CEO has led American Insurance Association since 2009; will join pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly as part of leadership team
May 10, 2017
By Walt Williams
Leigh Ann Pusey, CEO of the $19M-revenue American Insurance Association, will step down June 9 to become vice president of corporate affairs and communications for pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly.
Pusey has led AIA since 2009. She first joined the association in 1996, working as COO and as the group’s top lobbyist before being promoted to CEO. In her new role at Eli Lilly, she will be a member of the company’s executive committee and report directly CEO David Ricks.
The outgoing chief executive had a long career in Republican politics before joining AIA. She was deputy assistant to President George H.W. Bush for the White House Office of Public Liaison, communications coordinator for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and deputy director of communications for the Republican National Committee.
In a 2010 interview with CEO Update, Pusey recalled her former political life as a “wild experience” that helped her develop the strategic skills to guide issues through the political process. At the time, Democrats controlled the federal government, but the CEO didn’t view her partisan background as a detriment to her advocacy work.
“Probably most people in this town are partisan,” she said. “The lesson you learn is not to be too partisan. Another lesson is that your client comes first. Your job comes first. My job is to represent the insurance industry.”
AIA represents property-casualty insurance providers and advocates for the industry at the state, federal and international levels. Republican National CommitteeChairman Marc Racicot previously led the association. When he stepped down in 2008 after a three-year tenure, Pusey was tapped to replace him.
At the time, the insurance industry was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused massive property damage and led to many changes in how insurers provide coverage. AIA itself experienced a dip in revenue and reduced its workforce by 10 to 20 percent. (The group reported 44 staff in its most recent tax records.)
“It would be nice to have a $50 million reserve, but most days I would much rather have all these challenges and no money,” Pusey told CEO Update at the time. “We are incredibly stable (with an) incredibly loyal base of companies. I’ve never seen our CEOs more active.”
In a statement, AIA board Chairman Christopher Swift thanked Pusey for her “dynamic and energetic leadership.”
“During that time, she built a strong, dedicated team of professionals who every day zealously represent the property-casualty industry in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the nation,” he said.
AIA said Pusey would work with Senior Vice President and General Counsel Stef Zielezienski and Senior Vice President for State Affairs Joe DiGiovanni to ensure a stable transition.
The association did not announce plans for finding her successor.