John Hancock to recruit financial tech talent from Boston incubators


It’s no secret that the insurance industry has a recruiting problem. Simply put, it’s difficult to make actuarial tables as attractive to computer gurus and math geniuses as living the startup lifestyle, pulling all-night coding binges, and pitching your product the next day to the venture capitalists who hold the purse strings.

So John Hancock has decided to meet those developers on their turf. The financial-services giant is partnering with incubators MassChallenge and the Startup Institute to find budding tech companies whose products can breathe new vitality — and new opportunities to profit — into an old line of business.

John Hancock is often seen as “an old company — steady, safe,” said Jesse Bean, the head of innovation for investments at Manulife, which owns John Hancock. “Our biggest goal is to get our brand ingrained in the Boston startup community.”

In exchange for access to innovators in the financial technology — or “fintech” — sector, John Hancock has signed sponsorship agreements with MassChallenge and the Startup Institute.

The arrangements could lead to hires and acquisitions, but to start, the focus will be on advising companies, evaluating their pitches, and getting them to think about what they’d need before a company like John Hancock would fund them, he said. He pointed to John Hancock’s May acquisition of the San Francisco wealth-management software company Guide Financial as an example of where the partnerships might lead.

The agreements come two months after the company created its own in-house innovation space, called the Lab of Forward Thinking, or the LOFT, at its South Boston headquarters. Two full-time teams of John Hancock employees totalling 11 workers are working on new projects there, Bean said.