Edmund F. Kelly

President, chief executive officer, and chairman, Liberty Mutual Group

Nationality: Irish.

Born: 1946, in Ireland.

Education: Queen's University, Belfast, bachelor's degree; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD.

Career: Aetna Life and Casualty Company, 1974–1992, began as actuarial student, became president of employee benefits; Liberty Mutual, 1992–1998, president and chief operating officer; 1998–, president and chief executive officer; 2000–, president, chief executive officer, and chairman.

Address: Liberty Mutual, 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116-5066; http://www.liberty mutual.com/.

■ Edmund F. Kelly became a successful leader of Liberty Mutual Group, the eighth-largest insurer in the United States, due to his hard work and ability to accomplish difficult tasks. When he began working for Liberty Mutual, Kelly had to make difficult decisions in order to make the company profitable.


Edmund Kelly was born in 1946 in Ireland. He earned a bachelor's degree from Queen's University in Belfast and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Shortly after earning his doctorate, Kelly began working as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of New Brunswick and then at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.


Kelly left academia in 1974 to begin working for Aetna Life and Casualty. It was clear from the beginning that Kelly would perform well. He was not afraid to take difficult jobs; he told Carol Davenport of Fortune that he had a "willingness to tackle jobs that others walked away from." He became the head of the insurer's pension and financial services unit in 1985. In this position he strengthened marketing and introduced new investment products. The result was a 38 percent increase in pension assets. By introducing cost controls and better risk management, he also increased pension earnings by 51 percent. Due to these successes, Kelly became president of employee benefits, which was Aetna's largest division. After eighteen years with Aetna, Kelly left to work for Liberty Mutual.


In 1992 Kelly became president and chief operating officer for Liberty Mutual. Faced with stagnation in the industry, Kelly had to make some difficult decisions at Liberty Mutual, among them letting 1,500 people go. After this workforce reduction and with better marketing, Liberty Mutual saw its annual profits increase by as much as 67 percent.

Kelly believed in a strong customer-focused business model. For example, he felt that it was essential for customers to be able to reach Liberty Mutual through the Internet, over the phone, or in person—"channel neutral," as he described it to Lisa Howard of National Underwriter , meaning that customers could contact the company in the manner of their choosing. Emphasizing his belief in the importance of loyal customers, he boasted that the average Liberty Mutual customer had been with the company for fourteen years. He also believed that the company's selection of customers had a great impact on profitability.


In 1998 Kelly was elected chief executive officer, and in 2000, chairman, of Liberty Mutual Group. He expanded the international reach of the company, opening offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, England, and China. In 2004 Liberty Mutual opened its first insurance sales office in Chongqing, China, a city of 31 million people. From 1994 to 2004 Kelly increased international insurance premiums from $190 million to $4 billion.

In an effort to protect his company and maintain competitiveness, Kelly took part in reorganizing Liberty Mutual Group into a mutual-holding company. This new structure created three separate stock-insurance companies under the ownership of Liberty Mutual Holding Company. This was a difficult task that Kelly had to defend before the Massachusetts Division of Insurance headquarters in Boston, where he argued that the move was necessary to make Liberty Mutual more competitive.

See also entry on Liberty Mutual Holding Company in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Arndt, Sheril, "Managed Care Key to Health Co. Survival," National Underwriter Property & Casualty: Risk & Benefits Management , October 1, 1990, p. 9.

Davenport, Carol, "On the Rise," Fortune , November 6, 1989, p. 196.

Howard, Lisa, "Liberty Focuses on Acquisition Channels," National Underwriter , August 2, 1999, pp. 15–16.

Nelson, Scott Bernard, "CEO of Boston Insurance Company Announces Plans for New Format," Boston Globe Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News , October 11, 2001.

—Deborah Kondek

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