Long before John Boggs ’75 of Cary, N.C. became the President & CEO of Builders Mutual Insurance Company, one of the Southeast’s leading writers of commercial insurance for the construction industry, he wanted to work for the FBI.
Boggs graduated from Pfeiffer College with a B.A. degree in accounting and law enforcement, believing that the unusual double major would help him land work in forensic accounting for the nation’s premier investigative agency. The FBI liked his educational credentials but wanted him to gain some experience as a CPA before they would consider him.
Boggs was enthusiastic and willing to do whatever it took to achieve his ultimate goal. He went to work in a small accounting firm in Asheville, N.C. Along the way, he started dating the woman who would become his wife.
Cathy Boggs was less than thrilled when she learned that John, having put in four years as a CPA, was getting ready to apply to the FBI.
“She said, ‘I don’t want you to go work for the FBI. That’s scary,’” Boggs said recently. “I said, ‘But, Cathy, I’d be a forensic accountant. I mean, I’d come in after the bank’s been robbed and try to figure out how much money they took and stuff like that.’”
Although the rest of Boggs’ career would not include working for the FBI, the dye was cast. He used his education in law enforcement and investigative skills in a variety of jobs in the insurance industry before his Builders Mutual appointment. Like many liberal arts students from Pfeiffer, he was able to adjust, to draw on his past to shape his future.
Said Boggs, the 2014 recipient of Pfeiffer’s Distinguished Alumni Award: “For several consulting projects, I gathered data, assessed the true facts without being misled by others’ input, and determined what the facts meant in projecting the future. I’d then advise accordingly and take corrective action. You could also say that I used investigative techniques to identify problems in management and operations, which I could then address as a consultant and as an executive of the companies I have worked with.”
One such technique was forensic accounting, which he used to uncover the embezzlement of money at a company for which he consulted. The employee responsible was convicted and sent to prison.
The consultant work lasted 12 years. It required Boggs to travel by plane to and from jobs at insurance companies about 40 weeks each year. The arduous work schedule paid off: He consulted at 47 insurance companies, assessing and devising solutions for a range of problems. He had a hand in everything from quality-improvement processes to implementing claims and financial software.
“We got to see a lot of operations and do a lot of different things,” he said. “I’ve worked on everything you can do in an insurance company except for an actuarial project. It amounted to great exposure.”
Boggs also made many contacts during his consulting. One of them was Builders Mutual.
He will retire from the company at the end of the month, having worked there since 2004, first as its CFO. Under his leadership -- he became Builders Mutual’s President & CEO in 2009 -- the company, once a self-insured fund for the North Carolina Home Builders Association, has morphed from one that wrote $150 million of premium into one that now writes $400 million of premium for clients throughout the Southeast.
As Boggs prepares to retire, he knows that the company’s growth grabs the attention of his colleagues. But he is also proud of some less-publicized success stories. One of these was his decision not to lay off employees around the time he first became President & CEO, even though the economy was in a recession and “our expense ratio was going to go through the roof.”
Boggs bet on looking past all that. Builders Mutual was installing a new policy administration system. He needed all hands on deck to make that happen, “so that when the economy recovered, we could grow like gangbusters.”
"Eventually, we really started growing like crazy, and I'm grateful the company was able to support my decision to hold onto employees,” he said.
During retirement, he looks forward to keeping up with his alma mater, spending more time with Cathy, participating in more of Cary’s activities, and touring parts of the United States he hasn’t seen. He’s particularly ready to rediscover his love of mountain living.
And, during each of his remaining days in June, Boggs will preside over several meetings to learn how his company’s operations are faring. As he does, he will continue to call on his Pfeiffer College education and the investigative skill that almost led him to the FBI. He’s thankful for his alma mater. In fact, he’s been a loyal supporter of Pfeiffer and has made a point in recent years of donating $1,975 annually – a nod to his graduation year and the degree he earned.
“Things have a way of falling into place, and as I look back, I realize that even though I wasn’t investigating bank robberies for the FBI, I’ve had a pretty exciting career, in part because of my time at Pfeiffer, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.