AIG’s employees have shaped its lasting legacy of perseverance and determination. This resolve was clearly evident in the way employees responded to public criticism during the global financial crisis.
When the crisis first hit, employees didn’t know if AIG would survive. A number of business lines were even rebranded given the scrutiny of the AIG name. Meanwhile, company leaders kept indicating to Congress that AIG would be liquidated in order to pay the government back.
Despite their worries, employees continued to come through the doors every morning and work to rebuild. The turning point came in August 2009, after Bob Benmosche was named CEO. Upon taking the reins, he made it clear that his goal wasn’t to tear AIG down, but to build it back up.
He hosted a series of town halls across the United States, commending employees and instilling confidence about the future. “The fact is, you are AIG, and it’s time we stopped being embarrassed by it,” said Benmosche. “And it’s time that people stop talking about you as the problem, because you’re the solution.” His words echoed Cornelius Vander Starr, founder of the insurance agency to which AIG traces its roots, emphasizing that the company’s people have always served as its trusted face. They are the ones who build new business lines and create success.
Fully confident in AIG’s people, Benmosche set out to rebuild the struggling divisions and to repay the government—with profit—for protecting AIG. And together, Benmosche and AIG employees did just that, repaying the government in full plus a nearly $23 billion profit in less than five years. And in late 2012, the company rebranded all its business lines under one umbrella to demonstrate its pride in the AIG name. Building for tomorrow was the goal during the crisis. It remains a steady march forward today.