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AIG chief to grads: Take whatever job comes

Robert Benmosche, chief executive officer of American International

Robert Benmosche, chief executive officer of American International Group Inc., said his advice to new graduates is: “You have to accept the hand that’s been dealt you in life.” (Nov. 30, 2012) Credit: Bloomberg

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of insurer American International Group Inc., has some tough love for college students graduating in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

"You have to accept the hand that's been dealt you in life," Benmosche said in an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg Television. "Don't cry about it. Deal with it."

The CEO is scheduled to give a commencement address Saturday at upstate Alfred University, where he earned a degree in math and played football. College graduates have struggled to find jobs after the financial crisis sent the U.S. unemployment rate as high as 10 percent in 2009. Joblessness for recent college graduates, ages 20 to 29, was 12.6 percent in October 2011, a Bureau of Labor Statistics review last month showed.

"They want me to talk to the students and give them a sense of encouragement, especially with the high unemployment," said Benmosche, 68. "My advice will be: Whatever opportunity comes your way, take it. Take it and treat it as if it's the only one that's coming your way, because that actually may be the truth."

The CEO said he plans to tell graduates about his own career path, which included a stint as a truck driver delivering Coca-Cola Co. products that helped him pay his way through preparatory school and college.

After graduating from Alfred in 1966, Benmosche served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and then worked at Arthur D. Little Inc., Chase Manhattan Bank and PaineWebber Inc. He joined MetLife Inc. in 1995 and took the insurer public, retiring in 2006.

Benmosche began running New York-based AIG in August 2009, about a year after the insurer's bailout. AIG received a rescue that swelled to $182.3 billion after housing-related bets soured amid the financial crisis. The insurer repaid the aid last year, in part by raising billions of dollars from asset sales.

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