Right before I got married, I announced that I was leaving Price Waterhouse to join Bristol-Myers. My dad was distressed that I was changing jobs, so, at the wedding reception, he approached my Price Waterhouse office partner and asked him to take me back! How embarrassing! My colleague explained to my father that many leave Price Waterhouse and go on to do great things in industry and advised him not to worry.
That prediction by his former Price Waterhouse colleague that Tony Santiago would go on to do many great things in the future came true in a really big way. Now Santiago is vice president and Chief Procurement Officer at WellPoint, where he is accountable for an annual budget of approximately $15 million, overseeing supplier diversity, vendor management, outsourcing, and metrics activities. These functions are integral elements of a major supply-management initiative that seeks to control costs.
"He manages to quality, drives results, and takes full accountability for his areas of responsibility, delivering results with integrity," says Linda Jimenez, WellPoint's Chief Diversity Officer and staff vice president for Diversity and Inclusion. "Tony is also a natural leader who is proactive in his approach."
Two years ago, Santiago was hired to transform the Supply Management organization at WellPoint. Since then, he has typically logged 60 or 70 hours per week on the job, diligently working with his team to rebuild the group and increase its impact on the overall company. During that time, they have implemented new technology for greater efficiency and responsiveness and increased savings from a targeted $20 million in 2008 to approximately $105 million in 2009. They also created a training curriculum for WellPoint associates to increase their competencies in procurement and supply management and increased spending with diverse suppliers from five percent to eight percent – with a target of 12 percent by 2012.
Santiago also gets outstanding results in terms of his community-service efforts. When Santiago joined the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton, for example, he volunteered to lead the fundraising efforts for their biggest event. In the past, this gala raised $20,000, but Santiago believed that they could do better. In his first year at the helm, they raised $70,000, and, within five years, the net proceeds increased to $270,000 under his leadership.
Santiago believes that one of the keys to his success as a leader is that he has always intentionally surrounded himself with people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. "This has helped me and my organizations perform at our very best," he explains. "There is absolutely no value in having all of my team thinking exactly as I do. We develop better, more innovative solutions when we challenge each other professionally and bring different experiences and perspectives to the table."
Santiago also makes it a point to spend time with younger associates, mentoring them and trying to help them think carefully about their work, careers, and professional development. He says he wants each of them to understand that they need to invest in themselves, develop their skills, and act with the highest integrity.
"I was raised by a father who always said that, if you were going to do something, do it to the very best of your ability," says Santiago. "I live that in my personal life and also in all that I do at work. My father also instilled in us the importance of honesty and integrity – very important qualities for all to exhibit every day."
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2010 Eagle Award winner Tony Santiago.