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CEO, Central Region
As CEO of the central division of UnitedHealthcare, a division of UnitedHealth Group Inc., Kathryn Sullivan oversees a business that generates $9 billion in annual revenues and serves nearly 4.6 million members in 15 states. Ms. Sullivan, a 25-year health insurance industry veteran, joined UnitedHealthcare in 2008. During that time, she has overseen the launch of several new products to improve affordability, including one in Texas designed to encourage members to use network providers by showcasing the high quality of care and the cost savings they provide to members. During her tenure, enrollment in UnitedHealthcare's Central region has increased by more than 170,000 members, while employee satisfaction has increased by 12 percentage points, according to an internal survey.
WHAT'S THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU RECEIVED?
One of my first bosses said, “Always measure your performance not just by how well you do your job compared to your colleagues; make sure you always measure your performance against your potential.” Measure yourself against what your potential is, so you're always measuring the bar for yourself. When you do that, you raise the bar for the team around you.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
It is a great opportunity for a female to learn her business and financial skills with an industry that really provides a much-needed service to the people in our country. Women are primarily the ones that make decisions for medical care. They make (those decisions) for their sons and daughters and parents. Women (in this industry) can take their business skills and link them to those personal medical decisions. It's a great industry to be in because it really does make a difference to the people in this country.
OUTSIDE OF WORK AND FAMILY, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
People that I have really been impressed with in my personal and professional career are people who are truly volunteers with their time. They are not the ones that give money—you need those people, too—but those who really give their time to help others. Many times, it's people who don't have any time, but they find a way—whether it's volunteering because they have a certain skill or competence that they bring to the table—it is something they don't have to do. These are people that feel that whatever stage they are in their lives that they have been blessed and they are thankful by giving back. It's amazing to see the involvement of some of these people. They humble me when I see them.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
At the time I grew up, you didn't have nearly the same role models as today. All my friends got married. I didn't get married, so I went to work and started auditing hospitals at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado. I eventually get got married and had two children. I had great successes in my career, but I didn't have a plan. I didn't have one of those career plans. I started having those plans once I realized I enjoyed working and was going to stay in the workplace.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
"Pride and Prejudice." If it's on television, I'll watch it every time. I like seeing the female aspect of that era, to see strong-headed women of that era, to see how women fit in that era.
WHAT'S THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE YOU'VE BEEN?
Recently I was in Grenada. My youngest daughter is going to St. George's University, to the veterinarian university there, I went and spent a week there. It was very interesting from the standpoint of the people. No matter where someone lives on that island, whatever their transportation is, they make sure their children get educated. People were happy and content with what they were doing….It's not as fast-paced or as wealthy a place as you'd see in the United States, so it's just a different way of looking at life. I just enjoyed being with the people and learning the history of Grenada, which is quite interesting.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER AND WHY: PHONE OR E-MAIL?
If I want to be personal, I pick up the phone because you can talk and get your message across better. If I'm trying to be more productive, I use e-mail because I can get a lot done. I'm a very good typist. When I took typing in high school a thousand years ago, I didn't know it would pay off in this day of computers.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature is our attempt to identify and recognize individuals doing exceptional work in risk management, benefits management, commercial insurance and related fields.