Interview with Lucy Fato, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of AIG
Relationships Are Everything: A Conversation with AIG’s General Counsel Lucy Fato.
“Relationships are everything,” said Lucy Fato, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of American International Group, Inc. Lucy’s warmth, graciousness, and sincerity leave no doubt as to why she has enjoyed tremendous success throughout her career. Recently, Robins Kaplan had the opportunity to sit down with Lucy to discuss her career and her path to success.
Lucy joined AIG in October 2017 and is responsible for overseeing the Global Legal, Compliance, and Regulatory functions of the company. Prior to joining AIG, she was Managing Director, Head of the Americas & General Counsel of Nardello & Co., a global private investigative firm; Executive Vice President and General Counsel of McGraw Hill Financial (now known as S&P Global); and Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at Marsh & McLennan Companies. She began her legal career at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, where she spent 14 years, including five as a partner in the capital markets group.
Part of Lucy’s success stems from recognizing that problems can be solved by talking them through, preferably in person. Case-in-point: Her first challenge when joining McGraw Hill Financial was to address several high-profile lawsuits concerning mortgage-backed securities. One of the cases against McGraw Hill was venued in state court in Pittsburgh, and the general counsel on the other side was a Pittsburgh native. Lucy recalled thinking, “I should just call him and work this out. That’s how people from Pittsburgh think.”
This philosophy on the crucial role of relationship-building and collaborative problem-solving in business explains Lucy’s success in leading global companies to address even the most challenging litigation and regulatory landscapes. In coming to her role at AIG from a corporate, transactional background, Lucy tends to bring a fresh and less combative perspective to contentious litigations and government investigations. She strongly believes in being “the face of her company” in these matters and “opening up lines of communication” between herself and the other side.
Lucy recognizes the inherent difficulty of working in a client service industry and notes that businesses should be open to creative approaches to attracting and retaining women. She also notes that a solid support system, both at home and in the office, is the key. Lucy explained that she was fortunate to have worked with many women leaders during her career and received opportunities to work on challenging, high-profile transactions. She made partner at Davis Polk with the backing, mentorship, and sponsorship of both male and female attorneys. Her positive experience continued when she transitioned in-house to Marsh & McLennan.
When asked about challenges faced by women in the insurance industry specifically, Lucy explained that although insurance has historically been a very male-dominated industry, AIG has a diverse leadership structure. Several women sit on its executive committee, driven in part by AIG’s Chief Executive Officer, Brian Duperreault, who believes strongly in building teams that are diverse on multiple levels.
Lucy’s advice to aspiring women who want to emulate her success? Be open-minded about what you are learning and try several different roles and positions before deciding where to land. And, perhaps most important, be yourself. People gravitate toward folks who are authentic and comfortable in their own skin.
And certainly, Lucy’s authenticity is one of her many positive traits, helping to explain why so many seem to gravitate to her.
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