Suffolk alumnus David Brussard (MBA’78) discussed key leadership qualities with Management & Entrepreneurship students in Professor Sheila Webber’s Leadership class last month.
As president, CEO, and chairman of the board at Safety Insurance Group in Boston, Brussard has discovered the importance of recognizing change as opportunity. “As soon as you learn to embrace change, not fear it, you’re on the road to becoming a successful leader,” he said.
Brussard, who has worked at Safety Insurance or one of its subsidiaries for more than 36 years, has helped the company thrive during times of great change. For instance, the marketplace shifted drastically when Massachusetts approved "managed competition" auto insurance reform in 2008. The new law eliminated state-regulated pricing for insurance companies. As a result, new companies entered the marketplace and competition increased dramatically.
Brussard saw the change as an opportunity for Safety Insurance to reposition itself. At the time, Safety Insurance was primarily a private passenger automobile insurance provider. They decided to expand their product line to include a full range of property and casualty insurance products and encouraged their agents to cross-sell the various products.
The strategy enabled them to maintain their private passenger auto book and doubled their other lines of business. Today, Safety Insurance is the state's third-largest private passenger automobile insurance company, third largest commercial automobile insurance company, and the seventh-largest homeowner carrier in Massachusetts.
Teamwork is also essential for success, said Brussard, who oversees about 600 employees in Boston. “Good leaders are selfless,” he said. They listen to their employees and foster an open environment, where ideas are exchanged freely. Instead of telling people what to do, an effective leader “encourages people within the group to come up with their own ideas,” he explained.
As a manager, Brussard recommends following two simple principals. First, he explicitly discusses his expectations with employees. Then he ensures that they have the necessary resources to complete the work. Rather than telling his employees what to do, he gives them freedom to achieve their goals.
Brussard's talk was informative and inspirational, Professor Webber said. “We’re delighted to have David back to serve as a role model and share insights from his his 40-year business career. His straight-from-the-shoulder delivery gave him instant credibility with the class,” she said.
Brussard heads the senior management team at Safety Insurance, which includes two other Sawyer Business School graduates: William Begley (BSBA’76, MBA '88), who serves as vice president and treasurer, and Edward Patrick (MBA ’82), who serves as vice president of underwriting.
Brussard also serves as chairman of the Governing Committee and a member of the Budget Committee, Executive Committee and Nominating Committee of the Automobile Insurers Bureau of Massachusetts. He is also on the Board of Trustees of the Insurance Library Association of Boston.
Safety Insurance is a NASDAQ-traded company with $632 million in annual premiums and over $1 billion in invested assets.