JoAnn Martin, ’75, knows the value of making a difference in the lives of those around her. Her efforts to create positive change as CEO and president of Ameritas, recently resulted in being named 2019 chair of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), which represents 290 companies, accounting for 95 percent of U.S. life insurer assets. Martin also serves as chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation board of directors, is a board member for NRC Health and was named 2018 Inspire Woman of the Year by the Lincoln Journal Star
“JoAnn is an effective leader with a keen understanding of the issues affecting the life insurance industry and its policyholders,” said Susan Neely, president and CEO of ACLI. “With her leadership, ACLI will continue to enhance our advocacy on behalf of our members and the 90 million American families who have entrusted life insurers with their financial and retirement security.”
She becomes only the second woman to hold the post of chair of the ACLI. In the midst of all her responsibilities, she believes her success results from her attitude and mindset to connect with those she serves on a daily basis.
“I love what I do here in Lincoln because at Ameritas we’re in the business of fulfilling life,” Martin told Nebraska Business students at a past Executive Insights panel discussion. “Once you become a CEO, your responsibility is to the organization, so your professional life and your personal life become co-mingled. You can’t really separate the two. I get a big satisfaction out of being individualistic. I like to know something personal about each of our associates and live with them through their lives at Ameritas.”
Martin initially came to Ameritas 34 years ago. Her start at the College of Business might have foretold a different direction.
“I majored in accounting and previously worked at a public accounting firm, but I purposefully chose to work in insurance because I love what we do,” she said. “We talk about our customers a lot, and from a culture standpoint, we want our customers and associates to feel like they own the company. I go to work every day knowing our products and services make a tremendous difference in people’s lives.”
In addition to her role engaging with students at events like Executive Insights, Martin was also named a past College of Business Master, where individuals with exceptional business achievement spend time at college functions providing expertise to help drive discovery for future business leaders. Dr. Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business, lauded Martin for her ability to set an example for students.
“JoAnn is one of those special individuals who checks every box on leadership, business accomplishment, service and mentoring,” said Farrell. “We believe we’re making a difference at the College of Business by providing students, particularly women, the ability to visualize themselves having success in any business field they choose to tackle. There’s no better example than JoAnn Martin to show our students what they can do when they believe in what they’re doing and focus on the greater good.”
Farrell believes Martin being named chair of an organization with the magnitude of the American Council of Life Insurers shows everyone the impact Nebraskans make it matter nationwide and around the globe. Martin’s devotion to insurance has proven to be instrumental in her successful career at Ameritas and beyond.
“Life insurers provide consumers with the confidence that comes with knowing that their families’ financial futures are protected from life’s uncertainties,” Martin said. “I look forward to working with ACLI and the board to ensure state, federal and global policymakers know the important role the life insurance industry plays in consumers’ lives and in the economy.”
As recipient of the Inspire Woman of the Year, Martin emphasized the important strides women of her generation have made in business. She sees it in the students at Nebraska, in the workplace at Ameritas and throughout the Lincoln community.
"I think once you have women in leadership, it helps attract other women to leadership. It affects the culture and encourages women to step forward. It’s the openness. I hope Lincoln continues to foster that kind of environment," she said.