Shared Vision

As a senior communications and marketing executive for the largest mutual life insurance company in the country, Kelli Parsons says that happiness is more important than success.

“One can be successful in a job without being happy in it, but happiness matters more,” said the chief communications and marketing officer for New York Life. “Strive to do what interests you. The rest will work itself out,” Parsons added.

She is responsible for New York Life’s consumer brand, stakeholder, and employee experience. She creates a shared vision for marketing and defines strategic priorities for the company, which has about $550 billion in assets under management and ranks 61st on the 2016 Fortune 500 list.

Her colleagues say she leads by example, empowering people to take smart risks, lead purposeful change and build belief in themselves and the company. Most recently, her efforts have been with a consumer-focused brand marketing program positioning the company for relevancy with maturing millennials. It targets a large and challenging market opportunity in a consumer set beginning to make decisions such as buying homes, getting married or having children.

Parsons, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, started her career as a television news reporter for NBC and CBS affiliates covering business, politics and breaking news. She has served as head of communications and marketing for two Fortune 100 financial services companies, including Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and a leading private equity partnership. She knew her present career was what she wanted to do when she recognized the power of communications to solve problems, create opportunities, and inspire people.

“I joined Fannie Mae as CCO at the height of the financial crisis, running ‘into the fire’ as others fled,” she said. “It was a big risk, a remarkable experience and I learned that a unified team can achieve big, audacious goals. We returned the company to profitability, paid taxpayers, saved a million families’ homes from foreclosure and stabilized American housing for the future,” she added.

Her areas of expertise include brand strategy, corporate reputation, employee engagement, media relations, public affairs and corporate responsibility with a special interest in business transformation and change management. Among her numerous activities, Parsons is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Communications Advisory Council for the College of Charleston, is on the Board of Directors of Life Happens, as well as a former trustee with the Murray State University Foundation. She has also established scholarships at the University of Kentucky and Murray State to enable students from her home state to study abroad.