Mark Langston of Life & Specialty Ventures (CFO of the Year Finalist, Large Private Companies)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Mark Langston

After Mark Langston took an accounting class at Little Rock Central High School, he was hooked. “If you’re analytical, which I am, everything balances” in accounting, he said. “It all just kind of makes sense.”

In June 2014, the Little Rock native will have spent 30 years in accounting, with nearly half of that time as the chief financial officer for Life & Specialty Ventures LLC of Little Rock, which is a holding company that owns and operates USAble Life of Little Rock and Florida Combined Life of Jacksonville, Fla.

“I like this company because my financial background allowed me to be a significant contributor to the business versus just doing the accounting for the business,” Langston said. “I really have a pretty good understanding of how insurance works.”

He said he helps run the business, which is what he wanted to do when he was hired in 1998 at USAble Life. (Life & Specialty was formed in 2005 to own USAble Life and Florida Combined Life.)

Since he arrived, USAble has blossomed. “We had around $40 million in revenue when I started,” said the 50-year-old Langston. “Now we’re going to have over $600 [million] this year.”

With about 550 employees, the company primarily writes group life and disability insurance, and it also handles the dental business for several Blue Cross & Blue Shield plans. It sells insurance in every state except New York. It has about 1.5 million covered lives for dental insurance and about 1.5 million for life and disability insurance.

Langston began his accounting career in 1984 at the Little Rock office of the firm that is now known as Deloitte. Over the years he worked for a handful of companies, including Alltel Information Systems in the mid-1990s.

But he said his greatest career accomplishment is growing USAble. “There are a lot of people who never thought it would be this size,” he said. “And we expect to grow and be even bigger.”

Langston said he follows the stewardship delegation management philosophy, where he delegates the work and the employee is in charge of getting it done. Langston said he’s there for guidance. “I’m not going to stand over you and tell you how to do it or ask you what you’re doing,” he said.

Away from the office, Langston is on the board of Vine & Village of Little Rock, which is attempting to improve the quality of life for people living in and around Little Rock’s University District. And for 15 years, Langston had been active in the Downtown Little Rock Kiwanis Club.

Langston said he got his drive from his father. “He had a tremendous work ethic, and somehow I inherited that high integrity and just a desire to do a good job and make a difference,” Langston said.



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