Thanks to the prominence of a certain real estate developer from Queens, the public's current image of a successful CEO is a guy with bad hair, a taste for opulent furnishings, an ability to play underlings against each other and a penchant for public terminations. (One can only imagine what standards will be set when the Richard Branson rip-off of "The Apprentice" airs later this year.) Fortunately for the insurance industry, compared to Donald Trump, the chief executives Insurance & Technology has profiled over the years in our "Tech-Savvy CEOs" series combine more modesty and objectivity with their professional skills.
This year's roster is no different. This issue's profiles show that the cult of personality is not one of the tools in the arsenals of these very effective CEOs. I'll concede that they share some traits with The Donald: a willingness to ignore conventional wisdom, an understanding of the need to embrace change and a recognition of the importance of having motivated and talented employees.
It's hard to imagine how a CEO could accomplish anything without these characteristics, and I&T's technology-astute chiefs add to the mix an appreciation of how much the success of their businesses depends on skillful technology deployment. But with growth the new buzzword, it will be tempting for many executives to try for the high-profile grand gesture. Risk taking, another essential CEO skill, can't be an end in itself. The savvy chiefs know technology not only enables growth, but also can be a check on it. That's where the Trump analogies end, since in today's post-Enron world, it can't be assumed that when an IT initiative doesn't pan out, it will be the CIO who is told, "You're fired!"
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