Travelers’ Fishman Says He Was ‘Conductor’ Getting Applause for ‘Ensemble Cast’

By Sonali Basak and Claire Boston | September 16, 2015

Jay Fishman, who is stepping down as chief executive officer of Travelers Cos. because of his health, said he’s confident in the insurer’s next generation of leaders because of what they’ve already accomplished.

“We were an ensemble cast,” Fishman, 62, said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by Barclays Plc. “I was the conductor in the front, in the fancy tuxedo getting all the applause, but everybody else behind me was playing the instruments. And they’re really good musicians. I had the privilege of being in that position, but without that orchestra, we weren’t going to be anything.”

Alan Schnitzer, 49, who leads Travelers’ business- and-international insurance segment, its largest, will become CEO Dec. 1, Travelers said last month. Fishman, who is fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, ran the company for more than a decade after combining Travelers with St. Paul Cos. He steered the insurer through the financial crisis while avoiding losses tied to subprime mortgages, and Travelers was added in 2009 to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Travelers CEO Jay Fishman Bloomberg Photo

          Travelers CEO Jay Fishman
                         Bloomberg Photo

Travelers has declined 4.7 percent from Dec. 31 through yesterday after advancing for six straight years in New York trading. Fishman sought to assure investors Wednesday that the company was well prepared for succession.

He said that middlemen who sell Travelers policies to commercial clients are already comfortable dealing with Schnitzer. Many of New York-based company’s top managers, such as Chief Investment Officer Bill Heyman and Chief Financial Officer Jay Benet, have been with the company for more than a decade.

Fishman will remain chairman. While he called ALS a “miserable disease,” he said he was fortunate to have support from his family and the company.

“All things considered, I’m in a very lucky place, and I’m doing just fine,” he said

–With assistance from Katherine Chiglinsky in New York.

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