David Foy, chief financial officer at Hartford Life (part of the Hartford Financial Services group and the third largest insurance company in the U.S.), is by no means a traditional CFO. For starters, Foy stayed away from accounting in college, chosing instead to focus on math and applied statistics. He didn’t work for a Big Five accounting firm, either, and he’s not a CPA. Foy says he “caught the financial bug” while working as a staff assistant to the CFO of the New Hampshire housing finance authority, a post he held while still in college. After graduating from the Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, Foy joined the Washington office of Milliman & Robertson, a national consulting firm, where he worked primarily on pension fund investment and asset-liability management consulting.
Despite taking a less-traveled route to the CFO’s desk, Foy has been able to reach his goal at a tender age (he’s in his early 30′s.) His career really started to take off in 1993, when he left Milliman & Robertson to take a job in Hartford Life’s fledgling individual annuity business. There, Foy oversaw product development and financial analysis. The year before he took on those tasks, the individual annuities operation at Hartford Life earned $19 million (after-tax). In 2000, that figure was more like $337 million. Indeed, Hartford Life is now the leading seller of individual annuities in the country– and observers give Foy much of the credit for jump-starting that business.
In 1995, Foy made the switch from operations to Hartford Life’s finance department. In 1997, as assistant vice president, he assumed responsibility for investor relations, helping coordinate the company’s successful initial public offering. In 1998, he was promoted to senior vice president and treasurer. Less than a year later, he was promoted to CFO at Hartford Life.
Foy recently spoke with CFO.com’s Jennifer Caplan about his rapid rise up the corporate ladder–or more specifically, how a pricer of annuities ends up running the finance department at an insurer with over $155 billion in assets under management.
You took a relatively non-traditional path up the financial ladder. Also, you did not join Hartford Life’s finance department right away, but rather opted to go in on the operational side of the business. Was that an intentional choice, knowing you would ultimately move over to the financial side?
I definitely knew I wanted to be a chief financial officer at some point. But you are right, I was initially playing a role in the business, developing products and pricing them. Over time, I moved into the corporate finance area and only later became CFO. I think that approach has proven to be a real advantage, particularly when I meet with investors. In my other roles as CFO, it has really given me a better understanding of the economic model that drives our product. That understanding is crucial for being an effective chief financial officer.
When I moved over to corporate finance in 1995, the old financial shop within Hartford Life was very disconnected from the businesses. All they did was collect the data and report it. What I was asked to do was to connect the businesses with the corporate finance sides so that there was an understanding of what drove the numbers. That seemed interesting to me.