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CEO in Residence offers lessons in leadership
Lynn Oldfield, a Laurier alumna and president and CEO of the AIG Insurance Company of Canada, delivered the School of Business and Economics’ fourth CEO-in-Residence keynote address on Dec. 3, providing lessons in leadership as well as an inside perspective on the financial crisis of 2008.
Oldfield graduated from Laurier with a BBA in 1984, she is the second person from her graduating class to be appointed a CEO in Residence, joining Stacey Mowbray (BBA ’84). In her speech in the Senate and Board Chamber on Laurier’s Waterloo campus, Oldfield outlined the importance of such simple skills as listening, having a positive attitude, acting with integrity and being able to “reset as required”, or being able to adapt to change. She told the audience of students, staff and faculty gathered that she learned many of the skills that got her to where she is today while working on her degree at Laurier.
“I just want to share with you what a difference Laurier has made in my career path,” said Oldfield, explaining that in her final year of high school she had no plans to go to university until one of her teachers drove her to universities around Ontario, one of them being Laurier. Oldfield began her time at Laurier as an English student, in the hopes of career in journalism. However, something told her to try taking two first-year business courses as well.
“It took me about three days to say, ‘Wow, this business school rocks and I think I just found my place,’” said Oldfield.
While in school, Oldfield worked co-op terms with the Royal Insurance Company of Canada and after graduating she took a job with Wausau Metropolitan Insurance where she drove 100,000 kilometres a year covering a territory that stretched from Windsor to Niagara Falls and up to Sault St. Marie and Sudbury.
In 1991, Oldfield started at AIG Canada as an executive liability regional manager after taking four months off to finish her MBA at McMaster University. She would go on to work in various leadership positions before being named president and CEO in 2010.
Oldfield’s leadership faced perhaps its most difficult test in September of 2008 when AIG was “at the epicentre of the global financial meltdown.”
In the midst of the financial crisis, as AIG’s stock price dropped to 33 cents per share, it became Oldfield’s job to convince all 23,000 of the company’s Canadian clients that their money was still safe with AIG.
“My leadership cut its teeth on Sept. 15, 2008 and that’s really embedded in who I am,” said Oldfield.
Oldfield concluded her keynote address by leaving the audience with three “secret weapons” she has used as the foundation for a leadership training program at AIG: education, experience and exposure.
“Take those opportunities, find those organizations that are going to feed your learning and your development,” she said. “But take ownership of it yourself, because your career belongs to you. Nobody hands you the road map.”
In addition to her professional career, Oldfield runs a charitable foundation with her husband, Tom Oldfield, who is also a Laurier alumnus. Lynn Oldfield was named one of Laurier’s top 100 alumni as part of the university’s centennial celebrations in 2011 and this past September she won the inaugural J. Alex Murray Alumni Award which is SBE’s highest alumni honour.
The Laurier CEO In Residence is an appointed honour by the dean of the School of Business and Economics, and has been developed to deliver a perspective to students beyond their studies and research in the classroom.
Previous CEOs in Residence
-Stacey Mowbray (BBA ’84), president and CEO, The Second Cup, Ltd.
-Tim Penner (BBA ’78), former president, Procter and Gamble Canada
-Michael Ward (BBA ’86), president IKEA USA