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The Customer is King

The Hartford's David Annis wants to enable his company to meet ever-increasing customer demands.

One of the most rewarding aspects of Annis' job is the chance to serve as a role model, just as others—including two former Hartford CEOs with whom he stays in touch—have served for him. ""I was lucky to have good mentors early in my career. They served as role models, and also gave me brutally honest feedback.""

One such mentor was Ross Perot. Right after receiving his MBA from the University of Maine, Annis went to work for Electronic Data Systems (Dallas), which Perot had founded several years earlier. ""He was just making his first billion,"" says Annis, noting that he was deeply influenced by Perot's philosophy, as was the entire EDS organization. ""It was a culture built around having clear objectives, having the most talented people, always meeting your commitments to customers.""

As his career has progressed-from EDS to The Hartford, where for years he managed the development of systems in both the life and property/casualty divisions before being appointed CIO—Annis has found the job of managing his most precious commodity—time—increasinglychallenging. Each week, he and his assistant block out activities for the week ahead. ""My assistant knows what my priorities are, and she won't schedule things that aren't on my priority list,"" he explains. When he is faced, as he often is, with having to say no to requests for his time, he does so bluntly and forcefully, but with empathy for the other person's feelings, he adds.

But his priorities don't revolve around work alone. Annis strives to maintain a balance between his professional and personal lives. ""Everybody's got to find a balance,"" says the 49-year-old executive. ""I went through a stage in my career where work became too big, and in growing and learning, I found a way to get back to a better balance."" Doing so takes discipline, he explains. ""The job at this level is very consuming. You've got to work to make sure it doesn't take all of you.""

Every weekend during the summer, and once or twice a month the rest of the year, Annis and his wife repair to their cottage in the mountains of New Hampshire—to be with family and friends, to get outdoors, to reflect. They also use the time to discuss long-range objectives. ""My wife and I sit down at least once a year and talk about our 10-year goals and our one-year goals. We talk about career, but also about family and personal health and recreation.""

As he considers what he might want to do later in life, Annis thinks about possible careers in education or consulting, where he started out with EDS. He's been approached by his alma mater, the University of Maine, about helping to develop a technology program. But for now, his focus is squarely on helping The Hartford achieve its goals. ""At the stage where you get to have a lot of impact, it requires a lot of focus. This business is changing by the day and by the hour.""



A 19-year company veteran, Annis was promoted to CIO in 1999. In 1998, he was appointed senior vice president of IT for The Hartford, after three years as vice president of P&C systems, where he helped develop commercial, personal, claims, billing, actuarial and corporate automation systems. From 1986 to 1995, he was with the Employee Benefits division of Hartford Life.


EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and MBA, University of Maine.

HOBBIES/RECREATION: Annis has a second home in New Hampshire, where he entertains family and friends, engages in outdoor activities and relaxes.


KEY QUOTE: ""The more you explain to people the rationale that went into your decision-making, the more trustworthy you become.""

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