Meet Sandi Tillotson, Chief Compliance Officer.

New York Life | March 7, 2023

Our new head of Corporate Compliance discusses her career path and the benefits of internal mobility.

Sandi Tillotson headshot

Sandi Tillotson is no stranger to Compliance and Risk Management. An attorney by trade, since joining New York Life in 2003, she has had roles in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), Corporate Compliance (CCD), and Risk Management. We spoke with her to learn more about her vision as the new Chief Compliance Officer and the path that brought her to this point in her career.  

What does the role of Chief Compliance Officer entail?

I lead the Corporate Compliance Department and the compliance functions that support both the insurance and investments businesses. It’s a team of approximately 140 people with a range of different backgrounds and areas of expertise.

CCD’s mission is to uphold New York Life’s commitment to integrity and humanity by doing the right thing for our customers and to partner with our business areas to achieve the company’s strategic objectives and maintain its financial strength. In my first town hall I also laid out what I view as CCD’s strategic objectives:

  • Ensure all programs are effective, aligned with relevant laws and regulations, and reviewed on an ongoing basis
  • Partner with business leaders to advance business goals and priorities
  • Provide business areas with timely guidance, data insights, and industry trends
  • Strengthen our monitoring programs and use data more effectively and efficiently
  • Remain focused on enhancing employee diversity, engagement, and development

We have a strong compliance program today. I want to continue to enhance the program and also look ahead to ensure that our program adapts to changes around us — both inside and outside New York Life. We need to be involved in projects early and we need to understand what the business priorities are and why so that we can be an integral part of finding the way forward. Another one of my goals is to think about how we can use data to help us do our job more effectively and efficiently.

Talk about your career path.

I didn’t always want to be an attorney. I was a history major in college. When I graduated, I found a job working for [former Secretary of State] Madeline Albright at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in the public relations area. This was an eye-opening experience for me. I had always been fascinated by international affairs, but I noticed there were a lot of legal aspects to working at the UN. I realized if I wanted to advance, I’d probably have to go to law school.

After graduating from law school, I worked for a firm as a litigator. Litigation appealed to me because I liked learning the facts of each matter and then building my arguments and articulating a story that was compelling and persuasive. I learned a great deal, but when I saw an opening at New York Life for a litigator, I thought it would be a great opportunity to use my skills in-house. I joined New York Life in 2003 and spent many years in the litigation section of OGC. In 2014, I moved to Compliance and spent two-and-a-half years there working with the sales compliance teams. Then it was back to OGC to manage litigation while performing my duties as Chief of Staff to Chief Legal Officer Sheila Davidson. In September 2018, I moved to a role heading the Corporate Risk Practice teams in the Risk Management Department. In January 2020, I returned to Compliance where I was responsible for the sales compliance functions for our insurance businesses. I just recently became the Chief Compliance Officer when Sara Badler retired at the end of 2022. 

Talk about the importance of Compliance to New York Life.

We’ve seen a very active regulatory environment over the past few years. We need to constantly work with our partners in the business, OGC, and the Office of Governmental Affairs to ensure the company is ready and prepared to meet regulatory changes. New York Life has a great reputation and internal culture that’s built on doing the right thing. It’s foundational to the company, and CCD plays a critical role in fostering this culture.

What’s your advice to others on changing roles within the company?

The knowledge I’ve acquired in each role has given me a broader view and better understanding of what’s going on at the company. It’s easy to stay in a spot that feels comfortable — there’s nothing wrong with being excellent at what you do. But moving gives you a challenge and new skills. Your view and perspective become more valuable, even if you return to an area where you worked previously. By challenging yourself, you also learn more about what you’re able to do.

I also recommend that people develop and maintain a strong internal network.  It’s important to have colleagues and mentors with whom you can discuss issues or challenges or just share a laugh. I also recommend that employees take advantage of our Employee Resource Groups which offer great programs on many topics as well as opportunities to expand your internal network. When I was the co-chair of The Women’s Initiative, I met many people from different areas of the organization and it was great to learn more about areas that I had not worked with before.

You’ve managed quite a few teams. Describe your style.

The most important thing for me is to empower my people to do their jobs— help them understand how their role fits in with the bigger picture. I welcome and expect my teams to ask questions and challenge the status quo. I try to find a balance where I give teams support while knowing when to step back and let them do what they need to do. 

What keeps you busy outside of the office?

My three kids — Ace (16), Jack (14), and Sophie (10). My weekends are often spent cheering them on at different sporting events. But I also love the outdoors and enjoy running and skiing. When I’m able to find some quiet time for myself, I love to read a good book or cook a really good meal.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937