Robert W. MacDonald

Robert “Mac” MacDonald has enjoyed a remarkable career in the financial services industry. Entering the field in 1965 as a life insurance agent for New England Life in Los Angeles, he retired in 2003 as Chairman and CEO of Allianz Life of North America.

In between, MacDonald built a successful sales agency for Jefferson-Pilot Insurance Corporation and served as director of marketing support for State Mutual of America. In 1977, he joined ITT Life Insurance Company in Minneapolis as senior vice-president of marketing and in 1980 was named president and CEO of the company. As CEO of ITT Life, MacDonald’s call for a revolution in industry product structure and distribution caused him to become one of the best known, most influential and controversial leaders in the life insurance industry. In 1987, MacDonald and four other ITT Life executives struck out on their own to form a start-up life insurance company – LifeUSA.

With MacDonald as its founder, chairman and CEO, LifeUSA became one of best-known, fastest growing and most successful life insurance companies of the 1990s. Distinguishing LifeUSA from other insurance companies was a portfolio of products that “rewarded people for living, rather than dying” and a structure that made every employee and agent representing the company true owners. By 1999 LifeUSA had developed into a profitable, publicly traded company with sales exceeding $1 billion, assets of more than $6 billion and over 80,000 agents representing the company.

At the end of 1999, in a transaction valued at $540 million, the international financial giant Allianz SE acquired LifeUSA and merged it with Allianz Life of North America. MacDonald was asked to continue as chairman and CEO of the merged companies. Under MacDonald’s leadership Allianz Life virtually doubled in size and became a star performer in the Allianz worldwide group. MacDonald also served on the Allianz International Executive Committee. Retired from day-to-day management in 2003, he remained on the Allianz Life board until 2006 and provided international consulting services to Allianz SE.

There is more to MacDonald’s career than titles and numbers. He is considered to be one of the true visionaries and product innovators in the life insurance industry. MacDonald exhibited a unique, virtually contrarian management style that resulted in corporate cultures far from the traditional. Many in the insurance industry were critical of his philosophy and ideas, but the results speak for themselves.

A popular speaker before insurance industry and business groups, MacDonald has written scores of articles dealing with management and the financial services industry. He has been interviewed on countless television and radio shows and has been profiled in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USAToday, Forbes, Business Week and Institutional Investor. MacDonald was the first person to twice be recognized as “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Minnesota. MacDonald was formerly a director for the highly popular and successful restaurant company Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD). He also writes a highly popular blog on business at

Along the way, MacDonald has authored several books on business and management philosophy. His latest is Old MacDonald’s Ethical Leadership Farm: Growing New Leaders for New Times. Other books include: Beat The System: 11 Secrets to Building an Entrepreneurial Culture in a Bureaucratic World (John Wiley & Sons, New York) and his most popular management book Cheat To Win: The Honest Way to Break All the Dishonest Rules in Business (Paradon Publishing, 2005).

Many swear by MacDonald’s unique philosophy and management style, while others simply swear. Either way, there is no question that MacDonald has had a profound impact on the insurance industry and literally thousands of those who have come in contact with him. Clearly, few if any can match MacDonald’s career in the financial services industry.

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