NEW YORK – Ted (Theodore Alexander) Mathas, Chairman and CEO of New York Life Insurance, was the Hellenic American Bankers Association’ s (HABA) featured speaker in Manhattan on October 3, strengthening its formidable track record of informative and entertaining presentations by distinguished speakers.
Costas Kellas, HABA’s president, welcomed the guests who filled the auditorium of Marsh USA Inc., and acknowledged some special visitors.
After Demetri Papacostas, HABA’s vice president, introduced Mathas, the latter’s presentation focused on the principles he said should govern the work of a corporation, and touched upon the responsibilities of leadership based on his 19 years with the insurance company that was founded 169 years ago.
He emphasized that the recent Wall Street crash undermined the public’s trust in large corporations and proceed to discuss five principles employees should bear in mind:
1) Officers and staff must be focused on the company’s higher purposes and not on profit margins and their personal compensation.
2) Efforts should be devoted to growing the corporate pie, not grabbing bigger slices for one’s group.
3) Each must work to build corporate trust, not by not getting caught, but by not cheating at all.
4) Errors are always personal because ultimately the individual made the decisions and they must correct the mistakes.
5) Company success is the result not of luck, but the efforts of all; that leaders and employees must examine both their successes and failures.
6) Personal responsibility and collective pride must prevail.
Mathas noted the difference between personal responsibility and accountability to one’s supervisor, and said no one person is the source of success in any endeavor.
When asked during the Q&A about the obligations of public and private companies, he said New York Life’s primary responsibility is to guaranty that when a policyholder dies prematurely, the beneficiaries are provided for, so that children could be educated and the family be otherwise taken care of.
Mathas was asked how the Ukraine and ISIS crises affected his company, and he said interest rates have a bigger impact on its fortunes. In response to a question about whether he thinks rates will rise, he said companies must be prepared for every contingency.
He said grew up in the community of the Annunciation in Norfolk, VA, where his father was president. He told the gathering that he participated in GOYA and other youth activities, and declared that his Greek and Orthodox heritage played a positive role in his life and career.