Jae Junkunc is a bit of a travel junkie. And it might have something to do with the fact that over the course of her life, she has lived in eight different states, three different countries and Washington, D.C.
“My dad was a corporate gypsy,” said Junkunc, who, as an adult, lived in Panama while in serving in the Peace Corps.
But for the past six years, her corporate roots have been firmly in place at MassMutual Financial Group. Junkunc, who was recruited for a summer internship program, has held a number of positions with MassMutual and climbed the ranks over the years. She attributes her success to several factors, including the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, MassMutual’s executive development program and strong mentors within the company.
“It’s opportunities meets hard work,” Junkunc said. “I also had people that saw potential in me and I was given opportunities. You have to be successful on your own terms after that.”
Junkunc also advocates loving the work you do and the company you’re doing it for.
“I’m a strong believer that you should believe in the company’s value proposition and what they sell,” she said. “And insurance provides protection and is a benefit for society.”
Junkunc doesn’t just show up for work every day. She is also a founding member of MassMutual’s Women’s Leadership Network. “We’re in our infancy … and are creating this network for women leaders that’s designed to help retention and engagement,” she said. “At a certain level while climbing the corporate ladder, women drop out.”
‘Passionate About Helping Others’
Lorie Valle-Yanez, chief diversity officer at MassMutual and a member of the Women’s Leadership Network, said that Junkunc is “passionate about helping others develop their careers,” in addition to “her tireless and ongoing philanthropic work in the broader community.”
Junkunc, who also serves on MassMutual’s Asian Employee Resource Group, jokes that it was one of the few things she felt unqualified to take on. Junkunc was born in Korea, adopted at age four and brought to the United States.
“I wasn’t raised with Asian culture,” she said. “But working with this group has been a great experience and we have grown our membership by over 50 percent in the last year.”
The Asian Employee Resource Group also participates annually in the Dragon Boat Festival in Hartford, Conn.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it has been an extraordinary experience that brings the company together,” Junkunc said.
Junkunc is also really proud of how MassMutual handled itself during the financial crisis of 2008, which she says “woke up a lot of financial services companies.” She added that because MassMutual cared about the company’s policy holders, the firm fared better than others that didn’t provide the same amount of care and attention.
But there are ways the insurance industry can improve, Junkunc added: “It just needs to sell the value proposition of insurance … advertise it better.” Junkunc joked that maybe the insurance industry should take a Ned Ryerson (from the film Groundhog Day) approach to selling its product. Ryerson was relentlessly persistent when trying to sell life insurance to Bill Murray’s character, Phil.
“We are at a 50-year (life insurance) ownership low,” she said. “It’s hard to sell a product that people won’t see.”
For those looking to get involved in the finance and insurance industry, Junkunc reiterated that “you have to like what you’re doing. You have to believe in what financial services provide.”