Welcome to The 6 a.m. CFO, where finance chiefs share how they jump-start their days and engage with the tasks that are in front of them.
Today, MassMutual’s CFO Betsy Ward shares the importance of owning your development and career, how she manages work-induced stress, and her love of performing in music groups.
- Massachusetts-based MassMutual offers life insurance and protection products, retirement and investment services
- Founded: 1851
- Size: $950B of life insurance protection in force as of 12/31/22
Walk us through your normal workday morning routine:
On a normal workday, I am in early (with the help of an Americano cup of coffee!) so I can go through email to gather and read what I need to be informed about the markets and address new email requests before the day starts.
During my commute, I tend to listen to CNBC or Bloomberg Radio to get a head start on my day.
Tell us about a recent morning when things didn’t go according to plan: My plans aren’t usually so tight that I don’t have room for flexing, which is something I recommend others do as well. I regularly need to adapt to new topics or issues that emerge during the day.
For example, recently a meeting ended early. So I grabbed my colleague and we addressed a developing topic in those 15 minutes that [unexpectedly] appeared in our schedules.
What do you prioritize and how do you engage with your teams? I prioritize emails from my teams as well as important external business relationships. I engage with my team through email, Slack, Zoom, and voicemail regularly.
We also have weekly huddles, monthly status meetings, and meetings on specific topics. I especially love it when we are in the office together so that we can more readily have impromptu conversations.
Favorite quote or mantra: I don’t have a favorite quote, just as I don’t have a favorite song. What I need in the moment is what [becomes] my favorite in the moment — “fit for purpose.”
For example, I have “go-to” songs I play in my head when I am focusing positively on the tennis court. Recently, the song “Joy” by David Poe picked me up and got my feet moving.
Favorite leadership lesson: One I often recall is to “own your development and your career.” Don’t “let it happen” or wait for an opportunity to be presented to you. Be purposeful in your path. Know what you are building and what you are looking for while asking for ideas, advice, and feedback.
That way, when you wonder why you are where you are, you know.
Something important to know about me that you wouldn’t know from my business bio: I love performing in music groups. I grew up playing the flute and singing with groups.
I still try to fit in practicing and performance with groups that have production schedules that I can plan into my schedule.
What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work? Buying and toting several bags and coolers of snacks, plates, cups, and drinks to a team-building outing. That way, the team had what was popular and tasted good.
I liked doing all that I could to make the team outing even better.
Can you share one way you have learned to manage work-induced stress: The best way for me to manage work-induced stress is to exercise with friends. These days, that means playing tennis, hiking, or sailing.
I get to catch up with friends, which definitely gives me energy, and the exercise physically de-stresses my body.
Favorite number: 15. It was lucky for me as a kid and helped me win a spot in a production. I’ve stuck with it ever since.
Your favorite phone app that is unrelated to work: Given how much planning it takes to skipper a day of sailing, Waze, Windy, Navionics, AccuWeather, and NOAA’s marine forecast are my favorites for planning when and where I need to be to land in the port I want at the right time!
Most noteworthy items in your workspace: At MassMutual, most of our office space is collaborative, and designed to work for how we work. So I don’t have personal items in my space that are noteworthy, since my workspace changes, depending on the work that I’m doing.
I’ve found this to be unusual among my peers who typically have a designated office — so maybe the workspace itself is noteworthy!
Do you have a pet sitting in your office right now? On the days I work from home, I do have my beautiful Black Russian Terrier keeping a close eye on me and my husband, and [we know] when it’s time for him to be the center of attention.
The most important piece of literature you’ve recently read:
I just finished a play by Eugene Ionesco. I picked up the book while I was visiting colleagues abroad when I was searching for important Romanian literature to read.
I hadn’t read Ionesco since college, and thought this collection of plays would be perfect.