A Q&A with Jessica Choi: Attracting Diverse Talent

By Nidhi Madhavan

Jan. 9, 2017


Jessica Choi

Jessica Choi has three mottos: always be learning, make an impact, and have fun. Since joining Penn Mutual Life Insurance  Co. in Philadelphia two years ago, the associate vice president of talent acquisition and diversity has embedded these goals into all of Penn’s recruiting efforts. She also aims to bring diversity to the organization at a time when the average financial services employee is a 58-year-old white male and women make up only 25 percent of life insurance advisers. Workforce intern Nidhi Madhavan caught up with Choi via email to discuss Penn’s efforts to attract women, veterans and Generation Z.

Workforce: Why do you think diversity is an important asset for Penn Mutual?

Jessica Choi: Our clients all have specific needs for their financial future, and we want to have advisers with diverse perspectives who can best service those needs.

WF:  Explain what Penn Mutual calls ‘Diversity of Thought.’

Choi: Everyone has different backgrounds and experiences, and those differences create unique perspectives that we want in our organization. We are focused on holistic aspects of diversity with respect to experiences, culture and perspectives beyond visible representation or EEOC measures. Our leaders are also willing to listen and change. Two of my colleagues have worked at Penn for years and have significant institutional knowledge to share. At the same time, they’re always willing to listen to me, even when I push their buttons. That’s what we want from our candidates: people who can challenge our thinking and raise new questions.

WF: What were some of the challenges Penn faced in recruiting diverse candidates?

Choi: Our No. 1 problem was branding. Penn mutual is a 169-year-old organization, and until last year, we’ve operated on a business-to-business level. All our branding and messaging was targeted toward life insurance advisers, so consumers in the marketplace didn’t know who we were. In the past year, we’ve worked to educate the public about our company’s story and become more client-centric.

WF: What other initiatives has the company taken to attract diverse talent?

Choi: A lot of recruiting conversations center around millennials, but they’re already a big part of our workforce. We decided that we needed to start talking about Generation Z. We wanted to attract this new, diverse generation of talent by updating our onboarding process. Our adviser development program starts with the Penn Mutual Pathways Internship. At the end of the internship, they walk away with a life and health license.

WF: What were the results of these initiatives?

Choi: We had our second highest recruiting year in our history last year, and we’re hoping to beat that record [in 2016]; 32 percent of our Pathways interns were women, ethnically diverse or veterans. Managers are excited about the impact the interns have during the 10 weeks they are with us. They provided fresh perspectives and energy.

Nidhi Madhavan is a Workforce editorial intern. Comment below or email



Nidhi Madhavan is a Workforce editorial intern.

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