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Her policy is ensuring the numbers add up

People – January 2004

Her policy is ensuring the numbers add up

Every three months, Theresa Stone finds herself on a conference call pitted against a hostile crowd of faceless industry analysts. It’s the quarterly earnings announcement, and Stone must deliver Jefferson-Pilot Corp.’s numbers — good or bad. “There are 60 people on the other end of the phone with their spreadsheets out, waiting to outguess you, and you have to guide them through the information you’ve given them,” she says.

Such are the demands on the chief financial officer of a public company. Stone, 59, is the top number cruncher at Greensboro-based JP, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. She also is president of its Jefferson-Pilot Communications Co. subsidiary. And in August, the Federal Reserve System board of governors appointed her a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The bank, along with 11 others nationwide, helps set U.S. monetary policy. Stone will serve on the nine-member board, which meets monthly, through the end of 2004.

It’s not the career the Boston native envisioned when she graduated in 1966 from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s in French literature. Stone wanted to be a French professor, so she enrolled at Cornell University to pursue her doctorate. But in the early 1970s, feminist philosophy was gaining popularity and altering how women saw themselves professionally. Suddenly, a career in management held a certain je ne sais quoi for her.

She forsook French for an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, then landed on Wall Street, where she spent 14 years as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley & Co. She covered clients primarily in the insurance industry. One of them, The Chubb Corp., recruited her as a senior vice president in 1990 and made her president of its New Hampshire-based life-insurance subsidiary in 1994.

JP bought the division in 1997, prompting another career change Stone had not anticipated: JP asked her to run its broadcast business. “How do you go from life insurance and finance to broadcasting?” she wondered. She drew on her background for the answer. “As a banker, you get confident you can figure out what makes a company successful. I knew I could figure out what mattered most in the broadcast industry. And I figured I could manage the company effectively.” She moved with her husband and son from New Hampshire to Greensboro to take the job. Four years later, she took on the additional role of corporate CFO.

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