The Bold Thinkers of the Steve Menzies Global Foundation Founder, Steve Menzies

Born of a vision for assembling and applying the sharpest analytical resources to solving grand scale problems, international corporate and philanthropic leader Steve Menzies has created the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, unique among foundations in design and purpose. Martialing scientific, mathematical, and engineering disciplines together with cultivated diplomatic and business acumen, he has forged an instrument that will prove revolutionary in thought leadership… and will be bold.

For Steve, as our principal thought leader, the commerce between the global corporate world and philanthropic leadership in the worlds of culture, intellectual discourse, the arts, and humanitarian aid has provided a veritable laboratory of opportunities for the analysis of critical initiatives and the redirecting of their impact. Identifying the service of “human ecology” in its many, diverse manifestations, Steve has aimed squarely at setting an agenda for bold action where “flat lining” approaches to social need have too often fostered a passive, routinely accepted inertia. The Foundation reflects his guiding principles for meaningful, results driven action.

It will be of no surprise to many that Steve Menzies has undertaken addressing serious matters in varying areas of concentration across several continents, in light of the decisiveness that has marked his leadership of a leading financial institution, Applied Underwriters, its many related companies and corporate allies; Steve has worked consistently with a veritable faculty, a “think tank” of the best and brightest rather than staid corporate C-suite careerists who typically squander the larger advances of which billion dollar enterprises are uniquely capable. The Menzies think tank group aims, as he does, to act upon intelligence and analytical indicators.

In the media, Steve has been called “a bold intellectual in the CEO’s chair,” “one of the most generous and giving people in the Corporate world” and simply “the wizard” by Bloomberg to describe his driven, serial entrepreneurship, and his creation of Critical Missions, that is, strategic alliances, resource orchestration, fresh formulae, and the funding to solve permanently what may seem insuperable to those taking traditional approaches and bureaucratic operational pathways.

A look at his life’s narrative is illustrative.  A New York native, graduate of Columbia University, he set out for Silicon Valley in the 90’s to apply his engineering abilities and creativity to emerging technologies, and soon developed an opportunity that combined these strengths with his native business and negotiating skills: he founded Applied Underwriters in 1994 to introduce a new, highly efficient, financially beneficial platform of a hybrid of tech driven business services and casualty underwriting. The result was meteoric growth, such that a consolidated back office was quickly needed, carefully researched, and sited in Omaha, Nebraska in 1999.

It was not long before business legend, Warren Buffett, took notice of his new “neighbor’s” success and invited Steve to see where a collaboration might take them. In 2006, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway invested in the Company beginning a direct relationship – in fact, uniquely among Berkshire Hathaway affiliated companies, Applied remained autonomous under Steve’s  leadership.  On October 10, 2019, whereupon Steve bought back all of the shares in one of the first buyouts ever from Berkshire Hathaway and one of the largest among recent insurance transactions.

The once visionary start up, is, today, a complex A Rated multi-national powerhouse, known and revered beyond its revenues and performance for its security, stability, innovation, and intelligence. Distinguished, as well, for its uniquely organic growth and its continuing product acceptability in a world where growth through acquisition and merger is too often the only available tool for building enterprises, Applied Underwriters holds fast to its Chairman’s focus; a dedication to positive social outcomes and serious corporate responsibility.

As an example of Steve’s and Applied’s approach to its mission and its regard for human ecology, the Company is regularly acknowledged for its extraordinary care for injured workers, for setting safety standards in the workplace, and for giving business owners and operators a financial benefit for their observance of best practices in safety and employment standards. Accepting plaudits in the name of the Company, Steve has been presented a host of accords, ranging from the Presidential Medal of John Cabot University of Rome to the St. Vincent de Paul Medal, the highest award of the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York, founded by the Sisters of Charity who are themselves dedicated to service to the injured, the infirm and the poor. Noting that Steve was the first such insurance leader to create a national pharmacy and pharmacy network to allow careful M.D. monitoring of the prescription, provision, and use of opioids for injured claimants, and, citing the fact that he is the revolutionary in insurance who provides inner city homeowners with sound insurance for their properties in places generally ignored by others, the President of the Sisters of Charity described his standards of service as “simply exemplary.”

Concretely, he has applied his care for his neighbors, employees, and colleagues by factoring meaningfully into the quality of life and environment in Omaha, where he is creating Heartwood Preserve, one of the largest developments of its type in the United States. Heartwood is characterized singularly among multi-use developments for its offering to residents, corporate and commercial tenants, and visitors an ecologically responsible, well-conceived destination built with naturally inspired architecture. Many problems were solved by this choice, from the development of an underutilized 500 acre site into a landmark, anchor property in Western Omaha to the creation of an ideal working and living seat for up to 2,000 of the Applied staff.

In the arts, Steve has made a substantial difference in the financial stewardship of the San Francisco Opera – as its Vice Chairman and Chairman of its Endowment Campaign. Most recently, when the vitality and economic viability of the entire worldwide performing arts community was threatened by the COVID -19 pandemic, it was Steve who created a groundbreaking plan for sustaining and engaging artists uncertain of their future.

Acknowledged for his expansive world view and his successes in complex problem solving on a multi-continental stage through the strategic use of sophisticated international risk finance, merchant banking, insurance, reinsurance, international commerce and trade in countries such as Argentina, UK, Chile, Singapore, Bermuda, Papua New Guinea, China, and Bangladesh, he is most often cited for his work in critical areas of international importance from participating in hostage rescue, to the planning and execution of healthcare delivery in stressed areas.

In sum, our founder has connected a high standard of corporate citizenship, financial probity, intellectual acumen, and leading edge business logic to the worlds of diplomacy, culture, education, and the arts. Steve’s list of Critical Missions to be fulfilled through his foundation and through its leaders’ bold thinking are set for real impact. Our shared understanding and respect for “human ecology” will be advanced most meaningfully.

 

On Steve Menzies

 

“Many of us know CEO’s who are more renowned for their skills on the golf course than they are for their drive in the board room and their impact on society. In a business, insurance, that is built on “good faith,” Steve Menzies has combined an appetite for risk taking with a deep concern for ethical and financial probity and transparency.”

 

Sal Salibello
Chairman, John Cabot University
Annual Award Gala
University Club, New York
April 2019

 

“More important to us tonight, however, is the man himself outside of business: a Columbia University graduate in mathematics, he has applied his considerable skills to bettering business and society. He has been cited again and again for his charitable work and his firm’s well cultivated, widely recognized culture of care for injured workers. For our honoree there is an easy, but important link between his leadership in the corporate world and his dedicated philanthropy.”


New Mexico Governor Michelle Grisham
Awards Gala, Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 2019

Steve's Remarks On

Advocacy

“Let this be our leadership mandate: Advocacy… plus personal engagement ….must combine to make financial commitment focused and meaningful.

While education remains the most important form of what ambassadors call cultural diplomacy, we are wedded to the presenting of shared human values beyond borders large and small, as a means of building public spirit – unfettered by pettiness or by the insane folly of political polemics… or, nowadays too prevalent – an all too painfully pessimistic view of our human nature and of our human condition – I mean pessimism about democracy, about our allies, about the world view as it is emerging and about such critical pillars of US relations…

Ladies and gentlemen, let us reject that cynical, negative view with our relentless advocacy and with meaningful contributions.”


Address to Business Leaders
St Regis Hotel, New York, NY
May 2019

Competing and the Spirit of the Entrepreneur

“Some of our inspiration here in Pebble Beach and on ESPN comes from the sporting ambience.  Here, there is risk taking, real exertion, focused power, and the self-actualization that anoints success.  We watch, study and appreciate talented men playing to win with all they’ve got. We know that, as entrepreneurs, you and I do that every day.

Any leader worthy of the title “gets” that sense of power and feels the feeling that goes with striving. In this room tonight, we have a varied, talented and driven group of intellectually sharp, business savvy, mission-focused and highly experienced competitors – that is, entrepreneurs willing to take risk at precisely the time in our society when corporate risk taking is getting lost in a fog of fear and trembling. It is a kind of a spiritual virus that is growing, spread by academe and caught by weak leaders.”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

Boldness

“May I invoke a word that will express the approach that our work together and our joint collaborations will profit by over the years ahead. That word is: boldness.

Now boldness has many meanings and uses, but, overall, it fits an approach that overcomes the awful timidity of the career, corporate bureaucrat, the redundant, paycheck player, and the resignation of executives settling for mediocre results, endured endlessly… and deadeningly.

The new, socially acceptable sense of comfort with shrinking ambition and mediocre results is not for us, any of us. I think you agree. “


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

Boldness as a Virtue

“In the real world of entrepreneurship, boldness is a virtue. I think you know what I mean by it: it is not hubris, arrogance, or braggadocio. No. Boldness is the self-reliant, self-driven assertion of personal power and courage, unapologetically. Power and courage, asserted, again, unapologetically, marks the place where a story begins to become an epic and unfolds as a kind of conquest leading to success. Boldness, as we take it, is pressing down hard on the accelerator to fire our entrepreneurial engines. It works… and it is energizing and life enhancing. Boldness, not rash self-assertion or boorish, amateurish salesmanship, but stand-up trust and confidence in an enterprise’s vision… and the courage to act – that is the formula.  Let this continue to be our guiding mantra as “partners,” as we hold fast to our paradigm for growth beyond every prediction.”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

Temper of our Time

“The temper of the times suggest to me a fresh appetite in business for originality, for innovation, for old fashioned rugged individualism, contrasting to the culture of coddled, spoiled, ‘part-time’ adults…”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

What We Need to Fear

“All we have to fear is a lack of imagination, a lack of courage and a lack of talent. And so, we have nothing to fear.

We must continue to stand out in the new class of corporate leaders who find ways to say no and take baby steps to nowhere. By contrast, we hold to a willingness to share in heroic vision.”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

Merit and Branding

“Today, many companies doubt their own mission and strengths, all too often. The fact is, the best and brightest thrive in a meritocracy.

And meritocracy is not a value to be ashamed of.

No.

An individual must become his own best stakeholder; we must be our own best stakeholders.

That is the approach we seek in our partners.

We partner with thinkers and entrepreneurs who are proud of their exceptional abilities, successes, and who thrive economically and socially, unapologetically.”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2020

Beyond the Letter of the Policy

“Our first priority is to offer the highest standard of performance and to focus upon the social importance of our mission as insurers. We, like the College, have a commitment to excellence beyond the letter of our contracts and basic obligations.

As a result, we have both stayed ahead of the marketplace. Ten years before the opioid crisis was written or spoken about, we discovered a trend by examining our records and we opened the first M.D. supervised pharmacy inside our company to serve our claimants responsibly. We instituted practices and seamless payment structures to deliver care and strengthen the system.

Each day, we work to ensure, first, that there are fewer injured workers by delivering the best package anywhere of risk management and safety protocols for businesses and we add incentives to business leaders to join in the effort. That is our mission each day. It is one that has been recognized, to our great pleasure, by the insurance industry and by caring institutions, such as the College of Mount Saint Vincent.”


College of Mt. St. Vincent Awards Gala
Cipriani, Broadway, NY
April 2018

Transformation

“For John Cabot, however, his name change from Giovanni Caboto, his new home, the travel and his humanist scholarship were all transformative. Transformations would mark his life, as he moved from the life of a modest Venetian merchant to the high risk world of daring exploration and bravado navigation. Cabot was a “new man” of the high Renaissance – itself one of history’s great periods of transformation, when this round globe of ours was finally understood in its splendor and variety.

Like all of the great Italian navigators, we may come to see the world as it is, in its fullness and resplendence. We may all take pride in the fact that JCU is far more than “cultural tourism” for young adults, as I have come to learn.  Providing studying and living experiences in the heart of Rome, at a University that bestrides the historic Tiber River offers meaningful, transformative experience. Whether they study architecture, history, art, or politics at a University that is steeped in the history of each discipline, there is the potential for personal, intellectual, and spiritual transformation. And, for those of us here who do business across borders, we can attest to the value of a student’s exposure to the international scene that places graduates at a great advantage.”



John Cabot University Annual Award Gala
University Club, New York
April 2019

“To Do”

“To do,” is the operative infinitive for us in the 21st century – and it must be. “To do” – that is the point. For me or for any of us to be described as a Renaissance man or woman is a nod to our ability to appreciate beauty and it is a nod to the great artists of that time. Yet, to be a true Renaissance person is first to gain the sensibility of the leaders of that period: from the merchant families like the Medici’s to the Royalty and the Popes of the day, the dynasties whose shared spirit of adventure and love of beauty and learning resulted in the refined expression of genius… that very genius that found its way up to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and on to the pages of Leonardo’s lofty plans – 500 years ago – for an airplane, an elevator, and a means of enabling humans themselves to fly.

The fact is, that institutions of all types, leaders of all types, from governments and churches to the noble or “landed” families of the day – much like today’s family offices, foundations, and charities – enabled the Renaissance. They paid for it, to be blunt. They were engaged and committed.”


Awards Gala, Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 2019

Spirit of the Renaissance

“The Renaissance itself was built upon a much deeper sense of intellectual and social continuity – a continuous progress of the human spirit. That spirit mirrored itself in the public well-being that art and education alone can transmit. This is the enduring gift of the Renaissance: the belief that art and education of themselves are uplifting for the soul and that we, as leaders, are responsible for sustaining the educational level of our citizenry.

Today, we know that a renaissance – lower case – of any kind, but especially in the arts and education, is a public / private act of advocacy for leaders whose passion for the arts and education drives the refreshing and regenerating of public spirit. It is an advocacy that requires serious attention… and more than money. A renaissance comes wrapped carefully in a beautiful package that bespeaks profound leadership engagement.

Advocacy plus engagement make financial commitment meaningful.

May I repeat that once more:

Advocacy… plus engagement ….make financial commitment meaningful.”


Awards Gala, Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 2019

Pessimism Rejected, Social Diplomacy Espoused

“Art and education remain the highest form of what ambassadors call cultural diplomacy, the craft of presenting shared human values beyond all borders large and small, as a means of building public spirit – unfettered by pettiness or the insane folly of political polemics or by an all too prevalent, painfully pessimistic view of our human nature and our human condition.

We reject that negative view.

Our task is thus a kind of social diplomacy through art and education, realized by the most dedicated, disciplined and visionary of artists and educators – whose work is realized through our advocacy, our generosity and through our bright, penetrating vision.

There is a renaissance within our sight, at our fingertips in the arts and education. I see it often in the opera – that brilliant, complex form of human expression and enlightenment – one that has reportedly been fading away since 1825… but that we know will endure like all of the best in our society if we are all its exponents, actively and devotedly engaged.

For the arts and for education, we must be the new Medici’s.”



Address to Business Leaders
St Regis Hotel, New York, New York
May 2019

Priorities for a New Headquarters

“Applied has a soul, a good one, and does good work for our clients. And does it profitably. Herein lies a kind of reward unto itself that augurs a bright, rich future.

We are known as a premiere employer in Omaha and our new center will boost that even higher, with its in- building covered parking, gymnasium, expanded cafeteria and services, multi-media conference and meeting rooms, light-rich and energy efficient design, its use of green space externally, its simply remarkable operating systems, and its elevated site on the campus.

We chose the words “Heartwood Preserve” instead of Park or any other corporate cliché to reflect the manner in which the 500 acre site has been developed: we have preserved the contours of the property, preserved the natural feel of the place, preserved the prestige of its position along a major corridor and preserved the tradition of integrity in the choice of construction materials and plans. The Preserve will be ecologically responsible, aesthetically pleasing, and practically conceived, from the convenient roadways – our own Exit on Dodge called Applied Parkway, to the light-rich, conducive office environment.

Heartwood Preserve is a mark of our commitment to the future of Applied and to Omaha itself, where we will have a prestigious location and presence.”


Speech to Staff
Heartwood Preserve, Omaha, Nebraska
September 2019

Bold Thinkers

“To be an educated man or woman has changed and should, but not through a temporary mistrust of the past, but through precisely the opposite. The bold thinker accepts all that has gone before, good and bad, and moves ahead in the Archimedean manner, needing only a place to stand upon to move the world.”


Address to Stakeholders
Pebble Beach
February 2019