CalBusiness

 

Spring/Summer 2008

Feature Stories

Your Haas Network

Don Wurster, MBA 80
President, National Indemnity Company
Omaha, Neb.


When his boss at San Francisco's Pacific Stock Exchange announced he was leaving for a job in Omaha, Don Wurster, MBA 80, laughed. "Why in the world would an executive move from the Bay Area to Nebraska?" the newly minted MBA asked himself.


A year later, it didn't seem so funny anymore. Wurster followed suit -- lured to Omaha by a position at an insurance company owned by the legendary Warren Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. Twenty-five years later, Wurster is still glad he made the move.


"It's a business that requires a lot of quantitative intelligence and decision-making in the face of uncertainty," says Wurster, head of National Indemnity Company's primary insurance operations since 1989. "We are socially responsible bookmakers protecting our customers from catastrophic risk."


The bulk of National Indemnity's insurance work focuses on underwriting commercial auto and vehicle insurance and general liability for construction and other businesses. Wurster also serves as the president or vice chairman of sixteen other Berkshire insurance companies.


A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Wurster stayed in his hometown to earn an AB in psychology from the University of Michigan. After focusing on finance at Haas, Wurster landed a position as senior finance analyst at the Pacific Stock Exchange, where he rose to be the cash management and financial projects officer before moving to Nebraska.


Wurster credits Haas with developing accounting and analytical skills that have helped him negotiate the uncertain world of insurance, where execs often don't learn how their underwriting decisions will "work out" until several years later.


Wurster reports directly to business icon Warren Buffett. "People think of Mr. Buffett as the world's greatest investor. That happens to be true, but he is also off the charts as a manager as well," Wurster says. "Warren gives his managers a lot of autonomy along with responsibility."


 


"Feature Stories" Table of Contents

 


Don Wurster, MBA 80

Don Wurster, MBA 80
President, National Indemnity Company
Omaha, Neb.