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  • March 2024
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Financial Insights and Strategy | Laura Cockrill

Laura Cockrill
In Brief

In this Inside RGA Q&A, Laura Cockrill, RGA’s Executive Vice President of Finance, shares the changes she has seen over her two-decade career at RGA, the key role finance plays in making decisions across the organization, and the philosophy that drives her as a leader. 

What first got you interested in numbers, math, and accounting as a young person?

To be honest, my first aspiration was to be president of the United States! I quickly got past that and turned my attention to sports management. I grew up loving baseball and wanted to be part of the game. My dad regularly took us to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. My first job as a 16-year-old was as an usher at Busch Stadium and I kept that job through college. I watched more than 250 baseball games as an usher, including the summer of the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run race. 

While at college at Truman State University, I decided accounting was a great place to launch a business career, so I shifted into that field. After graduating, I worked briefly for a public accounting firm before coming to RGA. 

You’ve worked for most of your career – 24 years now – at RGA. How has RGA changed in that time? 

From a size perspective – from the number of people and the reach of our international operations to the volume and variety of business – RGA has grown enormously since I first arrived as a senior auditor. The growth has been remarkable, but even more remarkable is what has not changed over that time: our collaborative, supportive culture. 

My mentors and colleagues have always shown a willingness to train, teach, and collaborate. It has never been about what you can achieve as an individual; it’s always about working together to achieve the best possible results for our organization, our clients, and our partners. I also appreciate RGA’s commitment to career development; if you work hard and do well, you will have access to opportunities that advance your career. As someone who started as an auditor and was promoted through several roles into the position I hold now, I’m an example of what’s possible for someone at RGA if you work hard, ask questions, and develop relationships. As our business continues to grow and diversify, there are always opportunities to learn something new. I’m never bored in my role.  

How do you ensure your finance team adapts to changes in financial regulations and reporting standards?

As a finance team, it’s our responsibility to ensure our people stay up to date on accounting standards and regulations that affect our day-to-day work. One recent example is the significant change U.S. insurers recently went through impacting how we account for long-duration insurance business. The shift to Long Duration Targeted Improvements (LDTI) was the first major change in accounting standards for insurance in a number of years. We undertook a three-year program to build out new systems and capabilities. We also invested a significant amount of time into training our teams to ensure a successful implementation and proper understanding of the guidance.

Everyone reacts to change differently, so change management was also critical. We wanted to create an environment where people felt supported as they learned the new guidance and implemented changes to their day-to-day processes. We worked closely with change management professionals to ensure we involved our teams throughout the program.  

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You are the chair of an internal committee focused on balance-sheet optimization. What are that group’s top priorities? 

Our job as RGA’s finance organization is not only to report the numbers, but also to understand the business and provide strategic thinking and solutions that help drive growth across the organization. The Balance-sheet Optimization Council (BSOC) is focused on unlocking enterprise value through the optimization of our balance sheet and other economic and financial levers. Our goal is to identify and prioritize opportunities with greatest potential for profitability and growth. For example, we may review capital allocation to business lines to ensure we are supporting our largest areas of growth. We may also review internal legacy processes that, if changed, would create real economic value and allow for continued growth of the organization.

I'm joined on this project by senior RGA leaders who can influence and drive change. Together, we’re using an enterprise mindset to prioritize the efforts that will unlock value within our organization. It’s an exciting project and I’m proud to lead it.

What is your leadership philosophy and how has it evolved over your career?

It’s important to me that my teams know they have my trust and support, no matter what. I lead by doing, and I’m happy to jump in if something needs to get done or a decision needs to be made. I focus on ensuring my teams have the resources and skill sets needed to be successful and that they understand the priorities of the organization

My personal leadership style is direct and purposeful, but I’ve learned over time that I need to shift that approach based on my audience. Some team members want to chat and connect; some want to get direction and just go for it. Adjusting your style accordingly is extremely important to being an effective leader. 

As I grew my career within RGA, I never felt pressure to fit into a certain box of what a leader – or a woman leader – should be. I was given space and support to be my authentic self and grow into the type of leader I wanted to be. 

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Laura Cockrill
Laura Cockrill
Executive Vice President, Finance