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Generation of Change

Although the business climate supposedly is improving, the tough times for CEOs show few signs of going away.

Although the business climate supposedly is improving, the tough times for CEOs show few signs of going away. In March 2005, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the number of CEO departures reached 129, matching the monthly record set in 2000. Full disclosure: My first job after college was with Challenger, Gray & Christmas. I wrote reports about the executives (who included CEOs and presidents) going through the firm's programs, outlining the factors that might delay or even prevent them from getting a new position. The job was the best business education I ever could have had. I learned about office dynamics and politics, deadlines, executive egos, the necessity of change, and that no one is irreplaceable.

Perhaps most important, I learned about downsizing - although I don't think the term was in use when I worked at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The late '70s saw the first wave of large-scale corporate layoffs that had nothing to do with company shutdowns, and the concept of a "job for life" - that someone could spend an entire career employed by the same organization - began to falter. I learned that losing a job often had nothing to do with an executive's performance and everything to do with financial considerations beyond that executive's control, even for a CEO.

Fast forward to 2005. The scandals of the past few years - many of which involved a CEO who was either greedy, clueless or some combination of the two - have cast a shadow on the role itself. Fortunately, I&T has the opportunity to profile some insurance CEOs who stand in sharp contrast to the dimmed public image, even though their responsibilities inevitably have been affected by recent corporate dramas. In our annual report on the industry's most tech-savvy CEOs (page 28), the I&T editorial team reports on five stellar executives who are leading their organizations through turbulent times and clearly recognize how critical technology is in the effort to control corporate destinies.

In fact, perhaps the most significant change in business since my first exposure nearly 30 years ago is the fact that the words "technology-savvy" and "CEO" would be used together in one sentence. This issue documents the sea change.

Katherine Burger, Editorial Director [email protected]

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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