A career path that starts in the technology department and ends with the top job as chief executive officer hasn’t been common in the property/casualty insurance industry, but it was a natural one for Westfield’s Ed Largent.
Executive Summary"If we can provide a classic risk transfer mechanism plus other products, services to a commercial business that they view as valuable, that then becomes a very different kind of experience than the standard 'insurance' experience. That is the aspiration," Westfield President and CEO Ed Largent told CM recently, explaining a transformation currently underway at the Ohio company he leads focused on small business. He also recounted his own personal evolution—from computer science graduate to an organizational leadership role, putting him in position to shape a culture of collaboration that makes innovation possible today.
In fact, when asked how he found the courage to make the scary leap from the world of computers to the C-suite, Largent offered an entirely different perspective during a recent interview.
“If you’re really good from a technology standpoint, then you understand the business; if you don’t understand the business, you can destroy a lot of value spending dollars on IT,” he said.
Largent said he prided himself on having a grasp of all facets of the business even back when he moved into his first enterprise-level leadership role as chief technology officer in 2005. “At that point, I’m reporting to the CEO. I’m on the CEO’s team. You could argue that very little about that job is truly about technology. It’s about people and leadership and strategy and execution…It really felt like a pretty natural move for me,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about it that way—the leap that you described.”