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Articles  
CEO's - Who fits the bill and why?
 
 
  SECTIONS
The profile
Drive and Motive
The architect of powerhouse
Fighting the battle
Complexities simplified
Loyalty is the word
Info flow
Learn along with the learned
Smart systems


The profile


Top

Work schedules ranging anywhere from eighty to ninety hours a week, immense globe trotting activities, extremely tenacious, ability to handle complexities, a compassionate human being, excellent driver of innovation and diversity, promoter of good governance and a man with extremely good managerial skills.

Picture this job profile of today's CEO and who fits the bill? Undoubtedly, one would figure Hank Greenberg, the CEO of American International Group (AIG). With all these qualities to boast of who would question his CEO of the year award?


Drive and Motive


Top

Ask Greenberg the source for his drive and he confidently answers that he was born with it. And why not Adding to the innate talent to multitask is his grueling work schedule on his family farm during his childhood, his experience in the military and World War II and not the least, a law degree.

Hank Greenberg is now heading the vast empire of AIG. In the year 1960, Cornelius Vander Starr, the founder of the now AIG, tapped Greenberg to develop AIG's domestic accident and health insurance business overseas. And then there was no looking back. Despite various catastrophes, Greenberg traveled miles to take AIG to unreachable heights.


The architect of powerhouse


Top

With his tenacity Greenberg built AIG into one of the colossi of today. AIG is a global insurance powerhouse that boasts of staggering numbers. It operates in over 130 countries employing some 80,000 people with half a trillion dollars plus in assets, shareholder's equity worth 62 billion USD and a market capitalization of 150 billion USD. AIG has been achieving a constant compound annual growth rate of 9 per cent in net income.

If one had invested in AIG in the year 1969, he could fly high in the clouds with an amazing ROI by 19,000 per cent. The figures definitely seem bloated up. But it is a fact, and of course a testament to Greenberg's managerial skill. Surely for he has been able to deliver such great results for so long!

In 2002, however, AIG's common stock declined 27 percent, net profit by 1.4 percent and claims expenses steadily ate into the profits. AIG has been a victim of new risks, like SARS, terrorism, lawsuits and the like, besides others in the insurance industry. Consequently, insurance companies are facing interest rate compression and volatile equity markets, which make revenue and earnings growth hard to achieve.


Fighting the battle


Top

To combat these problems, AIG has a few weapons in its arsenal. Despite a depressing 2002, AIG saw a rise in net income by 3 per cent. Thorough diversification of AIG has created an advantage of stable business. With a leader like Greenberg, AIG has crossed all barriers of positive growth.

Complexities simplified


Top

AIG's sprawling size and diversity makes it impossible for analysts to accurately value it as an investment. Greenberg however has little sympathy for those trying to come to terms with AIG's complexity. He can be amazing when he focuses on myriad details simultaneously. He has the uncanny ability to finish someone else's thought, answer questions and start the next topic before one could think of it. But, "You never walk away confused. You always know what the mission is and that's half the battle", says Tom Tizzio, AIG Senior Vice Chairman.


Loyalty is the word


Top

Greenberg is the promoter of a culture of superior performance that not everybody can handle. However, AIG is not without employees who have worked for Greenberg for decades now. When loyalty is the value in question, there's only one familiar theme. "The boss would never ask anything of his people that he wouldn't do himself". This thought originated from the six years of military life that Greenberg spent as a captain with the Bronze star.

Greenberg's sleep-wake patterns could be frustrating to his subordinates. According to him, there isn't much time to sleep when one is constantly collecting knowledge. And to Greenberg, the day-to-day details are as important as fixing strategies for instance for a five-year plan.


Info flow


Top

Greenberg inculcated the culture of information flow into and within the organization. More than good news Greenberg relies heavily on bad news. He believes that employees must deal with bad news as well. Things don't just get better by delaying. To this Greenberg's senior team readily attests. Says Chief Financial Officer Howard Smith, "I think the thing that annoys him more than anything else is if there's an issue that should have been brought to his attention and wasn't for whatever reason".


Learn along with the learned


Top

Also Greenberg's energy levels are high. He works out five days a week to keep himself fit for the race ahead of him. Greenberg is also a source of high inspiration and learning for his team and his employees.

Greenberg is highly compassionate apart from being exacting. He might scream at his subordinate for some obvious reason but the next moment if his subordinate states a personal problem Greenberg would go out of his way to solve it.


Smart systems


Top

During Greenberg's reign of the AIG Empire, compensation systems weren't bad either. Apart from big salaries and options, AIG put forth a unique system of compensation. This compensation system is based more on income growth than on phenomenal rise in stock prices. If the earnings-per-share (EPS) are up, a correlating number of shares of stock are allocated to those managers holding them. However, if the earnings went down even with high stock price, they'd get nothing as reward. Moreover, since the employees can't take any of it until their retirement, they become heavily interested in the stock's long-term performance.

To stay advanced in the competitive business world AIG's laid heavy focus on:

Cross-selling campaign
Institutional asset management
Quoting the wise
 

Ask Greenberg what AIG's biggest advantage is and he replies, " A lot of companies get complacent. There's no complacency here. When you look at many companies in our industry that were great companies yesterday, many of those names have disappeared. You look at the reasons, it's complacency, and they failed to manage change. They failed to recognize that things were not going to stay the way they were. We look at the future, not the past. Who cares what your record is for the last five years? Shareholders want to know what you are going to do this year and next year and the year after. One of the responsibilities any CEO has is to ensure that your name doesn't become history".

 
 

 

 
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