There’s a new face among African American executives leading Fortune 500 firms — sort of. Though Ronald Williams was named president of Aetna Inc. effective May 27, after a little more than a year at the health insurance giant, he’s no stranger to the industry.
Williams, 52, succeeds John Rowe, who remains chairman and CEO. As president, Williams is responsible for the company’s businesses units, including its sizeable healthcare business, which includes about 15 million medical members and roughly 12 million dental members. He also oversees the life insurance, disability, and long-term care products.
Williams has his work cut out for him. Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna has had its share of financial woes. On Dec. 13, 2001, the company announced plans to cut about 6,000 jobs in 2002, on top of the 5,000 it had already cut in 2001. It also posted a loss of $279.6 million in 2001. “The critical focus for the future is first to complete the turnaround, and second to position the firm so it’s an industry leader,” Williams says. “And we believe that turnaround is well underway.” In other news, African Americans are targeting Aetna, among others, for slave reparations (see “Sins of the Past,” Newspoints, June 2002).
Aetna is a $5.48 billion health benefits company. Aetna, incorporated in December 1982, is a health benefits company with business operations in the Health Care, Group Insurance, and Large Case Pensions segments.
Williams, a jazz afficionado, joins an elite group of black executives who are leading corporate giants.
“I think it’s a tremendous reflection on the organization, and I think it reflects on some of the progress that’s been made,” says Williams of the appointment. “I think by the time you reach the level I’m at, or levels close to it, people have developed a strong focus of how you add value in meeting the needs of your customers and shareholders. So I see it as a continuation of the process.”