Gregory Ostergren believes there is no substitute for being prepared. “There is nothing you can do after the fact that will place you in as good of a position as being prepared in the first place,” says the 37-year insurance-industry veteran.
A fitting attitude for the chairman, president and CEO of Springfield-based American National Property and Casualty Co., a subsidiary of Galveston, Texas-based American National Insurance Co., where Ostergren also serves as executive director in charge of the Multiple Line and Life Career Agent distribution division. Ostergren also serves as chairman of the board of the Albany, N.Y.-based Family Insurance Group.
“I was a strong risk manager long before enterprise risk management became a buzz phrase,” he says.
Ostergren oversees more than 1,200 home office employees and 1,700 agents writing life insurance in 49 states and Puerto Rico and property casualty insurance in 47 states. He believes successfully running such an organization or project requires three quintessential ingredients: people, strategy and execution.
“Without good people, it’s nearly impossible to have a sound strategy and we certainly couldn’t execute the strategy or effectively overcome unforeseen challenges and events,” he says.
Ostergren focuses a great deal of his time on people, making certain employees understand goals and objectives and see the company’s big picture.
“My job as a leader is to make certain that people are empowered and have the resources necessary for a successful outcome,” he says. “Occasionally, I have to make difficult decisions, but in making those decisions, it is my responsibility to make certain that each team member understands the reasons behind the decision, even if they do not necessarily agree.”
The University of Minnesota graduate says he strongly believes in celebrating people’s successes and standing strong with them during setbacks.
“I think back in my career and I owe a great deal to a few key leaders who saw more in me than I saw in myself and inspired me to accomplish more than I thought I could accomplish,” he says. “I strive to mentor others in the same manner.”
To that end, Ostergren has instituted numerous programs at ANPAC to help workers succeed, including a career development program for college interns and recent graduates and monthly leadership meetings, book studies and professional seminars.
“I believe I have learned more from my failures than my successes and I try to share what I have learned with others,” he says of board of directors seats and college speaking roles.
Prior to joining ANPAC in 1990, Ostergren started his insurance career as an actuarial for Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, Ill. A switch to Adren Hill, Minn., and Mutual Service Insurance brought various job opportunities, ultimately achieving senior vice president actuarial and staff underwriting.
Ostergren is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries and an associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society. He also serves on the boards of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Property Liability Research Bureau and board of executive advisers at Missouri State University’s College of Business – and is chairman of the school’s Governance Committee.
Outside the industry, Ostergren says the United Way always has had a special place in his heart. He served the group in St. Paul, Minn., and served on the United Way of the Ozarks board for nine years after making the move to the Queen City. Last year’s American National Car Show for Kids raised more than $30,000 for the cause.[[In-content Ad]]