Hear from EDC board member and Marsh & McLennan Agency CEO of the West Region Chris Williams on the importance of talent, collaboration, and resilience below.
Describe your “day job”?
As CEO of Marsh McLennan Agency’s (MMA) West Region, MMA’s largest region, I head up nine offices and 1,300 employees across California, Arizona, and Alaska. The beauty of my role is the number of areas of our business that I get to touch on a daily basis—whether it be working directly with clients, brainstorming and working with our HR team, or collaborating on special projects with colleagues across all of our departments. We have so many incredible people working at MMA… they are hardworking and passionate, and constantly come up with new ways to better our business and be there for our clients. I’m grateful that my position allows me to hear these ideas and help bring them to life. The days where I get to be face-to-face with colleagues, discussing their aspirations and ideas, are by far my favorite days on the job.
What is your life-changing moment—something that changed the trajectory of your life for the better?
In 1987, I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. in Economics. Shortly after, I began my insurance career with a large national healthcare organization in a sales role. In 1991, former MMA employee Jeff Calder attempted to recruit me to his brokerage firm. I have always prided myself on being a loyal employee, so I politely declined the promotion to a regional role with a large national carrier. Jeff did not give up easily as he was convinced that a new position with leadership opportunities at his firm was the right path for me. I remained in my current position until 1993, when I finally made the decision to take a leap of faith and accepted Jeff’s offer. Through a merger with Barney and Barney and being acquired by Marsh, I have now spent 28 years building my career with MMA. I am forever grateful to Jeff for his persistence, influence, and the impact MMA has had on my life.
Of all the boards in San Diego, why EDC?
When I first moved to San Diego, as a newcomer to the region, I was eager to connect with and learn from local business leaders, civic leaders, and government leaders. Trindl Reeves, Chief Sales Officer at MMA, was on the board at EDC and encouraged me to get involved. After joining, I knew it was a great fit and perfect opportunity to become more ingrained within the community. EDC itself feels like a community. The group consists of so many amazing local leaders that have welcomed me to San Diego and inspired me to lead.
What EDC program or initiative interests you most, and why?
EDC’s talent development, attraction, and retention programs are by far the most helpful initiative right now. The current talent landscape is an incredibly competitive one, and MMA is growing rapidly year in and year out.
Our highest priority is bringing in talented, diverse people that want to stay with us. In order to achieve this, it’s crucial that we are constantly looking at ways to improve and evolve how we take care of our people—whether it be through our training programs, benefits offerings, company culture initiatives, or the way we find candidates in the first place.
Over the last year, our country and communities have simultaneously endured a pandemic, a social justice movement, and a time of hostile and divisive politics. What is your biggest lesson learned in the last year?
What a past year and a half it has been… By far, the biggest lesson I have learned is that society, and people, are so resilient. Every single one of us was affected by these worldwide crises, with the impact hitting seemingly overnight. I couldn’t believe the level of support, collaboration, and empathy we all showed to our fellow neighbors. It has been truly remarkable to witness and reminded me just how strong we can be when we work together.
Luckily, from a business standpoint, MMA was prepared and able to adapt incredibly fast to a virtual work environment. Many of our clients were hurting due to the shutdowns, and so many of our own people were personally affected. Yet, our colleagues powered through with such strength and worked hard to continue serving our clients and community. Everyone was apart, yet working together, in a way I had never seen before. This experience will leave a mark on me, for sure.
I learned from my Grandfather: Expectations only create disappointment. I taught my kids: Never bet on what you can’t control.
Follow along with Chris on LinkedIn.