12_Nadine Vogel

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Giving birth to two daughters with special needs changed Nadine Vogel's world—and she, in turn, changed the worlds of thousands of families in similar circumstances. She developed a business plan for a new division of MetLife that would serve the financial, legal, and social issues of parents with special-needs children. It's called MetDESK—MetLife's division of estate planning for special kids. The division has grown from a handful of people to 160 specialists serving thousands of families. Vogel was recognized by "Working Mother" magazine as one of the "25 Mothers We Love" in 2000. "My idea was unprecedented," says Vogel. "But I knew that with drive and determination, I could illustrate why a large financial-services institution should concentrate on a market that had been underserved—and make it work."

Nadine Vogel
Vice president of marketing and founder of MetDESK, MetLife
Jersey City, New Jersey
http://www.metlife.com/desk

Read a Web exclusive about Nadine Vogel

FROM NADINE'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:

What needed an overhaul?
When my two daughters were born with special needs, I had no one to turn to—no single advocacy organization or professional association to help my husband and I through the maze of legal, financial, and medical issues that would consume our lives. We had to do it all ourselves. I would put my boxing gloves on everyday to prepare myself to fight whoever I needed to in order to help my daughters. The special needs community needed an advocate and resource to turn to because it didn't exist. My reaction was to turn my 5-drawer file cabinet of resources into a tangible service to help families with children and dependents with special needs.

What was the single biggest obstacle?
Determining how to consolidate and communicate the reams of information available to families with children with special needs. I asked myself, "How do I provide the information and resources families need easily and efficiently?" I knew the answer. I had to take my own personal experiences as a mother of 2 daughters with special needs plus my passion for advocacy and bring it into the corporate world. I knew I needed the support of my employer, MetLife, to help me achieve my goal of helping families nationwide. My idea was unprecedented, but with drive and determination, I knew I could successfully illustrate why a large financial services institution should concentrate on a market that has largely been underserved- and make it work.

How did you overcome it?
My background is in financial planning, so that's where I started. I developed a business plan to create a division of MetLife that would be dedicated to helping families with the financial, legal and social issues facing parents of special needs children. I knew it was appropriate because MetLife's vision is to provide financial freedom for everyone, and that is what my program is all about. After careful planning, discussions at the highest levels, and more research than I could ever imagine, MetDESK was created- MetLife's Division of Estate Planning for Special Kids. Our core strength lies in our specialists. I was adamant that everyone working with MetDESK as a financial specialist must have a connection with the special needs community and an understanding of their unique challenges. Plus, everyone had to undergo extensive training to understand the ever-changing laws that affect the special needs community.

How have you seen results?
With the creation of MetDESK in 1998, we became the first program of its kind in the industry to focus solely on helping families with children with special needs with estate and financial planning. We have grown from a handful of MetDESK specialists to over 160 specialists serving thousands of families nationwide. We have created a successful interactive web site (http://www.metlife.com/desk) dedicated to providing families with one-stop shopping for resources, educational information, and referrals. And, as a result of our commitment, we have been awarded the Valued Customer Award by the National Business and Disability Council for 3 consecutive years. I was also recognized by Working Mother magazine as one of the "Top 25 Mothers We Love" in 2000. Personally, it is very gratifying to see my 5-drawer file cabinet transform into a service that helps so many families provide their children with special needs with not only life- time care, but quality of life.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2002

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