Some business leaders are born in misery and soar to the top through a combination of superhuman brilliance and miraculous force of will.
Some business leaders end up at the top because they start at the top. The only way to emulate them is to go back in time and do a good job of choosing your parents.
David Noble, the founder of American Equity Investment Life Holding Co., started in the middle and made his way into the Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame on the kind of path that other bright, hard-working, mortal human beings might be able to create for themselves.
Noble, 85, who died Sunday, was the son of a cattle farm owner in West Des Moines, Iowa. He entered the insurance industry while working at Farmers Life Insurance Co., in Des Moines. He then left Farmers Life to start another insurer, General United Life, with a colleague, Jack Schroeder.
He later moved to the Statesman Group. In 1995, after the company now known as CNO Financial Group Inc. acquired Statesman, he bought two blocks of in-force business from CNO and formed American Equity, which helped create the modern U.S. indexed annuity market.
The company earned $83 million in 2016 on $2.2 billion in revenue.
Noble worked full-time for American Equity until July 2016. When he died, he was still the company’s chairman.
The Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame admitted him as a member in 2004.
Here’s a list of five lessons an observer might draw from his life, based mainly on articles of him that appeared over the years in the Des Moines Register and on his Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame entry.
1. Learn math.
Noble entered the insurance industry through the finance and actuarial department. His ability to work with numbers may have been especially helpful when he later led companies that sold products such as indexed annuities and variable annuities.