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Featured New York Life Insurance Agent: Sandra Manzanilla

Frank Chiovaro

"I know this is going to sound so clichéd, but I really like helping people,” says Agent Sandra Manzanilla of New York Life's Manhattan General Office (G.O.). “I like helping people prepare for the future, so there’s definitely a lot of self-satisfaction that comes with being a New York Life Agent."

Manzanilla, a native New Yorker, became an Agent in 2002, but even before joining New York Life, she was interested in helping others. Graduating from Hunter College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Food Science, she went to work for the New York State “Women, Infants and Children" (WIC) program, which safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods, support and referrals to health care.

After working for WIC for a few years, Manzanilla felt she needed a change in order to grow, both personally and professionally. She landed a job at a financial services firm, but stayed for only a few months. "I liked the idea of helping people with their money and helping them plan their financial future, but I didn’t like the environment,” she recalls. “But when I interviewed at New York Life, I really liked what the Company stood for and I was happy with the character of the people who worked in this office."

So has she been able to apply any of her experience at WIC as a New York Life agent? "I did a lot of one-to-one work when I was talking to the women in the WIC program, so working with my clients in that sort of setting was very familiar to me,” she says.

“I know this is going to sound so clichéd, but I really like helping people. I like helping people prepare for the future, so there’s definitely a lot of self-satisfaction that comes with being a New York Life Agent.”

With the recent instability of the United States economy, the last few weeks have been busy for Manzanilla. She’s been calling and meeting with her clients to assure them of the stability of the Company. "Basically, I just review everything with them and reassure them with New York Life’s 163-year history of mutuality, integrity and financial strength,” she says. Despite the gloomy economic headlines in the daily media, she says none of her clients have called her in a frenzied panic because they know doing business with New York Life is a sound financial choice. "When I meet with a new client, I tell them what to expect from the beginning,” she says.

Manzanilla, who speaks Spanish fluently, says her client base is about 70 percent Latino. “I’m half Mexican, half Puerto Rican, so I’m able to connect with the Latino community. Now more than ever, there is an increased need for Life insurance within that community,” she points out. "I know from my upbringing, I had no knowledge of Life insurance and I know that the same lack of knowledge and experience exists within the community today."

Connecting with her community is not just about insurance — it’s about life. Manzanilla is involved in several programs aimed at making life better for Hispanics in New York. One of them is the Hispanic Scholarship Fund which, in addition to providing financial assistance so Hispanic High School students can attend college, educates the parents and students about the entire process of applying to institutions of higher learning. Another charitable group she is involved in is Alianza Ecuatoriana, which is dedicated to assisting immigrants from Ecuador who live in New York.

Additionally, Manzanilla conducts financial seminars for the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation (EHBCC). East Harlem, also known by locals as “El Barrio" is a historically Latino section of New York City. The EHBCC helps people within the community to start their own businesses through educational seminars and loans. "Being a New York Life Agent, I am running my own business, and I feel like I bring that experience to my seminars,"

And when she not helping to improve the community, she’s helping her G.O. grow. She attends job fairs at several colleges around the city, trying to recruit agents and financial service professionals. For the past two years, Manzanilla has also taken on the role of mentor to new agents. She says of her experience as a mentor: "There is always a bit of hesitation and nervousness with the new agents, but I tell them to have enthusiasm and a positive attitude, but the main thing I stress is making sure they always doing the right things by the clients."

It might sound cliché to say Manzanilla is "living the brand", but with her blend of humanity and integrity at work and in the community, there is no finer example of what The New York Life is all about.