Lifetime of Achievement: Peter Zaffino

As the CEO of US insurance giant AIG, Peter Zaffino is committed to tackling climate change and being an ‘ally’ in the fight for equal pay

Peter Zaffino is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at American International Group (AIG), one of the world’s largest insurance organisations covering property & casualty insurance, life insurance, retirement solutions and other financial services. Based in New York City, AIG is active in approximately 70 different countries and jurisdictions and its common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Zaffino has been Chief Executive at AIG since March 2021. He joined the business in July 2017, initially in the role of Global Chief Operating Officer. At the time of his appointment, he was described by Brian Duperreault, his predecessor in the CEO role with whom Zaffino had worked at Marsh & McLennan, as “one of the most talented executives operating in the insurance industry” who brings “deep insurance knowledge and expertise to the leadership team at AIG”.

And so it has proven; less than two-and-a-half years after taking up the COO role, Zaffino was also appointed to the role of President at AIG. In March 2021, he succeeded Duperreault as Chief Executive Officer, taking over the role of Chairman of the Board in addition in January 2022.

A vastly experienced insurance industry leader

In the top job at AIG, he can draw on more than 30 years of experience in the insurance and reinsurance industry. He began his career serving several executive roles at market-leading companies, including a portfolio company of GE Capital that specialises in alternative risk insurance and reinsurance.

He then joined Guy Carpenter, a leading global risk and reinsurance specialist that is a subsidiary of Marsh, serving as President and CEO until 2011. He then made the step up to become President and CEO at Marsh – a role he held for six years, staying with Marsh until he left to join AIG in 2017.

Speaking earlier this year to Bloomberg, Zaffino said that “understanding unpredictable risks” has been the biggest challenge for the insurance sector over the last few years. “Whether it was the pandemic, understanding what could happen if a potential war broke out, but also climate change. We’ve had 100 natural disasters reported through nine months of this year; that just hasn’t happened in the past.”

Indeed, the AIG that Zaffino leads is unflinchingly cognisant of the threat that climate change poses to humanity. AIG describes climate change as a “major and unprecedented threat to human health and international security”. In the insurer’s most recent ESG report, published in 2022, AIG said it “takes great pride in our expertise as risk managers and have a full appreciation for the role the insurance industry plays in the global economy”.

The company is in the midst of driving an improvement in its environmental impact; it has already recorded a 27% reduction in Scope-1 and Scope-2 greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) between 2019 and 2022, and is committed to reaching net zero across its operations, underwriting and investment portfolios by 2050 or sooner.

Fairness and equality play out on the course

It’s not just environmental sustainability that AIG cares about, either; the firm is serious about diversity and inclusion. AIG is a signatory to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, a pledge among business leaders that rallies to advance D&I in the workplace through greater collaboration.

Zaffino himself is committed to fulfilling the pledge on behalf of AIG by reducing unconscious bias through training and education; and making AIG a place where colleagues can have complex conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. Last year, 52% of AIG’s new hires were women and 40% were ethnically diverse, its reporting indicates.

This commitment to diversity, equity and fairness is reflected in some of the high-profile partnerships that AIG has undertaken in recent years. It was a shirt sponsor for the New Zealand rugby union team during a period of dominance that the All Blacks enjoyed over the game; it previously sponsored Manchester United Football Club; and it has recently extended its sponsorship of golf’s AIG Women’s Open through 2030.

Speaking on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive programme when the championship was first renamed for its new sponsor, Zaffino said he was “positioning AIG as a thought leader on issues at the global stage – whether that’s women’s professional golf and something as prestigious as the Women’s Open, but also women in business and women in society”.

He added that supporting gender equity in business involved looking at numerous different topics – including striving for equal pay, implementing strong support systems, and acknowledging that diverse and inclusive teams “produce better results”.

AIG ‘has to be an ally’ on gender parity

“We have to be an ally with our employees and all of our stakeholders throughout the year on a global basis,” Zaffino continued.

It is, perhaps, a mark of his commitment to diversity and inclusion that he speaks so openly about AIG’s ambitions on the subject. Zaffino himself is relatively cautious and reserved; he doesn’t undertake a myriad of media appearances, so when he speaks, you know that it will be on a topic that he, and his colleagues, think sincerely about.

Away from AIG, he is a member of the boards of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. Zaffino holds a Bachelor’s in Economics from Boston College and an MBA in Finance from NYU Stern School of Business.

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