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2021 In-House Counsel Awards: Bill Hutton

Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated

Bill HuttonBill Hutton isn’t shy when talking about why he attended law school.

“The honest answer — running away from a business career,” he laughs.

But after initially hoping to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hutton, 61, ended up as executive vice-president and general counsel of Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated (RGA). Having spent two decades with the organization, the Mattoon, Ill., native has been in his present post for the last ten years where he leads a global legal team of 65, including 45 lawyers.

There’s no question why he stays with the company.

“It is the people and the variety,” he noted. “The culture at RGA is kind of exceptional — very collaborative and a lot of interest in doing what’s right for the company as a whole with very little ego that ever gets in the way from anyone. It is a very respectful environment for all opinions.”

Hutton’s colleagues have certainly been respectful of him.

“Having worked with Bill for over two decades, we have had the opportunity first-hand to witness his leadership, and his consistent commitment to adding value by effectively protecting RGA,” writes his nominator. “In addition to his role as the company’s securities, finance and corporate governance counsel, he has held significant roles in RGA’s successful separation from MetLife in 2008 and the acquisition of ING’s Group Reinsurance business in 2009.”

The SIU-Carbondale graduate who spent time in private practice at two firms before coming to General American Life Insurance, the former parent company of his current employer, said that what makes a good general counsel is the ability to think on your feet. The secret is versatility.

“One thing I’ve learned is why it is called general counsel,” he said. “You don’t have to be an expert in everything because you can’t be. But you have to be able to move intelligently among a lot of subject areas and rely on your team — your experts or your outside counsel — and honestly use the fundamentals of what you learned in law school.”

That means following a consistent formula.

“Spot the issues, get the facts, ask good questions,” he said. “I think a general counsel absolutely has to have good judgement and the ability to make decisions.”

He said that building a solid staff and keeping them challenged is always a big part of his job.

“It is a continual development loop to me, providing opportunities and growth for the team,” he noted.

Hutton has also been active in Voices for Children and helped merge the St. Louis city and county CASA operations as president of the board.

His formula for success is a simple one.

“In law, you really do get better with experience in terms of your judgement and just the wisdom and the amount of things that you’ve seen,” he noted. “Unlike some professions, I think you really do evolve and get to a point where the experience starts to pay rewards.”