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An empathetic AIG

Interview With Incoming American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Peter HancockInterview With Incoming American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock
American International Group Inc. (AIG) signage is displayed on the company's headquarters in New York.Photograph by Michael Nagle — Getty Images

I visited Peter Hancock, the newish (1 year) CEO of AIG yesterday, and was reminded of how much has changed since I last visited the CEO of that company a decade ago. Hancock occupies a pleasant but functional office (albeit with a panoramic view of Brooklyn.) Hank Greenberg occupied an entire suite, with a private elevator, a butler who served him tea, and a living room decorated with Chinese antiques that was reminiscent of the diplomatic reception rooms at the U.S. State Department.

It’s a smaller, simpler company today – roughly half the revenues, half the employees and a fraction of the debt that the old AIG (AIG) had (still number 46 on the Fortune 500.) The change came about as a result of the government’s massive bailout of the company, which was paid back, with interest, in 2012. But it also reflects a more general change in the business environment. The imperial CEO, of which Greenberg was the epitome, is no more.

I asked Hancock what the company’s greatest challenge was. He said it was modernizing its technology. The old AIG was based on a network of personal relationships. The new one is based on data and science. He has not only elevated his chief information officer, but also hired a chief science officer, with a staff of 150 people, to learn how the lessons of physics, medicine, economics and statistics can be applied to reducing risk and writing insurance. His goal: “evidence-based decision making.” One example of their work: using video feeds from busy intersections to predict those that will produce more accidents.

The dramatic shift in the company’s culture, which he generously credits to his predecessor, Bob Benmosche, is evident everywhere. Only the letters – AIG – remain the same, but framed in an “empathetic” light blue instead of the old dark blue.

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