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In Search of Stars

This month's editorial about CEOs by Katherine Burger, Editorial Director.

CEOs—can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Glib though it may be, one can't help thinking that way in these times of "back to basics," layoffs, tight budgets...and increased scrutiny of performance, public demands for greater executive accountability, and a general demystification of what might be called the "cult of the CEO." Just a few years ago CEOs—especially in high-tech—were media celebrities. Today, we're only too aware that they all put their pants on one leg at a time, as my father would say.

Despite today's generally lowered expectations regarding CEO performance, there are some executives who stand out from the crowd—for good reasons. We've identified five such exemplars in this issue of Insurance & Technology, our annual report on some of the industry's most "tech-savvy" CEOs. There are both familiar faces and a couple of lesser-known execs in this year's group, but they all have some things in common, including graduate degrees, enjoyment of golf, ability to delegate and to recognize talent, and, increasingly, technology management experience. At least one even served as CIO at an earlier point in his career.

Of course, it's not just having the title, it's knowing what to do with it—true for CIOs and CEOs alike. It takes more than a knowledge of programming to understand technology's potential to set an organization apart, and it takes more than an ability to crunch numbers to create a profitable and competitive business. Just as with everyone's favorite anagram, ROI, getting there is a sometimes-elusive combination of nuts-and-bolts skills and accomplishments, plus those less-quantifiable characteristics such as vision, energy, bravery and humor.

Somehow, this year's tech-savvy CEOs have found the right balance. In today's tough market, that makes them VIPs, of sorts.

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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