Pat Kenny, Day One
If anyone belongs in a column called “At Large,” it’s the president of the International Insurance Society. The peripatetic nature of that job is well documented. In fact, when I interviewed the now-departing John Meyerholz some months back, I called him “the Marco Polo of American insurance.” It seemed appropriate then to open a conversation with his successor (on his first day on the job, incidentally) with the obvious wisecrack, “I hope you like to travel.”
As it turns out, Patrick W. Kenny has been traveling abroad extensively and living internationally for the better part of a long career. That, and his avid interest in international business, his financial background and, not inconsequentially, his long involvement with the Society are what brought him and the IIS together–at the top.
Pat Kenny is no stranger to the International Insurance Society. He attended half its seminars over the last 37 years, largely in connection with a nine-year tour in Paris and The Hague as head of the insurance audit practice in continental Europe for KPMG Peat Marwick, but continuing during a six-year stint as chief financial officer of Aetna Life & Casualty.
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He sat on the IIS board from 1987 until 1991, chaired its finance committee for some years, and “mildly takes credit” for getting the Dutch, now big Society players, involved in the organization, having introduced IIS founder John Bickley to Dutch insurance moguls back in 1977.
“It’s an organization I’ve been involved in, that I’ve seen grow, that I’ve seen mature, that I really believe in,” says Kenny. “This is an opportunity to give something back.”
His primary goal, on this first day of his IIS presidency, is “to continue to increase the membership, to build on the outstanding reputation the Society has with its international meeting, to burnish it, to make certain it shines as well as it has in the past.”
Also, “to be responsive to the parts of the world that change,” he adds. “We see activity move sometimes and we want to be responsive to that movement of activity–whether it’s new sources of capital, changing marketplaces, whatever.”
Kenny anticipates no immediate changes in the core business of the Society, which is the staging of its annual meeting. “I think it’s a challenge to continue to identify the issues and to be responsive, because what attracts people to the seminar is issues spoken to and spoken about by the major insurance leaders of financial services in the world,” he says. “They want to hear the people who make the decisions that most impact the industry on the critical issues of today.”
There is one area where he would like to see some change–and that’s the IIS Hall of Fame. “It’s a concept,” he says, “which is extremely relevant but may have an anachronistic title.” To him, the idea of an industry paying tribute to people who have made substantial contributions over the years is “phenomenal.”
However, he says, it bears a very American name, “a name that downplays in other cultures the importance of what you’re trying to do. I don’t know that we want to change it, but we do want to figure out a better way to get the appropriate recognition and understanding of what it means.”