(Updated 3:30 p.m.) In keeping with his commitment to retain and attract business to Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated Catherine H. Smith, CEO of ING’s U.S. Retirement Services, as his Department of Economic Development Commissioner.
Smith, 58, will be tasked with helping attract new businesses to a state which has experienced job losses for the past 22 years. In addition to attracting new businesses to the state, Smith will also help in reorganizing the department and will make sure the businesses and industries that are already here, stay.
Smith, who admittedly is taking a pretty big pay cut to jump into public life, said she’s committed to helping the state and is in a position to do just that by taking on this new role. Her new position will pay $170,000.
“Let me put this way, I’m taking a big pay cut, and I believe it’s the right thing to do for me,” she said. “My husband and I are financially able to do this, but we are very committed to helping the state.”
Sources say Malloy is trying to send a message with Smith’s nomination and the nomination of Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi that Connecticut is committed to keeping the insurance and financial services industry in the state. Sources said while Smith is virtually unknown to many in public life, she knows a good share of executives both inside and outside the state. Those connections will serve her well in her new position.
‘I think the insurance companies that are here really like being in Connecticut,” Smith said Thursday at a Capitol press conference. “We have a great skilled workforce around actuaries and financial acumen.“
As far as the insurance industry is concerned, “I think we want to make sure it continues to be competitive from a cost perspective and from a tax perspective,” she said.
Malloy said he views the insurance industry as a “growth industry” in Connecticut as opposed to something the state is trying to hang onto or something it once had. He made another push for the industry to bring back some of its call centers.
As for Smith’s corporate background, Malloy said he will be looking to round that out fairly quickly with the hiring of Smith’s economic development team.
Asked why he chose someone with a corporate background and not someone who has worked in the public sector, Malloy said it was because he wants the state to win.
“In picking the leader to completely engineer the entirety of the state’s approach to business retention and growth, large and small businesses, I could not have come up with a better candidate than the one that I did,” Malloy said. “Now is she inviting of augmenting a skill set she doesn’t necessarily have? Of course she is.”
“Catherine will be fully empowered to create a new organization with a new approach, calling on the best tools on a national level that can be applied here in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “I’m looking forward to working with her.”
At ING Smith helped manage 3,000 employees and had oversight of sales, marketing, operations, customer service, product development, risk management, and finance. She is a graduate of Hampshire College and received her masters in public and private management from Yale University.
Prior to the decade she spent at ING, Smith worked in the financial services division of Aetna in 2000 when it was sold to ING, a Dutch company. According to her biography on ING’s website, she’s been ranked No. 9 on U.S. Banker magazine’s 2009 “Top 25 Most Powerful Nonbank Women in Finance” list and has been recognized by The 401kWire as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Defined Contribution” in 2009 and 2010.