Gary R. Schulte
During my twenty five years as a senior executive in the financial services industry this is the only endorsement letter I have written for an outside vendor or consultant.
I am doing so because of the lasting impact the work of George Thom has had on several of the organizations I have led during my career.
Long before it became fashionable for consultants to present themselves as partners to their clients, George was known for his passionate work ethic and total commitment to any project he is involved with. It is, however, the quality of the results that make this letter such a pleasure to write.
The following is but one of many examples I could cite of his unique combination of mathematical genius and common sense.
In 2000, as the Senior Vice President of Distribution for the MetLife Companies (the US’s largest insurer), I was faced with the challenge of finding an effective way to measure, report and monitor distribution expenses and sales force profitability. Along with the size and complexity of the company, we were faced with literally dozens of legacy information systems, almost none of which could talk to each other. Our only choice was to pull data from available sources and create a program for measuring profitability that was somehow accurate enough to be accepted by management.
Of course, we had a very limited budget with which to accomplish this daunting task. There are several variables that determined profitability to an insurance company and each is managed by a different expert. The actuaries, the information systems analysts, the investment analysts, the underwriters, the accountants and the sales department all kept their own records on distribution expenses.
Our problem was that none of them believed we could come up with a single tool that would satisfy everyone’s views how performance should be measured, which is why each department had over time developed their own tracking systems. It was a problem the company had wrestled with many times over many years, so when I came on board hoping it could be solved; I was greeted with uniform skepticism. It was into this environment, after several months of fruitless meetings and analysis that I brought in George Thom.
It took George only a few days to grasp the issues (most of the money I have spent on other consultants has gone toward their education rather than solving my problems). He then met individually with all of the key players in the company and helped me select a task force of which he quickly evolved as the leader. In fact, within a week, George had people in the company who virtually never talked to one another, working enthusiastically on a project they had previously believed impossible.
Through his leadership the group created a common language for distribution performance and then distilled it down to quantifiable measurements that they all agreed upon. From this, George built an incredibly complex - yet easily usable - multi dimensional tool for performance measurement.
For the first time the enterprise had a way of measuring performance that was both understandable and precise. We finally had a handle on one of the key drivers of our business. The value of this cannot be overstated, which thus speaks to the value of George as a trusted advisor as well as technical maven.
But it didn’t end there. We had all concluded that, now that we could keep score, our great task was complete.
George was the one to point out that what we had was a very good rear view mirror, which was important. But, how would we like to turn it into a prospective tool that would allow us to model and project future performance?
None of us had even considered this, nor had the rest of the industry. George showed us how with simple modifications in the assumptions we feed into his dynamic program; we could do “what if” scenarios on every aspect of distribution performance. It was a remarkable opportunity to greatly enhance our planning an budgeting process as well as make better decisions about how we use the companies resources.
It was truly an ingenious tool and George charged us only for a few hours of his time to make the modifications on his program that transformed it from a scoreboard to a crystal ball!
I owe a lot to the generous genius of George Thom and I am sure many other clients share my gratitude.
Gary R Schulte
Gary R. Schulte has over 25 years of diverse experience building,
managing, designing and restructuring life and annuity product delivery
As an award winning agency manager, chief marketing officer and life
company president, Gary is a noted author, international speaker and
consultant to senior management at leading insurance companies,
securities firms and banks. He is the President of the Firemans Fund Financial Services.
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