Liam E. McGee, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Hartford, died on Friday after a battle with cancer, the company announced on Monday.
McGee, a former executive for Bank of America Corp., is widely credited leading a financial turnaround and strategic repositioning of The Hartford—fixing problems exacerbated by the financial crisis by unloading risk and restructuring operations in line with the capital base.
At The Hartford, McGee most recently served as executive chair, a position from which he stepped down on January 5, 2015. He previously held the additional roles of chairman, president and CEO of The Hartford from October 1, 2009, through July 1, 2014.
Before joining The Hartford, he spent more than three decades as a financial services business leader, most recently serving as president of the Consumer and Small Business bank for Bank of America. In that role, he oversaw the bank’s more than 5,000 branches, then the largest network in the nation.
In a statement about McGee’s passing, Chris Swift, The Hartford’s current chairman and CEO, highlighted McGee’s tireless efforts is leading the strategic and financial transformation of the company. “His vision of The Hartford as an exceptional company, celebrated for financial performance, character and customer value will continue to be a guiding principle for all of our colleagues,” Swift said, expressing gratitude for McGee’s contributions to the company and community, and for his guidance, wisdom and friendship.
The Hartford statement also included expressions of sadness and gratitude from Ken Lewis, former Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, Thomas A. Renyi, Presiding Director of The Hartford, and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy.
Calling McGee “a true visionary,” Lewis said: “He had ideas about how things should be and would be in the future that were special and unique to him. He had an amazing ability to convey that vision; help others see their role in it and follow his leadership to achieve amazing results.”
Renyi called McGee “a man of commitment, integrity and compassion,” noting that McGee “made the tough decisions necessary to guide the company” through the turnaround “with an unwavering focus on what was best for our company, our customers, our employees, our shareholders and our community.”
During an interview with Carrier Management this year, Swift also spoke about McGee’s commitment to the turnaround, the partnership that developed between the two leaders, the sense of urgency that McGee instilled in The Hartford culture, and his dedication to mentoring and leadership development.
“He and I really talked about just a tenacity, about executing to what we believe in, keeping the faith,” Swift said, when asked to share the advice the McGee gave to Swift when Swift succeeded McGee as CEO.
Governor Malloy said: “Liam set two missions when he came here, saving a great American company and improving the city in which it is headquartered. He accomplished both.”
McGee took an active leadership role in the Asylum Hill community where The Hartford has been headquartered for nearly 100 years. In 2010, the company announced a $7 million, five-year investment in the local neighborhood to attack blight, rebuild homes, nurture and educate children, support families and encourage independence.
Louis J. Golden, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, said: “Liam McGee, whose life embodied the success inherent in the American Dream, was dedicated to inspiring, educating and providing opportunities to young people. His enthusiastic support of Junior Achievement, one of the many causes he championed, is testimony to his belief that a corporation can use its resources to strengthen the communities it serves and work toward a bright future for all people.”
Since resigning as The Hartford’s chairman and CEO, McGee and his family relocated to his home state of California. In addition to his continued advisory role with The Hartford, McGee was actively writing and mentoring CEOs of not-for-profit organizations, based on his own lessons learned.
McGee received the distinguished appointment of Professor in Residence at the University of San Diego, his alma mater, in both their School of Law and School of Business Administration.
McGee served as a member of the Business Roundtable and on the boards of The Financial Services Roundtable as well as Catalyst, a global organization that builds inclusive workplaces and opportunities for women in business. He also served on the board of the University of San Diego.
McGee was chairman of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Junior Achievement of Southern California, and the University of San Diego Board of Trustees. In addition, he served two terms as a director of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Liam E. McGee Memorial Fund in support of the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital, 80 Seymour Street, Hartford, CT 06102, or online at https://giving.harthosp.org/tributegift or Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, 70 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06105.