B.A., Hampshire College;
Master's in public and private management, Yale School of Management.
The hiring of Catherine H. Smith to oversee economic development was considered a coup by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. In Smith, Malloy believes he found a dynamic CEO with credibility in the private sector.Smith, 58, the chief executive of ING U.S. Retirement Services and a former high-ranking executive at Aetna Financial Services, brings corporate star power to the administration's economic development efforts, a top priority in a state with nearly flat job growth over the past 20 years. "I'm thrilled that Catherine has agreed to take on the immense task - and I do mean it's immense," Malloy said the day he introduced her. "We've got to reverse a 22-year history of failing to grow jobs, and do it as quickly as we can."In Smith, Malloy has hired an executive with experience in operations and marketing. She helped streamline operations in ING during the recession, consolidating 14 service centers into four and cutting costs for those services by 30 percent over three years, Malloy said. Her salary at ING is not public record, but she smiled during the press conference when asked about her $170,000 state salary. "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." Smith, who worked for a non-profit environmental organization in Washington after graduating from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., said she always planned to eventually work in the public sector. Her graduate degree from the Yale School of Management is in public and private management.Smith was a top executive at Aetna Financial Services when the unit was obtained by the Dutch financial services giant, ING. Her tenure at Aetna overlapped with Timothy Bannon, the governor's chief of staff and co-chairman of Malloy's transition team. Bannon said Smith initially was invited to help with the transition, but the administration then began to recruit her, a process that took months to complete. "This is a great outcome, well worth the wait," Bannon said.In June 2011, after nearly three months in the job, she was asked to describe the state's economic-development footing in a nutshell. "We're behind. You can see it in the numbers. Our job creation over the last 10 years is pretty dismal. So the numbers verify that," Smith said. "What's been the most concerning and disturbing to me is the other states are so much more proactive in every way, shape and form than we have been."