This content is from: Research

Eight Top CEOs on How Their Companies Are Forging Ahead

Members of II’s 2022 All-America Executive Team share the biggest challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned over the past year.

America’s top chief executives can be divided into two camps: those who saw the pandemic as an opportunity for collaboration, and those who seized the moment to beat the competition in their sector.

Larry Culp made the bold decision, three years into his tenure as chief executive, to split General Electric Company into three separate entities. GE is a U.S. heavyweight, co-founded by the inventor of the modern lightbulb Thomas Edison in 1892. Culp’s decision to divide the company into discrete publicly-traded companies in aviation, healthcare, and energy, announced in November, marks a radical shift in company structure. Culp said the rupture allows each to become “separate, focused companies dedicated to each of these critical spaces... better equipped to attract more of the best talent, deepest board, and the most capital.” Perhaps because of this, Culp was voted top of the electrical equipment and multi-industry category of Institutional Investor’s 2022 All-American Executive Team

In the pharmaceuticals industry, Covid-19 has led to a coming together of private interests. “The pandemic has spurred collaboration among biopharmaceutical companies at a scale and pace that few if any of us could have foreseen or even thought possible just two years ago,” said Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen, and the highest ranking CEO in the biotechnology category. In September 2020, Amgen teamed up with Eli Lilly to boost the supply of therapeutic antibodies — a partnership that Bradway said went from verbal agreement to large-scale production “in a matter of just months.”

Dave Ricks from Eli Lilly and Co joins Bradway on the All-America Executive Team, ranking first in the pharmaceuticals category as voted for by II’s panel of sell- and buy-side participants. Ricks said Eli Lilly is “fighting human nature, the desire to ‘get back to the way it was’. We don’t want to go back. We want to keep that purpose-driven energy alive as we launch new medicines in significant areas of unmet need like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.”

There is, however, one thing that Ricks wants to get back to: the office. “We’ve learned, as many businesses have, that virtual ways of working aren’t the best way to maintain and grow a purpose-driven culture,” he told II. What’s so good about the office? Teamwork, inventiveness, and the all-important potential for collaboration, Ricks said. Rodney O. Martin Jr, who was voted best CEO in the insurance sector for his work heading up the New-York headquartered Voya Financial, disagrees. He said remote working can give companies a competitive edge, making them “better positioned to not only understand their customers’ needs, but also retain the great talent that they have and attract new employees.” Rodney said retaining talent will be critical for all industries in the wake of what he calls “the Great Resignation” and anticipated accompanying labor shortages. Douglas Peterson, president and chief executive of S&P Global and the top-scoring leader in the business, education and professional services category, said a flexible approach is essential: “As we transition into a more balanced approach of both in-person and remote working in 2022, I have learned that we’re capable of working flexibly while delivering the excellent level of service our customers have come to expect.”

Martin and Peterson are not the only top-ranking chief executives thinking about how to keep employees happy at a moment when many leaders are expecting to lose key staff. Ally Financial has increased its minimum hourly wage by 18 percent to $20, benefitting more than 2,300 frontline staff. In addition, the company is awarding all eligible employees stock annually. “Nothing can stop 10,000 owners collectively working to a common purpose,” said Jeffrey Brown, the top-ranked chief executive in the consumer finance sector. In April, Frank Del Rio, who came first in the leisure sector, led Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings when it committed to a 100 percent vaccination policy across its ships when they resumed cruising. “I believe this strong commitment to health and safety, and the great lengths we as a company have gone through to protect our guests, crew, and [the] communities we visit has increased confidence in us and resulted in a competitive advantage,” he said. It’s paid off, Del Rio added, as Norwegian is seeing strong demand for cruise holidays across its brands.

While Culp has a major split on the cards at GE, Peterson is handling the merger between S&P Global and IHS Markit — a plan that “demonstrated the resiliency of our company and our people, and validated the strength of our diversified product set and customer base,” he said. “I am energized by our merger with IHS Markit and the combination of our two world-class organizations and the complementary assets we plan to bring together.”

Whether forging new relationships or executing singular ideas to improve competitiveness, this is a team of executives unafraid to make daring decisions in the midst of economic uncertainty.



Rainer Blair, Danaher Corporation

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

Certainly the Covid-19 pandemic was a sudden and substantial challenge that impacted everyone’s lives and businesses. We had to invent new ways to support each other at Danaher and continue serving our customers, while safeguarding our associates’ health and safety. At the same time, we’ve had a critically important role to play directly in the fight against Covid-19 and in support of our customers’ ongoing essential daily work. Fortunately, adaptability is deeply ingrained in our culture at Danaher and, as I look back over the last 18 months, I’m incredibly proud of our associates who turned these challenges into impactful opportunities to help our customers and the global community. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

We’ve seen first-hand, every day, how incredibly important it is to have a portfolio and a culture built on a strong foundation. We’ve been purposeful about building a global science and technology company centered around compelling long-term needs like life science research and biopharmaceuticals, environmental health, diagnostics, and product identification safety measures. Participating in mission-critical areas like these across Danaher has afforded our business tremendous underlying stability regardless of what might be happening in the broader economy, and we really got to see the strength of our portfolio in action these past 18 months. Culturally, our spirit of continuous improvement is always driving us forward, and enables us to be opportunistic in good times and resilient even in the toughest environments.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

In several areas of our business the pandemic fast-tracked market trends that were already underway. Two examples that stand out are molecular diagnostic testing and biologic and genomic-based medicines, where the proliferation and adoption of these technologies accelerated due to their effectiveness in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Covid-19. We’re incredibly proud of our contributions on these fronts, to fight the pandemic, and this dynamic has also created additional opportunities for us to increase our growth investments in these and other areas of our business. These investments are helping us continue to meet our customers’ needs today, through innovation and capacity expansion, and they’re equally important to support the long-term growth trajectory of these businesses.

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

We’re a better and stronger company today than we were just a few years ago, and we keep setting the bar higher for ourselves. We’re constantly pushing to maintain that momentum and keep building an even stronger Danaher. And executing our strategy and delivering is not possible without the best team on the field every day. We have to keep developing our culture and making sure that Danaher is the destination for the best and brightest talent. It’s a constant evolution and we always come back to that continuous improvement mindset.

How is your company innovating?

Whether it’s through our existing R&D capabilities, or acquiring a new business or breakthrough technology, innovation is one of the biggest ways we’re able to solve some of the most complex science and technology challenges out there. One of our core values at Danaher is “innovation defines our future,” and you saw this at the forefront of our Covid-19 response. Our teams acted quickly to launch new diagnostic tests, help customers develop and produce new vaccines and therapeutics in record time, and rapidly expand production capacity to meet increased demand. We’ve accelerated innovation investments across Danaher, increasing our R&D spend by more than 30 percent versus last year and focusing our efforts on new technologies and solutions to address and anticipate the challenges our customers encounter.



Robert Bradway, Amgen

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

Without question, our main challenge has been the prolonged and cumulative impact of Covid-19, and I’m tremendously impressed with how our sector has stepped up to the test. Biopharmaceutical companies brought several novel vaccines for Covid to patients in record time, as well as therapeutics to help patients already infected. This has been a team effort involving innovative companies big and small, regulators, government policy makers, public health advocates, academics, and the medical community. For example, Amgen contributed insight into the molecular epidemiology of the virus through our subsidiary in Iceland, and we manufactured a therapeutic antibody for Covid-19 in collaboration with Eli Lilly. Although the pandemic hasn’t yet been wrestled to ground, we are making steady progress across the globe and should all feel a growing sense of optimism.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

Despite everything we have already learned about human biology and disease, it’s hard not to feel humble in the face of so much that we still don’t understand about the origins and course of disease.  Alzheimer’s offers a good example, as researchers continue to struggle to identify the biological mechanisms driving this widespread and tragic condition. More positively, I’ve been impressed by the speed and efficiency with which biopharmaceutical companies have moved to develop entirely new medicines to prevent and treat Covid-19, and to manufacture and distribute them at global scale. It’s eye-opening proof of what we can achieve, working together, when the public health need is sufficiently obvious and urgent. 

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

The pandemic has opened opportunities for Amgen to increase speed and efficiency across our business, from early research to marketing of our approved medicines. It has provided the impetus for transforming our clinical development through enhanced digitization, which will help us to improve success rates, generate high-quality clinical evidence more quickly, and make it easier for more investigators and patients to participate in clinical trials. 

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

Even as we continue to struggle against Covid-19, we will continue to face next year and beyond a large and growing challenge from chronic disease. That challenge has only increased over the past two years, as the pandemic has deterred many people from seeking timely screening, diagnosis, and medical care for chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and even many cancers.  Chronic disease takes a huge toll in death, disability, and impaired quality of life, and it imposes a tremendous economic burden on health systems. Fortunately, we have diagnostic tools that permit us to predict who is at highest risk of heart attacks, strokes, osteoporotic fractures, and other setbacks resulting from chronic disease, and in many cases we can prevent those life-altering events through lifestyle modification and the use of medications. In short, I believe we need to reorient our health systems away from “fixing what’s broken” and toward “predicting and preventing” chronic disease.   

How is your company innovating?

Amgen is unraveling the information contained in human genetics, proteomics, and other “omic” modalities to develop new medicines. For instance, we recently brought to market the very first medicine capable of targeting a specific mutation — called KRAS G12C — responsible for many cases of non-small cell lung cancer. We are now studying that medicine for possible effectiveness against other solid-tumor cancers.  Amgen is also at the forefront of developing “proximity biology” — medicines that work by forming connections between two or more proteins, much like a matchmaker. Instead of trying to grapple with difficult targets on their own, these multispecific medicines mobilize the body’s own biological mechanisms to alter a disease-causing protein target. I’m confident that breakthroughs in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and genetic sequencing will soon enable us to design protein-based drugs that can connect with and neutralize virtually any target, including those such as KRAS that were previously thought to be undruggable.   



Jeffrey Brown, Ally Financial

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

The continued impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt far and wide. Supply constraints have been a challenge across nearly every sector — from semiconductors impacting all aspects of manufacturing (including auto) to human capital and the availability of resources. Ally’s customer-centric approach has been an asset to our business during this time. Through the continued execution of our strategic plan, we’ve been able to generate long-term enhanced value for all our stakeholders, as evidenced by our operating and financial performance and reaching the highest book value per share for the company.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

Our broader values have defined our purpose and long-term vision. Culturally, financially, operationally, and technologically, each day we strive to increase engagement, drive meaningful value, and deliver differentiated digital products for our nine million customers. For our 2.5 million deposit customers, this was evident when Ally Bank became the first bank to eliminate overdraft fees and, in our auto business, when we grew to a record 20,000 dealer customers, representing 12 consecutive years of growth. For our employees, this has included raising the minimum hourly wage to $20 and putting their safety and well-being first, because when you take care of your employees, the rest follows. Also, in our communities, we are building real and lasting change through the Ally Charitable Foundation, to which we have contributed $80 million. These values remain at the center of our company moving forward, ensuring we continue to leverage the momentum and strength of our growing, leading businesses.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

Many of our businesses experienced demand-based acceleration during Covid, which we were positioned for thanks to our digital DNA and the framework we’ve built to accommodate growth. These trends, combined with our ability to move quickly and decisively, serve as positives for the long-term success of our business and the execution of our strategic priorities. We operate under a ‘Do It Right’ mantra at Ally — focusing on delivering value for all our stakeholders from our customers, to our employees, to our communities. Being one of the largest auto lenders in the U.S. and being the largest digital-only bank in the U.S. certainly positioned the company well over the past twenty months.

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

The “new normal” has evolved since 2020 and into 2021. We’ve had to remain nimble and create new routines both personally and professionally, and this is undoubtedly going to continue into 2022. What the last few years have taught us is everything starts and stops with our people and our culture. We have the best team in the business, and I continue to challenge them to put an emphasis on essentialism, a concept I’ve embraced from the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown. Every minute spent doing something “because it’s easier to just say yes,” is a minute that can’t be directed to something that really needs to be done. It’s a minute that could have been spent learning a new skill or used to help a customer and earn their lifetime loyalty.

How is your company innovating?

Ally is deeply focused on innovation — it’s core to what we do as a digital financial institution and integral to our long-term success. But we innovate beyond the traditional technological advances and digital offerings that are at the heart of our business model — we have created a true sense of shared equity and deep alignment by awarding every eligible employee Ally stock annually. Nothing can stop 10,000 owners collectively working to a common purpose.



Larry Culp, General Electric

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

Earlier this fall I spoke at a conference where the analyst likened navigating global supply chain dynamics to playing a game of “whack-a-mole.” I shouldn’t repeat that phrase, but it is our current reality. Never in my career have I seen anything like the supply chain disruption we’re navigating today. GE’s experience isn’t fundamentally different from what other companies are feeling in this regard, and we expect this to persist for a few quarters. To navigate this, our teams are using the lean muscles we’ve been building over the last few years, ruthlessly prioritizing and tending to safety, quality, delivery, and cost, in that order. While supply disruptions present a challenge for us in the near term, I do believe we’ll come out stronger on the other side as we bolster these operational capabilities further. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

This year has been transformational for our company. What I’ve seen firsthand is how having a mission that matters can mobilize an extraordinary team to do extraordinary things. When I arrived at GE, our collective mission was more immediate: Get our debt levels down and get back to basics operationally. Our team’s progress putting GE on stronger financial footing with stronger business and operating performance has put us in a position to strategically consider what is best for GE’s businesses going forward. 

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

I’m not sure “unexpected” is quite the right word, but what I started to see coalescing at GE this year were four things. First, we gained line of sight to more than $75 billion of debt reduction over three years — representing significant progress on balance sheet repair and a path to hit our leverage target in GE’s current portfolio of businesses in 2023. Second, by implementing lean and a more decentralized operating model, the GE teams have driven operating improvement at deeper and deeper levels of our businesses. We now expect to deliver high single-digit free cash flow margins in 2023, a big milestone toward delivering sustainable, profitable growth and cash. Third, Covid-19 headwinds began to lift. And fourth, our customers have been demanding our focus on the major challenges in their industries — shaping the future of flight, delivering precision health, and solving the energy transition — with increasing urgency. Our progress in each of these areas has created perhaps our biggest opportunity yet: Forming three independent, investment-grade companies, each with sharper focus, greater accountability, more tailored capital allocation, and more mission-driven teams and boards and investor bases. I couldn't be prouder that the GE team is in a position of strength to take this step forward and enable our businesses to be at their best. 

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

I expect global supply and inflation challenges will persist for several quarters, posing headwinds to GE’s healthcare and renewable energy businesses in particular. Renewable energy also is navigating some near-term industry pressures, including in the U.S. onshore wind market from the pending extension of the wind production tax credit, and we have more work to do to improve cost productivity here as well. Our businesses now need to do the work of preparing to stand alone — with healthcare launching first in just over a year, followed a year later by the spinout of our combined renewable energy, power, and digital businesses. But our imperative always has been and needs to continue to be performance. Each business without exception has headroom for further operating improvement today, and that’s what we need to do to drive more profitable growth, margin expansion, and free cash flow generation. And we do this now with the clarity and purpose on where each business is going strategically.

How is your company innovating?

I mentioned the urgency and scale of the societal challenges our customers are solving. GE has a long heritage of rising to the challenge of building a world that works. This will continue. In aviation, our engine value proposition across efficiency, reliability, and life cycle economics is the most competitive and innovative in the industry. We’re developing and maturing advanced architectures, aerodynamics, and materials for next-generation engine technologies to improve fuel efficiency by at least 20 percent. In healthcare, GE sits at the nexus of most care pathways, with the reach and capabilities to solve patient problems across diseases, modalities, and sites of care. This requires merging clinical medicine and data science by applying advanced analytics and AI across every possible point of the patient journey. And in energy, we’re focused on helping customers, communities, and governments achieve their ambitions with the world’s most powerful wind turbines, most efficient gas turbines, and both hardware and software to modernize and digitize grid and electrical infrastructure, while developing breakthrough technologies to enable carbon capture and the combustion of carbon-free fuels like nuclear and hydrogen.



Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only been the most challenging event we faced this year, but it has been the most adversity we faced in our company’s 50-plus-year history. We were among the hardest hit industries, if not the hardest hit, with global cruise voyage operations across our entire fleet suspended beginning in mid-March 2020. While the challenge in 2020 was essentially economic survival — where we turned to the capital markets to bolster our liquidity, ultimately raising nearly $9 billion — the challenge in 2021 was restarting a fleet that had been laid up for over 500 days. Resuming operations on a single vessel is a daunting task. Doing so with the 28 ships in our fleet in a compressed timeframe is Herculean. But we have kept pace with our relaunch schedule, reaching a critical milestone in late July 2021 with the first ship in our fleet resuming cruising since the beginning of the shutdown in March 2020. Since then, we have added additional ships and expect to continue a gradual, phased resumption of the rest of our fleet continuing into 2022.   

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

Expect the unexpected and always be ready to adapt. I am incredibly proud of how my team responded to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We all had to adapt, both personally and professionally, to cope with the disruptions of the pandemic, and we did so with grit, determination, and compassion. Despite facing obstacles at seemingly every turn, our team never got discouraged, instead we relied on our nimbleness and our ability to adapt, and took swift, proactive, and decisive actions. The tremendous efforts of our team are what have enabled our company to prove our resilience in these extraordinary times.  

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

First and foremost, we were able to demonstrate to all our stakeholders that our commitment to health and safety was not a slogan or a tagline, but rather is at the very core of how our company operates. Early in the pandemic, we co-founded the blue-ribbon Healthy Sail Panel to develop enhanced health and safety protocols to address the challenges of Covid-19. The panel was comprised of an impressive group of globally recognized scientific and public health experts and its work was freely shared for any industry that could benefit from the public health insights. In addition, in early April we were one of the first companies to take a public stance on vaccines and committed to a 100 percent vaccination policy across our ships upon resumption of cruising. I believe this strong commitment to health and safety, and the great lengths we as a company have gone through to protect our guests, crew, and communities we visit has increased confidence in us and resulted in a competitive advantage. We are seeing this translate into strong demand for future cruises across our brands.     

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

As we look toward 2022, we are focused on the continued flawless execution of our voyage resumption plan which we are aiming to complete by April 1, 2022. We are expecting fits and starts in our plans as we continue to navigate through the pandemic environment, and we will have to be ready to adapt as needed. In addition, we are now turning our attention towards our financial recovery plan including rebuilding our strong track record of financial performance, optimizing our balance sheet and delivering on our industry-leading growth profile.     

How is your company innovating?

We have a storied history as innovators including founding the modern-day cruise industry over 50 years ago. As we look to the future, we are excited to deliver our exciting pipeline of nine new ground-breaking ships through 2027. Our new ships have all the bells and whistles, additional streams for onboard revenue generation with new and innovative experiences, premium cabin mixes, and the latest technology to improve efficiency versus our existing fleet. Norwegian Prima, which is set to debut in Summer 2022, will feature numerous cruise industry firsts and new-to-brand experiences, including the world’s first transforming venue that converts from a three-story theater into a Vegas-style nightclub, exhilarating freefall drop dry slides, and a three-level 1,200-foot-long racetrack, the largest at sea.


Rodney O. Martin, Jr, Voya Financial

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

While 2020 showed us that remote work can be effective for many companies, it has only been reinforced this year as we and many other industries have adapted. Americans’ priorities have shifted, and it’s incumbent upon every company to take stock of these changes and adapt.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

As a company that is focused on serving the workplace and institutional clients, there are a number of opportunities for our business — and we are excited about them. Specifically, the pandemic has only accelerated worker expectations of their employers to help them with their health, wealth, and investment needs. Employers have always had a desire to maximize the value realized from their benefit spend, but with new demands from employees for things that go beyond the health care plan and 401(k) — such as emergency savings — we believe that our products, solutions, and technologies can meet a growing need among both employers and their employees. This, in turn, will benefit both our customers and our shareholders.

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

Economically, there are a number of forces at play that will combine to create challenges for our clients, but we are optimistic about Voya’s ability to help. Consumers are challenged with healthcare costs rising two times as fast as incomes, which is making it challenging for individuals to save for expenses associated with high-deductible health care plans, unexpected emergencies, and retirement — all at the same time. On the employer side, rising benefit costs will require continued attention to ensure that the benefits that they are providing are truly meeting the needs of their employees.

How is your company innovating?

At Voya, innovation is being driven by our recognition that our clients and customers are thinking about their health and wealth needs together, not as disparate issues or topics. Technology — and the ability to provide valuable guidance and solutions — will be increasingly important, which is why we’re making investments in new capabilities that will provide actionable insights to employers and their employees. For employers, this will help them maximize their benefit spend and reduce administrative burdens. For individuals and employees, new capabilities that we are already piloting with clients will provide personalized recommendations that synchronize savings and benefits to best balance their health, wealth, and investment needs.

Douglas Peterson, S&P Global

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

S&P Global serves a diverse array of customers, including financial institutions, corporations, and governments, and our customers expect us to provide the data and analytics to make well-informed decisions. While we face many of the same challenges as these other entities, the unpredictable path of the Covid pandemic and the volatility in supply chains and around inflation magnified the importance of our insights in helping our customers make sense of the turbulence across the globe. For example, the appetite for transparent and comparable data and insights on environmental, social, and governance factors has grown exponentially over the course of this year. And that increased interest has resulted in new opportunities to ensure that information about carbon impact, water usage, and diversity and inclusion efforts are standardized and consistent in how they are presented to investors and other stakeholders.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

We’ve focused on putting our people first as our guiding principle throughout this year, and I continue to be deeply impressed and inspired by how innovative and productive our teams have been in a flexible hybrid environment. As we transition into a more balanced approach of both in-person and remote working in 2022, I have learned that we’re capable of working flexibly while delivering the excellent level of service our customers have come to expect.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

We have undeniably seen a dramatic growth in demand for our data, analytics, and research through the pandemic. During uncertain times, people turn to trusted sources of information to make decisions. We maintain strong relationships with our customers, and we were able to listen to the market, prioritize their needs, and confidently deliver these insights in whatever forms our customers prefer. On a more strategic level, delivering strong results through an economic downturn and through our ongoing merger with IHS Markit demonstrated the resiliency of our company and our people, and validated the strength of our diversified product set and customer base.

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

We are cautiously optimistic about 2022 and expect the economic rebound we’ve witnessed so far to continue. While it’s clear that Covid is still impacting the macroeconomic environment, the world is learning to live with the ongoing pandemic. We will also continue to watch inflation pressures and supply chain imbalances closely. We will also keep an eye on credit conditions globally; while credit quality is steadily improving, there are headwinds, including supply-demand imbalances and the shift in monetary policy from various central banks.

How is your company innovating?

For us, innovation is ongoing in all facets of our business, whether that be through the new cryptocurrency indices we launched or the various sustainability-related products we have introduced. We believe in staying close to our customers and striving to be responsive to their needs and to anticipate the requests of the future. We are pleased with our steady progress on AI, natural language processing, and automation techniques across our operations and businesses. I am also energized by our merger with IHS Markit and the combination of our two world-class organizations and the complementary assets we plan to bring together.

Dave Ricks, Eli Lilly and Co.

What has been the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

Sustaining and building our business for the long term amidst the pandemic, while also directly solving the problem of the pandemic. Like all businesses, we faced immediate and then sustained challenges entering 2020 and through 2021: workforce, supply chain, operations, customer service, and innovation. All needed major adaptations to achieve our goals. Due to the resilience and ingenuity of our team, we were able to not only adapt and deliver, but in every case improve productivity, capacity, and capability — critical changes given the future growth we expect at Lilly. While every corporation faced these types of challenges, we also challenged ourselves to impact the pandemic more directly. Within days of the first confirmed cases in the U.S., we sprang into action, challenging our scientific team to bring everything we could to the fight. In the fastest drug discovery in our history, Lilly and our partners discovered, developed, manufactured, and launched a million doses of our monoclonal antibody medicine as a treatment for Covid-19 in nine months. We estimate this effort has saved tens of thousands of lives around the world. On top of this, we sought to test existing molecules against Covid and here too made a significant difference. Lilly and Incyte’s Olumiant, globally used in rheumatoid arthritis, has demonstrated a 46 percent reduction in death of the sickest Covid-19 patients in a series of worldwide clinical trials and is globally available and rapidly being adopted as a standard of care. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2021?

We’ve learned during this pandemic period that there’s no limit to the amount of energy we can unleash with the urgency and inspiration of our common purpose. We’re working to integrate the best of that experience into the future in a sustainable way [and] deeply engrain the urgency we have for patients, the sense of focus we've created in the company, and the quality of execution it has driven over these last two years.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business?

There have been two unexpected opportunities. The first is our response to Covid and successfully developing and deploying at scale two antibodies and one oral medication. Most things we attempt fail, often requiring successive learning loops. So, the company’s efforts against Covid-19 were astoundingly successful in both medical impact and rapidity of development. At the same time, while we have been investing in Alzheimer’s therapies for 30 years (an exceptionally long learning loop!), we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our candidate, donanemab, was the first ever medicine targeting amyloid plaque to hit its primary endpoint in a well-controlled study. Simultaneously, this supported the validation of this “bad actor” as a cause of Alzheimer’s and the utility of Lilly-invented donanemab in treating this horrible condition.  

What is the greatest challenge that lies ahead for 2022?

We’re beginning an exciting chapter in Lilly’s story – maybe the most exciting in our 145-year history. We expect to launch five medicines in the next three years, including the two pipeline medicines considered the most valuable in the industry by outside analysts – tirzepatide for type 2 diabetes and donanemab for Alzheimer’s disease. And that’s on top of strong growth over the last five years as we launched new medicines, increased the number of people who use our medicines — now more than 45 million each year — and invested in a pipeline of even better medicines. Our R&D engine has set us up for a historic opportunity to make an impact on people with some of the world’s most significant illnesses. In 2022 and ahead, our challenge is to focus on the most impactful new medicines, execute, and realize the full value these medicines can provide to patients.

How is your company innovating?

We invest more of our revenues in R&D than nearly any other company on the planet — more than $6 billion last year, or a quarter of our revenue. Innovation and invention are core to our business and the DNA of the company. Increasingly, we are also innovating around these core new medicinal inventions and within the way we discover and develop them. We’re streamlining disease management by developing personalized digital tools for people with diabetes and migraines, allowing patients to achieve their goals and stay on therapy longer to find success. And we are investing in automation and AI to bring more discoveries to patients faster than ever —including the world’s first fully-automated lab that accelerates the discovery of new medicines with unprecedented speed. We also understand that delivering lifesaving medicine is just the start of the conversation. Around the globe, we invest in new ways to make medicines and care more accessible, affordable, and useful in vulnerable communities. In each new investment in innovation, we are motivated by one thing: making life better for millions of people worldwide.

Related Content