September 14, 2015
CFO of the Year 2015 - Private Company (more than 100 employees)

Sorensen leads Insurity through merger wave

PHOTO | Pablo Robles
PHOTO | Pablo Robles

Being a chief financial officer may not be the most exciting job at times, but it's the career Rick Sorensen wanted at a young age.

"It was my sophomore year [in high school]. I took an accounting class and the rest was history," said Sorensen, who is the financial chief at Hartford's Insurity, a company that specializes in making and selling software and services for property and casualty insurers. "Being a CFO is something I have always wanted to do."

That passion for the job hasn't relented for Sorensen, who has played a role in guiding Insurity through eight acquisitions and mergers, including two within the last year.

"Rick is the conscience of the organization," said Erica Carlson, Insurity's marketing creative designer. "He is a role model with boundless energy, passion and commitment."

Sorensen has been with Insurity since 1996 and has helped guide the company through many changes.

The Insurity name was adopted in 2001 after the company's parent, Choicepoint, acquired Insurity Solutions. Seven years later LexisNexus acquired Choicepoint.

That deal was relatively easy to adapt to, Sorensen said, because it involved two public companies merging. Things were more complicated, however, when a private equity firm, Genstar Capital, acquired Insurity in 2011.

"That is when the company went private," he said. "We essentially had to re-tool, almost like a startup."

After that deal, every facet of the company had to be re-invented from payroll to marketing to the day-to-day operations.

"We really were like a new company," he said.

Then in late 2014, Boston private equity firm TA Associates invested in Insurity. Sorensen managed the financial modeling to support the investment.

Over the years he's also created new financial reporting mechanisms and metrics to reflect investments and growth with new acquisitions and capital. He's also implemented a new budgeting/forecasting and reporting system.

"Rick is very experienced in a broad category of financial responsibilities — including corporate and public reporting and startup and private equity funding," Carlson said. "He leads the focus on the revenue, profit and cash drivers. He is a master at synergies, cost-savings and accelerating revenue measurements in a merger and acquisition environment."

Sorensen is modest about his role, arguing that the CFO is sometimes considered a second-class citizen.

"The CFO does not make anything and does not generate revenue," he said.

Sorensen said creating the new corporate makeup allowed private investors to infuse capital to bolster the company's products.

Insurity sells software, systems and other technical support that aims to help insurance carriers run better, smarter operations that ultimately gives them a competitive edge in selling policies that offer the best value.

"This is where we come in," Sorensen said. "We have to have a custom system — develop it to the needs of the customer. Then we need to make it faster and quicker than anything the underwriters can do themselves."

And it is an ever-evolving market.

"Everything has snowballed in this feature-rich tech market," he said. "But we also have to allow our systems to comply with the underlying reality of the constantly changing regulatory environment."

Insurity's client list includes about 150 major insurers like Travelers, Geico, Allstate and Zurich. Sorensen said the company is projecting $136 million in sales this year.

At 43, Sorensen said he is at that age where his daughter, Madeleine, is beginning to play youth sports.

He laughed that the CFO in him could not resist taking the helm and he turned to coaching, joined by his wife, Laura.

Sorensen is also involved in a bunch of activities at the Simsbury United Methodist Church.

"We are all part of the tight-knit family," he said. He and Laura also have sons, Stephen, a senior in high school and Nicholas, a junior.

Back at the office, he mentors college interns and sits on the Insurity culture council steering committee, which organizes a variety of programs and events throughout the year for employees.

He also participates in an Insurity golf league, an endeavor he says is better suited to corporate fellowship than making birdies.

"Rick is passionate about everything he does," Carlson says.

And in a way, that high school accounting student has now become the teacher.

Rick Sorensen

The Basics

Name of Organization: Insurity

Title: CFO

Size of Organization: 2015 projected — $135 million in sales

Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting from Bryant College

Previous Job(s): Started at PRC (predecessor to Insurity) in 1996 as assistant controller when we were owned by Equifax; Equifax spun off its Insurance Services Division and formed ChoicePoint where I held a variety of financial roles. ChoicePoint was a NYSE company until it sold to LexisNexis/Reed Elsevier in 2008. I became CFO of Insurity in 2011 when we were sold to private equity firm Genstar Capital.

On the Job

Guiding Business Principle: Stay organized, be confident and always appreciative.

Best way to keep your competitive edge: Surround yourself with great people and be ready for change because it always comes.

Best business decision: Introducing the balanced scorecard management approach at Insurity has helped us significantly improve organizational performance by identifying and measuring what matters.

Worst business decision: Allowing for perpetual license sales in the early days of the company.

Biggest missed opportunity: I like to think that I have seized the biggest opportunities that I have faced.

Goal yet to be achieved: To become my own boss and have my own business

Personal touch in your office: Give people the space and tools they need to succeed and always be appreciative.

Personal Side

City of residence: Simsbury

Favorite way to relax: Spending time with my family and friends

Hobbies: Sports, outdoors, music, movie, and reading enthusiast. Have enjoyed cooking with Laura, my wife, more in recent years. In pursuit of mastering the perfect steak!

Last vacation: Ocean Park, Maine family vacation in July — indisputably my favorite week of the year

Favorite movie: "Saving Private Ryan,"
"The Godfather," and the original
"Star Wars" trilogy.

The car you drive: 2013 Jeep Wrangler

Currently reading: "Radiant Angel" by Nelson DeMille

Favorite cause: Supporting our church and youth sports

Second career choice: None. I took an accounting class my sophomore year in high school and the rest is history.

Read more

West Hartford, Simsbury top work-life balance rankings

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