IPO Smarts

Bridget Healy, chief legal officer at Voya financial says "Change is constant, and change leads to opportunity."

Voya Financial’s debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013 was heralded as a resounding success. Bridget Healy explains how she and her legal team executed a sound plan to ensure everything went off without a hitch

Bridget Healy stepped outside into a New York day defined by change: it was the second day of May 2013, the trees finally showed lush and full, and a bright orange banner stretched across the pillars of the New York Stock Exchange. The letters of Healy’s company, accompanied by its new ticker symbol, were printed across the banner in bold white letters: VOYA.

For Healy, Voya Financial’s chief legal officer, that banner captured all the excitement of three years’ worth of work. Healy and her team were instrumental in the process that led to ING U.S. becoming a publicly traded company and, ultimately, rebranding itself a year later as Voya Financial. “The journey has been one of change,” Healy says. “Constant change. And with that change, new opportunity and new challenge.”

When Healy joined ING Americas in 2007, the company’s Amsterdam-based parent, ING Group, was in acquisition mode, buying financial institutions throughout North and Latin America. Then the financial crisis hit, and ING’s focus had to change. Three years ago, the United States retirement, investment, and insurance operations of ING began the process of preparing for an initial public offering and adopting a new brand identity. Healy’s legal and compliance teams worked to develop a culture, structure, and skill set to handle both smoothly. “It was like solving the ultimate regulatory puzzle,” she says.

Prepping her team for the undertaking was no small task. Some had been with the company for 15 years or more, and others had been on board for only a couple of years. Some were excited, and others were intimidated. Healy likens her team’s role to that of Ginger Rogers, the American actress who often performed alongside Fred Astaire. Rogers had to dance as well as Astaire, Healy notes, but in high heels and backward. Her team, likewise, had to keep up with litigation and the company’s ongoing day-to-day business needs while also working on the IPO.

Healy focused her attention on training both at the New York headquarters and across the country. She and her team traveled to the company’s other locations to make themselves visible to employees, and they identified themselves as the ones to turn to with questions about the process. “We made clear that there were no dumb questions,” Healy says. “We were all in this together, and if you were not sure of the answer, [you could] raise your hand and ask it—we all got better and stronger as a result.”

From the very beginning of a journey that would take years, Healy’s days and nights got longer. She had to identify which skill sets her team already possessed and which they would need going forward, and then she had to fill those gaps with training and selective recruiting. She also had to identify what the company lacked that it would need once it became public. For example, Voya needed public company insider-trading policies and processes. Someone had to develop them, as well as other compliance protocols. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, perhaps, for an in-house lawyer, to experience and live through the IPO process as opposed to being in an outside firm and advising,” Healy says.

The rebranding process began before the IPO, but it was carried out in a similarly methodical manner. Healy was a member of the core group that sifted through different colors,

shapes, and words, trying to find the ones that captured their company’s essence.  Fairly early in the process, they noticed that many companies in the financial services sector used different shades of blue in their branding efforts. For Voya, they chose a hue that falls on the other end of the color wheel. Orange served them well during their era as an ING affiliate, but they chose a distinct shade for Voya. The group also chose a name that, for the first time, gave the US company its own identity.

Voya, taken from the word voyage, is meant to reflect momentum, optimism, and advancement. “It’s meant to remind us that a secure financial future is more than reaching a destination,” Healy says. “Retirement is not a destination. It’s about a journey, a voyage to financial security.”

As part of both processes, Healy’s legal team developed a tight core of talented members who worked to guide the company though the IPO process, and in May 2013, Voya debuted. The company held the year’s second-best performing IPO, trailing only Twitter. ING Group currently owns 43 percent of Voya, and Healy and her colleagues continue to support and work with their largest shareholder as ING Group seeks to completely divest its ownership in Voya. The goal is to reach that point no later than the end of 2016.

As the company explores its new identity, one thing is clear to Healy and other Voya leaders: their focus is on their customers and shareholders. “And on our mission,” Healy adds, “which is to secure a financial future one person, one family, and one institution at a time.”