Legacy

by Phil Kalin

Last month, I announced I will be retiring as President and CEO of Pinnacol Assurance at the end of March. I love my job and my company, and this wasn’t a decision that came easily. Making such a decision has prompted a lot of reflection on what I’ve done and accomplished over nearly 50 years of leading businesses. Assessing my eight-year run with Pinnacol is top of mind.

When I came to Pinnacol in 2013, the company was experiencing a reputational crisis with the business community, policymakers and other stakeholders. Our financial position was mediocre. And our people were wary and gun-shy.

I heard in my head the advice of a mentor from the time I accepted my first CEO position: “Don’t focus on the next quarter. What do you want to be remembered for when you leave?”

That advice helped me frame my approach. I wanted Pinnacol to be known as an insight company that spots trends early and uses that information to shape our work and support our customers and community; a Lean company focused on learning; a digital innovator; a company that is fiduciarily responsible and ethical; and a company whose customers and employees are surprised and delighted by its service and empathy. And I wanted to be known, personally, as an approachable, straight-shooting leader.

  • We embedded both Lean and Agile processes in our culture.
  • We’ve notched industry-leading satisfaction scores from agents, policyholders and injured workers.
  • We created our award-winning digital start-up, Cake, that enables very small businesses to purchase a workers’ comp policy online in minutes.
  • We developed “centers of excellence” that enable our business teams to home in on our most important sectors and develop deep expertise in those industries.
  • We repaired our tattered reputation to the extent that we were recently publicly praised by a Democrat legislator for our exemplary, empathetic performance.
  • We created one of the country’s leading apprenticeship programs.
  • We’re in the midst of transforming our business operations to further digitize and innovate.

At the same time, we reduced rates and returned general dividends to our policyholders over the last six years, have been recognized as one of the country’s top property and casualty insurers for four straight years, and have been named one of Colorado’s Top Workplaces the last five years, including the #1 large business last year.

In addition to these accomplishments, I’m proud that I never shied away from hard truths. We created a culture of failing fast, and not everything I’ve spearheaded for the company has worked out as I would have wished. When that happened, I owned it. I’ve also been up-front with employees about the impacts on them of initiatives we’ve pursued, including how we would handle the potential end of their participation in Colorado’s public employee pension plan if we succeeded in separating from the state.

I’ve got five months to go in the Pinnacol saddle, and lots of important work to continue while the board searches for my successor. I can’t wait to show that person what my team and I have accomplished, and help them think about the legacy they want to leave.

Phil Kalin

Phil Kalin joined Pinnacol Assurance as CEO in 2013. He has served as the chief executive of both public and privately-backed companies, including large hospital systems, as well as organizations focused on health care data, technology and education.

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