Gary W. Thompson
President and CEO, Columbia Insurance Group
years here: 22
original hometown: Nevada, Mo.
Chief servant, strategic thought leader, cheerleader and part-time janitor.
Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri, MBA from Walden University, chartered property casualty underwriter (CPCU) and certified insurance counselor (CIC)
Heart of Missouri United Way — income advisory committee and Leadership Circle campaign committee, past community campaign chair and board president. Food Bank of Central & Northeast Missouri — SCORE Against Hunger campaign committee. Columbia Chamber of Commerce — past Leadership Columbia chairman, board member and treasurer. Job Point, Inc. — past board member and board chairman. Mizzou Alumni Association — finance committee.
I started in an agent training program in 1982 with a national insurance company and quickly decided that was not the path for me. In 1983, I joined a regional insurance company with marketing responsibilities for Missouri, later moving to its home office in Iowa. I joined Columbia Insurance Group in 1989 as vice president of reinsurance and have been wreaking havoc on the company ever since.
a favorite recent project
Our team integrated the staff and operations of two companies that Columbia Insurance Group acquired three years ago, which expanded our operating territory into Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and the Carolinas. This expansion gave our company additional talent and techniques to enhance the service we provide our policyholders in all states.
a columbia businessperson i admire and why
I could literally fill the page with businesspeople in this community whom I admire. As I look at the list of names, it occurs to me that they all have some things in common: champions for their businesses, committed and engaged with their families, guided by their faith, willing to lend their time, and using their talents and resources to make their industry and their community better. I have truly been blessed to know and learn from each of them.
why i am passionate about my job
Entrepreneurs and business owners manage a multitude of risks every day. Working in partnership with the independent insurance agents that represent us, we assist in identifying, mitigating and transferring many of those risks to us, allowing them to concentrate on running their business. An excellent recent example of the service we provide was our response to the devastating Joplin tornado in May. With our support, businesses were able to re-open, jobs were retained and families were able to begin rebuilding their lives.
if i weren’t doing this for a living i would
Be selling pizzas and renting snorkel equipment under a palm tree on a pristine beach somewhere in the Caribbean.
biggest career obstacle i’ve overcome and how
At age 29, I was the youngest vice president when I joined Columbia Insurance Group, and the newest. My credibility was in question, and I knew that I quickly had to earn the confidence of those around me. One of the best pieces of advice I received at the time was to not just “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.” Fortunately, I had enough confidence that I was willing to be vulnerable, admit my mistakes, listen intently, learn daily, be completely honest and not ask anyone to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. I’ve been trying to “walk the walk” ever since.
what people should know about this profession
There are some awesome people working in this industry who have a servant attitude. While many, like me, came into the industry by accident, they quickly came to understand and embrace the essential good that our industry performs in society as we protect families and businesses from unforeseen loss.
what i do for fun
Golf, snow ski, travel, read and watch Missouri Tiger sports.
My wife, Julie, and our children: Matt , 28; Kyle, 26; Kelsey, 23; Lauren, 20; Luke, 17; and Remington, our 2-year-old black lab who doesn’t know he’s a dog.
favorite place in columbia
Lot C at Faurot Field on a bright sunny fall afternoon surrounded by family and friends preparing for another Tiger victory (and celebrating afterward).
most people don’t know that i
Logged several thousand miles driving an 18-wheeler (many years ago).