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Aflac CEO Reveals the Secret Behind Successful 33-Year Tenure

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J.D. Durkin: A lot of people might be surprised to find out just how long you have been leading this company for, how long has it been, and what has been some of the secrets to that success of longevity for a position such as yours?

Dan Amos: Well, I'm the second most-tenured CEO only behind Warren Buffett, and I'm in my 33rd year. And it seems like it just happened yesterday, so time does fly, especially when you're enjoying it. And I think part of the success of tenure is enjoying what you do. If you really don't like it, you're never going to be happy. And you either eat and breathe it, like I used to say. I could never be a politician. But if you get to know politicians, it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you're on, they either love it and they all do, or they're not there, and I think that's part of it. And then the other thing I would say is being consistent and transparent in everything you do, because they're going to find out. And bad news does not improve with age. So that's one of the things that I've always done and made it, I think, for me.

J.D. Durkin: Just in terms of being a leader for yourself as an individual, what are some of those keys to success you think? You get a lot of people looking at your tenure and wondering, what is it about the makeup of Dan, the individual that has given him confidence and given everyone else confidence at this company to still have at the helm all these years later?

Dan Amos: Well, I majored in risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia, and there were three principles of risk management and insurance. And it was don't risk a lot for a little. Don't risk more than you can afford to lose and consider the odds. And I take those three principles of risk management and make a decision on what I'm doing. Take, for example, the Aflac duck. The idea of this duck was you were actually making fun of your name, so do you dare take a chance? So I used the three principles of risk management and insurance - is don't risk a lot for a little. Well, the commercials normally cost us about $500,000 to make back then, this commercial cost $1,000,000. That was a lot of money. But could I afford to lose it, the company? Yes, we could. But what were the odds? And the odds were very good because we had found out that the Aflac duck tested a 27. So just think about that. We had never tested a 12, but one time, and most of ours came at an eight. So that meant we were going to get triple the name recognition from using this commercial. And then don't risk more than you can afford to lose. Consider the odds. And so we did those things, and it ultimately paid off.

J.D. Durkin: I couldn't help but notice, I believe was on the last earnings call, wasn't you? But it was a colleague said, you know, you don't necessarily feel like Aflac is particularly vulnerable to a lot of the volatility that typically faces a lot of companies during a recession. You know the chatter for what 2023 could look like. Are there headwinds that you suspect might be unique to your business?

Dan Amos: Well, there's always some headwinds. If there's not headwinds, you don't need a CEO. So they're always going to be some, but are they are they less invasive than some of the issues that other companies have? I think that's true. We have an enormous cash flow, and that cash flow we are reinvesting constantly. So higher interest rates actually help us, but it can hurt the value of the bond portfolio that you have, but we hold ours to maturity, so we don't cash them in or move them as a general rule. If we do it some positive reason, but negatively, we generally have never had that to do that.

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