690: The Next 100 Years | Arleen Paladino, CFO, Crum & Forster

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In the early 1980s, when Arleen Paladino joined Crum & Forster as a 21-year-old internal audit trainee, she was frequently sent to remote office locations to complete audits of financial statements the data from which were then transferred to keypunch cards and fed into a giant mainframe at the insurance company’s Morristown, New Jersey, headquarters

“While this might seem like a long time ago, we just decommissioned the mainframe last year,” says Paladino, who entered Crum & Forster’s CFO office in 2017 after serving as a senior vice president of the company’s internal audit function.

Having only recently bid farewell to mainframe technology, Crum & Forster is not likely counted among the industry’s tech savvy innovators. Still, evolution is arguably what Crum & Forster does best. The insurance company will celebrate its bicentennial next year.

“Understanding the systems and how the processes worked together really helped me to understand the business model,” continues Paladino, who would advance upward as she took on more management responsibilities, including helping to spearhead compliance initiatives such as SOX, which garnered the attention of company board members.

Meanwhile, as evident as Paladino’s maturing leadership qualities may have been, her focus on systems and processes at times arguably may have obscured what might be her 40-plus-year career’s greatest contribution to the company.

“When I started, I was the only female auditor in the department,” explains Paladino, who recalls engaging with very few woman executives during these early visits. Much later, at about midstream in her eventual career of more than four decades, Paladino found herself married, a mother of two under the age of 6—and struggling to achieve work/life balance.

“I had a CFO at the time who I did not think would want me to reduce my hours, so we had a very candid conversation and I explained my situation,” remembers Paladino, who ended up securing an hours reduction in her workweek and thus illuminated a path for others to follow.

Says Paladino: “Part of the draw for me has been to achieve this work/life balance and have a culture that supports it.” –Jack Sweeney

GET MORE: Order now The CFO Yearbook, 2021

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