In December 1903, North Carolina earned an auspicious designation-the state to be "first in flight." That's the year Orville Wright achieved the first man-powered, heavier-than-air flight. The Wright Flyer lifted into the air in a trip that lasted 12 seconds covering a distance of 120 feet.A full century later, Greensboro, N.C.-based Jefferson Pilot Financial, a national provider of universal and variable universal life insurance and annuities, is trying to inspire the legacy of its aviation-rich state roots. The company might not be launching small aircraft, but it is launching ambitious initiatives centered around streamlining electronic efficiencies.

One could probably imagine the daunting task of getting a small plane air born in 1903. But in 2003, a handful of financial services providers would concur that piloting IT-related tasks don't automatically get off the ground. Particularly if the objective is to convert information technology from an "overhead position to a strategic position," says Charles Cornelio, executive vice president, underwriting/new business and chief information officer for the Fortune 500 company.

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