When American Healthcare Leader last spoke with Mary Terese Agoglia Hoeltzel, she shared a moment of pride from her fifteen years at Cigna: leading a smooth finance integration as the company acquired Express Scripts (today Evernorth) in 2019. In addition to typical hurdles like setting up new reporting and ledger systems, she had to contend with the challenge of merging disparate cultures: one that was more “quiet and collaborative” and the other, more direct.
“As we merged our cultures, we really tried to be fair in terms of having a balanced group of leaders, meaning we had people from both Cigna and Evernorth spearheading projects to instill confidence and security for both sides,” says Hoeltzel, senior vice president of tax and chief accounting officer. “We had frequent meetings [and] regular communication; we had balanced discussions and tried to build consensus to make the best business decision for the company. When you do those things, you establish a reputation that you’re trying to be fair, and you earn respect.”
“We are proud to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Mary and her team as they strategically transform their finance organization. She is laser focused on enhancing key enterprise capabilities to accelerate efficiencies and mitigate risks,” says Joe Moawad, finance transformation principal at KPMG.
Considering the success she had bringing both groups together and the reputation it’s earned her, it might be easy to think that Hoeltzel is a natural-born diplomat. Think again, she says.
“I grew up in New York and came from a very direct culture. My family also had very high expectations and didn’t varnish their words, if you will,” she says. “Because of my cultural background, it took a lot of practice in the corporate world, listening to how people maneuvered and navigated situations and the words they used when they spoke.”
That was an area she spent a lot of time focusing on in her early career years as she made her way through KPMG Audit, and then at General Electric. As she honed her financial expertise, she also witnessed the importance of peer capital, collaboration, and working with leaders who informed the kind she herself wanted to be.
“I learned that if you want people to follow you and if you want to motivate people, it can’t just be command and control,” Hoeltzel says. “They have to trust you, and it has to be give and take. You also have to get to know your people, be empathetic, and demonstrate a willingness to push your people and support them.”
These principals guided her during the first decade of her tenure at Cigna, as well. It’s what made her such an effective leader who worked to close the company’s books in a shorter amount of time, implemented a new ledger, and set up an outsource center in India. Each project gave her a chance to build on the lessons she had learned and prepared her to redesign the company’s financial footprint and push Cigna and Express Scripts past cultural differences.
”Having worked with Mary for over twelve years, we’re proud to partner with her and the Cigna finance organization on their transformation journey,” says Alex Kleinman, healthcare segment leader at Genpact. ”Mary’s work to help more women develop their careers and leadership, as well as the innovation she’s bringing to sustainability reporting and controls show how she supports the people and communities she works with and is helping Cigna make a positive impact on the planet.”
Another highlight from Hoeltzel’s decorated career has been her ability to balance highly responsible corporate positions with her priorities as a single mother of two kids, both of whom are respectively pursuing medical and business degrees.
“Any free time I had, I spent with the kids and took care of them. I also established with them that they needed to be successful and contribute to society and when they were in school, I established that mommy can’t be supervising you every five minutes,” she shares. “You need to develop that internal competitive nature and that has to come from you.”
When she isn’t driving impactful initiatives in the finance department, she’s focused on helping women become leaders through the Finance Women’s Counsel. She and others work with the company’s talent management staff to identify top and high performing women in the finance community to be part of the group. Once they are selected, they have an opportunity to meet with company leaders like Hoeltzel about topics they’re interested in.
Hoeltzel has been an honored guest at panels herself. “Mary was one of the key executives to join us at our inaugural KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Summit in 2015,” says Nikki Crighton, tax principal at KPMG. “In every year since, she has nominated many women leaders aspiring to reach the C-suite to attend and enjoy the content, tools, and networking that encourages their advancement.”
“We try to invite outside speakers or set up sessions with other people in the company on things like work/life balance, DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion], and more,” she says. “Outside of the counsel, we also work to advance other women in the company through things like mentoring opportunities and lean-in circles.”
She supplements those efforts by providing insights from her own path.
“Many times throughout my career, I was the only woman at the table, so getting noticed, getting people to support you, is very important to me,” Hoeltzel explains. “I have a lot of women working for me who are very talented and helping them and seeing them grow and be successful is very rewarding. Historically, in the ’80s and ’90s it was very difficult for organizations to embrace women, but the world has changed and getting women out there and showing them that they too can run companies is what we need.”
She continues, “One of the main things I want women to understand about my career is that it wasn’t just up, up, up. Sometimes I had to take time out and make decisions that [were] beneficial for my family and maybe not for my career. But I feel the cream always rises to the top and things always work out, so taking those pauses are helpful. Sometimes we overlook the importance of that.”
KPMG helps organizations across the healthcare and life sciences ecosystem work together in new ways to transform and innovate the industry. We offer a market-leading portfolio of services focused on helping clients digitally transform; improve healthcare outcomes through analytics and precision medicine; embrace technology; transact to gain market entry; manage risk; and comply with regulations.
Our client teams draw from more than 3,500 US partners and professionals across a global network of 154 countries. Our mission is to assist organizations to transform and innovate in order to effectively compete in tomorrow’s fast changing and dynamic healthcare industry.
Genpact is a global professional services firm delivering the outcomes that transform businesses and shape their futures. Guided by our experience redesigning and running thousands of processes for hundreds of global companies, our clients partner with us to drive innovation and turn insights into action and outcomes. We create lasting competitive advantages for clients and their customers, running digitally enabled operations and applying our Data-Tech-AI services to design, build, and transform organizations. Present in over 30 countries, our 115,000+ team is passionate in its relentless pursuit of a world that works better for people.