Ed Liddy's Advice for Directors

Welcomed warmly by fellow directors and friends at the opening NACD Chicago Chapter meeting on September 18th, Ed Liddy gave board members  the benefit of his eleven-month stint as chairman and CEO of AIG, his one dollar a year job that was called both hopeless and thankless by critics and supporters alike.

He had six suggestions.

First, he reminded them that being a board member is an honor but it is also an enormous responsibility.  Be sure that you understand the business at a fair level of detail.

Second, make sure that your risk management is married to a solid strategy. “Be prepared to challenge basic assumptions. ”

Third, don’t let structure of the organization become so complex that you don’t understand it.  “You always want to be able to say no.”

Fourth, focus on succession planning, “not just for the CEO but for the top eight to ten leadership positions.”

Fifth, understand leverage–not just financial leverage but investment leverage, product leverage and operating leverage.

Sixth, pay attention that you are getting the right information.  “If you don’t understand something, seek out more information from management through additional meetings or lunch but never behind the back of the CEO.”

After his brief remarks, commentator and nationally known personal financial expert Terry Savage interviewed Liddy and posed questions from the audience.

Liddy began his remarks reminding the audience of the very difficult times of a year ago and how the financial system was in a very precarious state.  “I had some relevant experience and I was asked to serve my country.  I think most of you would have done it, too.”

Thanking Liddy for his service, the audience rose in a standing ovation.