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IRI leader Weatherford to retire at year end

Board to hire successor by fall to enable transition after nearly 10 years; statement suggests industry, government executive sought.


March 29, 2018
By William Ehart

Cathy Weatherford, CEO of the $7 million-revenue Insured Retirement Institute for nearly 10 years, plans to retire effective Dec. 31.

The veteran association executive and former Oklahoma insurance commissioner took the helm of the then-named National Association for Variable Annuities in September 2008, deep into the financial crisis. Member Bear Stearns had ceased to exist a few months before, followed by Lehman Bros. days after her arrival. Later that month, the federal Office of Thrift Supervision seized assets of member-company Washington Mutual after a bank run.

With encouragement from the group’s chairman, Weatherford began a three-year effort to reposition the organization as consumer-facing, she recalled.

“I had a terrific chair and he said let’s not let the crisis stop us from rebranding and building a first-call trade association around retirement policy and planning, annuities and lifetime income,” she told CEO Update.

“(Many) Americans had lost 45 percent of their portfolios, and we felt that being an association who really advocated in the best interest of the investors was going to be powerfully important as we moved through the crisis,” she said.

Rebranded as IRI, the association expanded membership to include companies up and down the sector’s supply chain from asset managers like Blackrock and Goldman Sachs to banks, life insurers and broker-dealers.

IRI also added an education component for financial advisers affiliated with its member companies, she said.

Now, Weatherford is ready to rejoin husband Steve at their longtime home away from Washington, D.C., in Kansas City, Mo. Steve Weatherford, an Obama appointee at the Department of Labor, left Washington in late 2016 for a financial sector position there.

IRI said in a March 28 statement it plans to have a successor in place by fall to work with Weatherford during a transition. The statement suggests the board of directors is seeking to hire from government or from current or former industry executives.

“The search committee, in close cooperation with the board’s executive committee, will be focusing their efforts on the most senior professionals in national leadership roles in both legislative branches and regulatory agencies, as well as ‘C Suite’ executives (and alumni) at financial services firms who have strong thought leadership and advocacy track records,” the statement said.

Weatherford took home $793,000 in 2016, according to the latest available tax filings.

Financial services executive recruiting firm Wilbanks Partners, led by George Wilbanks, will assist in the search.

Job specifications are available at