Diversity. Social Good. Leading with Purpose. These words are part of the new vocabulary in Corporate America where CEOs and other business leaders are talking about doing the right thing as well as making money for investors. But long before those buzzwords became fashionable, New York Life Insurance CEO Ted Mathas was already speaking that language. Ever since he became chief executive in 2008, he has made gender and racial diversity a key part of his business strategy.
“If we’re going to make the best decisions possible, you want to have the most diverse viewpoints around the table,” Mathas tells Fortune. “So that is why we worked hard to improve the diversity on our board, the diversity in our executive officer ranks, the diversity of our agent advisors who work for us across the country.”
The son of Greek immigrants, Mathas talks about the lessons he learned growing up with his grandmother and his parents: treating people with respect, the importance of humility and the value of a strong work ethic. Those powerful life lessons, he says, have shaped his leadership philosophy in running the 173-year-old insurance giant. And it comes as no surprise that he believes business leaders have an obligation to address the country’s social problems as part of their business strategies.
“Companies have a responsibility to society besides the business that they do,” Mathas explains. “And so I believe that we have a noble cause, the business that we’re in, but we also have the opportunity to create environments into role model the kind of behaviors that people should look to for leadership.”
Watch the video above for more from our interview with Mathas.