By Karen-Janine Cohen
Manny Becerra (BBA ’90, BBA ’86), Assurant's chief innovation officer, illustrated the growth of technology with an unforgettable comparison. “There is,” Becerra said, “more computing power in the smartphone than it took to put a person on the moon.”
He added that the smartphone is the center of a connected technology revolution reaching its promise. “You have access to almost all knowledge in the palm of your hand; we can use the same device to control other things in life, from unlocking your car, to the [TV] remote control.”
There is more computing power in the smartphone than it took to put a person on the moon.
– Manny Becerra
Not to mention semi-sentient floor sweepers, robot retail workers, smart fridges and the holy grail of automation: the selfdriving car.
Becerra likely appreciates the perils and promise of crossdevice communication better than most. Before assuming his current position, he headed Assurant's global Connected Living business, the Fortune 500 company’s largest global segment.
Assurant, known for providing protection and technical support for phones, appliances and retail consumer products, also helps businesses support and optimize the already highly connected world.
Leading the innovation team is a natural evolution for Becerra, who encourages team members to explore new ways of thinking. Becerra himself, who never played a musical instrument, took up the piano once appointed head of Connected Living. He felt exploring a new symbolic language would foster creativity.
As head of innovation, Becerra, who lives in Miami, oversees more than 60 projects, from blueprints to pilot-stage endeavors. The goals are to create platforms that anticipate how the “Internet of Things” will morph in the future.
Becerra was born in Atlanta but moved to Miami at age 12. He is pretty much interested in everything.
At FIU, he explored the academic landscape from painting to physics, along with business classes. “There was not a class I didn't enjoy.” He chose to continue at FIU and get a bachelor's in accounting because of the school's high CPA exam pass rates. The curriculum and exacting professors “prepared us well,” he said. He was heavily engaged in student government and was a founder of Sigma Phi Epsilon, Florida Nu. Becerra wanted a career where he could “set a vision, lay out a plan, and lead a team to execute that plan,” he said. He joined Assurant in 1990.
Over his career he led the company's credit protection business, pre-need business and consumer electronics warranty business. He led the mobile business, which morphed to become Global Connected Living, from 2008 to 2021.
Becerra and his wife's free time is spent visiting their three young-adult children who all currently live at least one plane ride away. He is deeply involved in Assurant's United Way initiatives and sits on the FIU Business Dean’s Council. Meanwhile, the piano has gathered dust. “Every time I needed to practice, the kids wanted time,” he said. So he gladly chose family over running scales.