By Karen-Janine Cohen
It was serendipity. When an FIU professor asked Keith Meier (MAcc ’94) to choose either a term paper or an internship, Meier chose work over words. It happened that Assurant Inc. (NYSE:AIZ) was the company offering an on-the-job opportunity to the College of Business grad student. Meier is now chief operating officer at that very same company, having risen through the ranks at the global business services Fortune 500 company.
“It’s funny how things happen,” said Meier. Assurant hoped he would stay after graduation, yet wanting wider experience, Meier took a job with Price Waterhouse LLP, where Assurant was a client. That experience made him more valuable to Assurant, where he returned in 1998.
Meier was given the make-or-break job of reviving a recent Assurant acquisition: a California-based firm that provided retail service contracts on electronics, appliances and similar consumer goods. The company was moved to Tampa less than a year later and he revamped its teams and leadership. “Within six months, it was running much better,” he said. Since then, Meier has taken his accounting and finance expertise to nearly all Assurant departments, including leading the retail and auto businesses, then as president of emerging markets, and senior vice president of global strategy and mergers and acquisitions.
I joined [Assurant] for finance, but quickly took on operations, followed by sales and marketing running multiple businesses, and I could see how actions translated to the financial results.
– Keith Meier
He was president of the international business unit before being tapped as COO in early 2022.
Meier moved from Michigan to Florida with his family at 16. “Once I got a taste of Florida, I decided I was going to stay,” he said. He earned his bachelor's in finance at Florida State University, then pursued his master’s at FIU.
Education was his springboard. “I think accounting is the best major you can do to see how businesses work,” he said. “I joined [Assurant] for finance, but quickly took on operations, followed by sales and marketing running multiple businesses, and I could see how actions translated to the financial results.”
Assurant, which offers warranty and other insurance products to companies that then offer those to consumers, also staffs technical support positions – think dialing up help when installing a home security system, or troubleshooting a misbehaving smart fridge.
The winning formula, Meier said, is combining great digital solutions with excellent customer service.
He credits FIU's teaching style for giving him a head start. “I think there is a great connection with FIU and the business community,” he said. “When I left FIU, I felt I could compete with anyone.”
Meier, his wife and three children live in Atlanta. Most of his spare time is spent cheering on his kids' school sports endeavors. Still, he served on the Greater Atlanta United Way Advisory Board and last year started his own nonprofit, Promising Pathways, which provides educational opportunities to disadvantaged children. “I always thought my next career would be giving back.”