Protective LifeFour members of the C-Suite of Protective Life Corporation, including chief executive officer Johnny Johns, hosted  students in the combined MBA and undergraduate capstone class “Strategic leadership through the eyes of the C-Suite” on November 12, 2013 at company headquarters, to discuss their company’s strategy.

In addition to CEO Johns, also present were Chief Operations Officer Mark Cyphert, Chief Marketing Officer Frank Sottosanti, and Chief Risk Officer Mike Temple.

 Mr. Johns and Mr. Sottosanti acknowledged that the life insurance industry gave up direct contact with customers when it adopted a distribution model that relied on third party life insurance agents. Mr. Johns said that over the decades that this model has been in effect, the result has been that life insurance has become a commodity product in which insurers must compete on price.

Johns said that Protective Life has embarked on a strategy that will allow them to get closer to customers so as to be able to demonstrate the company’s mission to “break down the barriers that prevent customers from protecting their tomorrows and free them to embrace today.”

Chief Operations Officer Mark Cyphert also described the process the company has followed to set its strategy, noting that the company has used the “Five Forces Model” of Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter to determine what forces are working for or against the company’s ability to achieve a long-term sustainable edge in the market. Students have been studying the Porter model throughout the semester.

A group of students who had studied the strategy of Protective Life in depth made a presentation to the Protective Life C-Suite team and made several recommendations on expanding into new products or new geographic territories. Mr. Johns described what diversification has been considered by the company, but noted that “deciding what you not do is often as important as deciding what you do.”

Protective Life is one of the oldest companies in Birmingham, having been established over 100 years ago, and its market capitalization of over $3.6 billion is at an all-time high. The company has over 2,400 employees, about one-half at its headquarters on Highway 280 in Birmingham.

Protective Life has provided many work internship opportunities for Collat School of Business students. Alumna Melanie McNary is a vice president in the human resources department responsible for Protective’s summer internship program. Another alumna, Eva Robertson, is the company’s vice president for investor relations, and attended the class presentation.

“Strategic leadership through the eyes of the C-Suite” is taught by School of Business professor Stephen Yoder, and features visits with CEOs of public or other large complex organizations who discuss their organizations’ strategies and how they are developed and implemented.