Craig S. Horner, B.S. '88 (accounting), is an active CPA and currently the Chief Financial Officer at Kelly Benefits, one of the nation’s largest providers of benefits administration and technology, broker and consulting services, and payroll solutions, based in Sparks, Maryland.
He joined the Kelly Benefits Executive Leadership Team as Chief Financial and Compliance Officer in May 2009. His prior experience includes more than 13 years as Chief Financial Officer of a large regional Maryland-based insurance broker and seven years in public accounting at what is currently known as PricewaterhouseCoopers. Throughout his career, he has focused on continuing his professional development, including attending the Wharton Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the Commonfund Endowment Institute at Yale University. He is a member of the Financial Executives International, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants.
Horner recently sat down with us to share some thoughts about his career, why paying it forward is so important to him and to share some valuable advice for our students.
Merrick Exchange: Tell us about your career trajectory since completing the B.S. in Business Administration degree at The University of Baltimore.
Craig Horner: I have been very blessed to have worked with several exceptional organizations over my career, starting with a foundation of seven years at one of the largest public accounting firms.
Merrick Exchange: Explain what you do in your role at Kelly Benefits.
Craig Horner: I serve Kelly Benefits as the Chief Financial and Compliance Officer
Merrick Exchange: What is the best aspect of your job?
Craig Horner: Each day, I get to work alongside talented people in a thriving organization that is owned and led by a wonderful family and whose expert leadership team is truly top-notch.
Merrick Exchange: What are some business challenges that you have faced over the years and what have you learned about yourself in trying to resolve those challenges?
Craig Horner: The one all of us faced recently was managing the impact of the pandemic on our business and how to ensure we continued to reflect our mission, vision and values through those realities. It is clear to me, more than ever, that you need the diverse perspective and voice of your leadership team and others, along with current and relevant facts and data, to help guide you through it. We have a great team that helped us manage it well.
Merrick Exchange: How does technology transformation and data-driven disruption impact the insurance industry and how are you and your team addressing those issues?
Craig Horner: We are fortunate that our business model involves the delivery of industry-leading technology along with talented and customer service-oriented staff. This requires us to focus daily on both our technology and our people, which we believe are critical to any sustainable business. You must have talented people, not just technology, to serve clients with excellence.
Merrick Exchange: How has the pandemic impacted the way you work at Kelly Benefits?
Craig Horner: We have learned so many things, including how to better collaborate and connect with our people using technology. It further strengthened our commitment to preparing for the unknown and reinforced how important is to have a team-oriented culture that is resilient in the midst of difficult circumstances. By the way, we were able to transition over 450 people to remote work within five days.
Merrick Exchange: How has mentoring played a role in the course of your career?
Craig Horner: I have been blessed to have worked for, with, and alongside several impactful leaders in my career. I have worked hard to emulate many of their best traits and characteristics.
Merrick Exchange: In what ways do you like to give back to the community?
Craig Horner: I see this as an important calling and a responsibility for each of us to “pay it forward.” I have looked for opportunities to serve others in our company, and others I meet in my travels. By coaching youth sports and serving on boards and other ministries, I’ve been able to give back. It is imperative that we draw the next generation forward with positive character traits.
Merrick Exchange: What has been the most important thing you’ve learned to succeed in business or in life?
Craig Horner: Work hard and for a greater purpose than your comfort and wellbeing.
Merrick Exchange: What characteristics do you see in successful leaders and why do you believe that?
Craig Horner: They are generally hard working, with a greater purpose, and they engage and empower others because they recognize that they cannot do it all themselves.
Merrick Exchange: What advice would you give to students who would like to reach the C-Suite in their careers?
Craig Horner: In addition to the characteristics I just mentioned, ensure you spend a lot of time learning your trade and enhancing your technical skills. Even more, learn how to be an ideal team player by being humble, hungry and smart.
Merrick Exchange: What is the one job-hunting secret you wish all students knew?
Craig Horner: Most leaders are willing to share their wisdom and experiences so tap it, but also offer to help them.
Merrick Exchange: Why did you choose to earn your degree at UBalt?
Craig Horner: It had a lot to do with the cost of tuition since I came from very modest circumstances. I was the first in my family to go to college. However, it just felt right when I was looking at colleges, which I credit to the Lord speaking to me and guiding my path at a young age.
Merrick Exchange: How has attending The University of Baltimore helped you in your career?
Craig Horner: It gave me the technical skills I needed and kept me humble and hungry for future learning and career opportunities.
Merrick Exchange: What personal goal have you set for yourself for 2021 (or the next 12 months)?
Craig Horner: Kelly Benefits has a unique four-pillar wellness program that we designed to create a culture of wellbeing and to help each employee fulfill their potential. These pillars include physical and nutritional wellness, mental and emotional wellness, and spiritual health and wellness, and financial wellness. I set goals each year to advance and personally grow in each area of these four areas and I encourage others to create and focus on at least one specific goal around these pillars as well.