The rapidly ageing population has created a complex problem for traditional providers of life and long-term care insurance; one that, as yet, hasn’t found a solution. Doing his best to remedy the situation is Genworth Financial CEO, Thomas McInerney. Since taking the reins at Genworth in 2013, McInerney has faced the shrinkage of the sector head on. While the fruits of his labor haven’t always been quite as bountiful as critics might like, there’s no denying his commitment to transforming Genworth into a modern business ready and able to take on the challenges of a rapidly changing industry. To learn more about the man behind the title, read on.
1. He began his career at Aetna
After earning his B.A. in Economics from Colgate University, McInerney rounded of his education with an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Fresh from graduation, McInerney took the first step in his career with an insurance underwriter position at Aetna. McInerney quickly rose up the ladder at Aetna, taking in multiple senior positions before he eventually left the company for ING Groep NV. During his time at ING, McInerney served in a variety of leadership positions, including as Chief Operating Officer of ING’s insurance and investment management business worldwide. After leaving ING, McInerney served as Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group from June 2011 to December 2012. His 40-year career reached its peak in January 2013, when he was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Genworth.
2. He was named one of Fortune Top 50 Business People in 2013
Shortly after his appointment at Genworth, McInerney was recognized by Fortune as one of the top 50 national senior business leaders. Of their selection, Fortune said, “McInerney is only 11 months into the CEO job but has boosted profits 124% for the first nine months of 2013.” In accepting the honor, McInerney was quick to thank the team around him for his success. “It’s an honor,” said McInerney. “But this is really a tribute to the tremendous commitment of our employees and the vision and expertise of our senior leaders.
3. Fortune thinks he’s overrated
A lot can happen in 2 years- after ranking as one of Fortune’s Top 50 Business People in 2013, it was all change by May 2015, when McInerney earned the dubious distinction of a place on the magazine’s 5 Most Overrated CEO’s list. Fortune acknowledged that McInerney had inherited multiple problems on assuming the helm at Genworth, but slammed the new CEO for doing little to turn the tide on the company’s failing fortunes. If it’s any consolation to McInerney, he at least didn’t take the top spot on the list… that particular dishonor went to General Cable’s CEO, Gregory Kenny.
4. He won the Leadership in the Nation’s Interest Award
3 years after Fortune’s damning indictment of his leadership skills, McInerney appeared to have all but transformed his reputation (if not the company’s). In 2018, the CEO was awarded the Leadership in the Nation’s Interest Award, an annual recognition of business leaders who have demonstrated integrity, purpose and a commitment to the public good. “I am very grateful and deeply honored to have been chosen as the 2018 Leadership in the Nation’s Interest Award recipient,” McInerney said of his selection.
5. The best advice he ever had was to take a step backwards
When asked by CED to describe the best career advise he’s ever received, McInerney’s response was slightly unusual. In business, pushing for a promotion is synonymous with advancement, but in McInerney’s case, it was doing the exact opposite that would have the most long- lasting effect. After being advised to take a demotion to round out his experiences and become a better leader, McInerney had a brief moment of hesitation before realizing the potential benefits. “It occurred to me that a short-term step backward had the potential to enable a giant leap forward,” he explained. “Ultimately, I learned an invaluable lesson – the path to career growth is not always a straight one”.
6. His role model is James T. “Jim” Lynn
The business leader McInerney most respects and tries to emulate is former chairman and CEO of Aetna, James T. “Jim” Lynn. Lynn served as a mentor to the young McInerney when he joined Aetna as a fresh graduate. Of all the qualities McInerney admired about his old boss, it was his intellect, tenacity and quest for constant improvement that struck the most. “When things were going well, he would challenge his colleagues to think about what potentially could go wrong to prevent reasonably foreseeable issues from derailing progress,” McInerney has shared.
7. He’s great at golf
McInerney has shown he can swing a golf club with the best of them. At the hotly contested iGATE CEO Golf Cup 2014, McInerney claimed victory after defeating Larry Coben, CEO of Tremisis Energy, with a solid birdie. McInerney was presented the converted trophy by nine-time major golf champion Gary Player. His win at the charitable event helped secure a hefty donation to Habitat for Humanity (and years’ worth of bragging rights, of course). “We are always pleased to participate in charity tournaments like the excellent iGATE event,” McInerney explained. “It is even better when we can provide additional support to great community partners like Habitat for Humanity.”
8. He’s believes there’s no I in Team
For McInerney, good leadership is rarely just about the leader themselves, it’s about the team they build around them. “Build the strongest, most diverse team possible with the understanding that you do not need to have or even identify all the answers yourself,” he told CED. “Together, you will reach the best decisions and avoid the big mistakes.”
9. His tenure as CEO hasn’t been easy
Since McInerney ascended to the position of CEO, he’s experienced multiple challenges. Within a year of his appointment at Genworth, the company was dubbed one of the Five Worst Investments of 2014 by Fortune, thanks in no small part to its 45% fall in stocks. McInerney’s personal fortunes have suffered almost as much as the company’s: between 2013 and 2014, his compensation fell by a massive 78% (although this was countered to some extent by the $7 million hiring stock grant he received in 2013).
10. He orchestrated the sale of Genworth in 2016
In 2016, Genworth Financial was acquired by the privately held investment company, China Oceanwide Holdings Group, for a reported $2.7 billion. The acquisition, which plowed $1.1 billion into the cash-strapped Genworth, was intended to help the business restructure their substantial debt and strengthen their life insurance units. McInerney, who helped orchestrate the merger, was confident the deal would be a positive step forward for the beleaguered insurance company: “China Oceanwide is an ideal owner for Genworth going forward,” he said. “They recognize the strength of our mortgage insurance platform and the importance of long-term care insurance in addressing an aging population. The capital commitment from China Oceanwide will strengthen our business and increase the likelihood of obtaining regulatory approval.”