James T. Blackledge is both the CEO and the Chairman of Mutual of Omaha. It is interesting to note that Mutual of Omaha is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, which is to say, a mutual insurance company that is headquartered out of Omaha, NE but operates throughout the rest of the United States as well. Blackledge has been the CEO since 2015, but he wasn’t the Chairman of the Board until 2018. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about James T. Blackledge:
1. Got His Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Blackledge got his initial education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which is a public research university situated in the city of Lincoln in the state of Nebraska. Said school can claim the honor of being the first institution of higher learning established in the state. Moreover, it is the biggest of the schools that can be found within the University of Nebraska system as well.
2. Is an Actuary
His Bloomberg profile makes it clear that Blackledge started out as an actuary and has remained an actuary to this very day. For those who are unfamiliar with said individuals, actuaries are professionals who specialize in the measurement as well as the management of risk, meaning that they are very common in the insurance industry. Generally speaking, the path to becoming an actuary is a tough one, but in exchange, interested individuals can expect excellent earnings should they continue to pursue it.
3. Went to Creighton University
Later, Blackledge took an increased interest in management, which is how he winded up studying for a MBA at Creighton University. In short, said school was founded by Jesuits, which explains why it is one of the 28 members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. There are a lot of Jesuit schools out there for the simple reason that education has always been one of the religious order’s most prominent roles ever since its founding in the 16th century.
4. Has Been a Chief Information Officer
Over the course of his career, Blackledge has been a Chief Information Officer (CIO). Essentially, a CIO is responsible for overseeing the IT resources. As such, while the role came into existence in the 1980s, it has seen a huge surge in importance in more recent times. Insurance companies have been no exception to this rule, particularly since they are very, very reliant on the data that CIOs are responsible for.
5. Has Been a Chief Risk Officer
Besides being a CIO, Blackledge has been a Chief Risk Officer (CRO) as well. In the CRO’s case, position-holders are expected to assess the situation in order to anticipate potential threats to an organization that can arise both from within and without so that they can use various methods to minimize the potential impact of those threats. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is critical for insurance companies, whose line of business is even more focused on risk measurement and management than other companies in other sectors.
6. Oversees a Mutual Insurance Company
Blackledge oversees a mutual insurance company rather than a capital stock insurance company. The crucial difference between these two kinds of insurance companies is that mutual insurance companies are owned by their policyholders whereas capital stock insurance companies are owned by their shareholders. Theoretically, this means that the people running mutual insurance companies are under less pressure to focus on short-term profit at the expense of other considerations.
7. Got Into Actuarial Science By Pure Chance
There are some people who choose their careers beforehand. In contrast, chance plays a much bigger role for other individuals. In the case of Blackledge, it is interesting to note that he wound up going into actuarial science by pure chance. What happened was that he was walking between classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when he saw a sign stating “actuarial science.” Since he had no idea what that was, he walked into the office, where the department chairman told him that it was a way to “use mathematics to help people.” Due to this, Blackledge signed up for an introductory course for the next semester before proceeding further.
8. Came to His Position At a Complicated Time
Blackledge rose to his top leadership position at a complicated time. This is because the insurance industry was facing a number of challenges, which ranged from new governmental regulations to low insurance rates and rising consumer interest in the latest technologies. With that said, Mutual of Omaha was in a strong financial position at the time, meaning that it was in a good position to tackle those challenges.
9. Has Looked into Expansion
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blackledge has looked into various ways to expand Mutual of Omaha. One potential option was an acquisition of some kind, though Mutual of Omaha would have to be limited to something small in scale because of a lack of resources with which to secure anything bigger. Another potential option was launching more products to bring in more revenues from more consumers.
10. Has Mentioned Instant Gratification As a Challenge
It is interesting to note that Blackledge has mentioned instant gratification as a challenge for his industry in modern times. Essentially, he believes that people becoming accustomed to instant gratification has made it more difficult for him to sell insurance products that have their payoffs in the long run rather than the short run, which is something that has complicated the handling for some of his company’s current products as well as some of his company’s potential products. With that said, people’s ability to suppress their short-term desires in exchange for greater gains in the future has been a serious issue for insurance companies as well as other organizations since, well, before the start of human civilization.