Alain Karaoglan

Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Voya Financial

Even though I majored in economics and business as an undergraduate, it wasn’t until Tuck that I truly internalized so many of the underlying concepts. When I look back, I see that it helped me grow—not only as a businessperson, but as a human being.

His career began with 10 years in investment banking at The First Boston Corporation and Bear Stearns, followed by 10 years at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, Deutsche Bank Securities, and Banc of America Securities as an equity research analyst. This experience, however, made him perfectly suited to join AIG as senior vice president, divestiture at a time when the company was facing financial-crisis-related challenges. At AIG, Karaoglan helped with the plan to repay the government by divesting assets through an IPO or sale. Karaoglan proved to be the perfect fit for shepherding the spinoff of Voya Financial from ING Group last year, a massive undertaking that called on Karaoglan’s broad industry expertise.

How are you transforming Voya Financial’s businesses?

Voya Financial is the former U.S. retirement, investments, and insurance businesses of ING Group. We went public in 2013 and, in order to get there, needed to prepare the company both inside and out—not only the “plumbing,” but also our operating performance. Our overall goal is to be the most transparent financial services company in the industry and so we outlined more than 30 specific margin, growth, and capital initiatives to improve our return on equity. Since we went public, we’ve made strong progress and our stock has appreciated roughly 100 percent. However, we need to continue to execute on our initiatives so that we can further improve our business performance.

What inspires your leadership, especially during this time of change?

Transparency. The only way a team achieves success is by trusting each other, which means being honest and even vulnerable.  I define leadership success as having the right team that knows how to face problems as soon as they come up and works together to solve them.

How are you increasing awareness of the new Voya Financial brand?

We expect to spend approximately $100 million on advertising over the next two-and-a-half years. We want Americans to know that Voya Financial is the company that can help you with your retirement readiness, both financially and emotionally. Ultimately, the success of what Voya stands for will come from how—both individually and company-wide—we treat our customers, our employees, and our investors.

How did Tuck prepare you for your career?

Even though I majored in economics and business as an undergraduate, it wasn’t until Tuck that I truly internalized so many of the underlying concepts. What was very important, too, was the way people behaved and interacted—you do not get that emphasis on camaraderie at other business schools. On a personal note, my first son was born while I was at Tuck, so my time there was even more special and transformative. When I look back at Tuck, I see that it helped me grow—not only as a businessperson, but as a human being.

Over the years, how have you kept your professional balance?

My career path isn’t typical, but what I’ve always focused on is the journey and growing and learning along the way. So many fields have changed so much over the past 30 years, but one thing I learned early in life and in my career is to be open-minded. Yes, you set a course and are dogged in terms of achieving it, but when other opportunities present themselves, you want to evaluate them. The most important thing is to establish your principles and they will carry you through anything.

What is the outlook for the course you’ve charted for Voya?

I’m very excited because our plans are ambitious, but achievable. We’re on track to achieve our vision of being “America’s Retirement Company.” Our challenge is to continue to focus on the metrics that matter and on our mission to make a secure financial future: one person, one institution, one family at a time.

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