Brighthouse Financial’s Greenfield Opportunity

Industry veteran Jeff Hughes, Brighthouse’s CTO, talks about turning MetLife’s divested retail business into a technologically transformed L&A company.

The story of Brighthouse Financial is about the creation of a new company—and a new technology environment—following MetLife’s divestiture of its retail life and annuities business in 2017. Our guest Jeff Hughes, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, joined MetLife prior to the divestiture, and was tasked with the separated entity’s technology transformation.

This is a story of a major business from a household-name insurer becoming, in effect, a greenfield opportunity. At least, that’s what the new company’s leadership decided it would be. Jeff recounts how the divesture meant ample investment in platforms and processes across all business and operations functions. That, in turn, forced decision-making and a ruthless kind of prioritization that wouldn’t have happen in a routine situation. In short, this was nothing short of an opportunity “reinvest and reinvent” the business’s technology foundation As Hughes puts it.

Keys to Brighthouse’s success included getting things in the right order, starting with the infrastructure foundation. One rule Jeff put in place was to use standard processes—even to the extent that business processes may be adapted to the technology rather than the other way around, because it may be simpler.

Another principle was to be rigorous about cost structure—a principle that has enabled an enviable shift over time from CapEx to OpEx. Another aspect of Jeff’s disciplined approach is to leverage third parties—though never in a manner that involves simply turning over jobs to other entities. When Jeff began his work, Brighthouse had less than 20 people. Today, it has about 200. Yet another aspect of Jeff’s working principles is to leverage technological advances and be veryselective about when to build versus buy.

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