In this episode, Thad Davis, Senior Managing Director, interviews Wayne DeVeydt, Managing Director at Bain Capital, where they discuss Wayne’s unconventional childhood, his impactful philanthropic efforts, and the importance of intentional purpose.Read Transcript
Welcome to Perspectives, Leerink Partners’ signature podcast, where we share our insights and interview leaders across the industry to get their perspective on how they’re driving innovation. We’ll also be digging into the backstory to learn more about what has most influenced their success. Be sure to check out all episodes by Leerink Partners.
Thad Davis: Hello, I’m Thad Davis. I’m senior managing director here at Leerink Partners. It’s my pleasure to be joined by Wayne DeVeydt.
Wayne DeVeydt: Thanks for having me.
Thad Davis: I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Wayne in a couple of different arenas here, but I’ve known you most recently as a managing director at Bain Capital, thank you for joining the podcast, I really appreciate it. We talked about this over like a dinner an eon ago. Where are you from originally? Tell me a little bit about sort of the upbringing, like parents, what, what was the situation there?
Wayne DeVeydt: I always felt like I had a pretty good childhood, but when I probably described some of the mechanisms behind it, I’m not sure it will come across to many folks as being a blessed start, if you will. From the simplest standpoint, my mother had me at the age of 17. She had my brother by the time she was 18. So I was a young child, being raised by a single mother who was still a teenager. And as you can probably imagine, what comes with that is, we lived in pretty extreme poverty. We grew up in government subsidized housing. My mother was on food stamps. She worked many jobs though, to provide for us. And, and that’s why I said I never really felt that I wasn’t blessed as a child from that perspective. but probably the more difficult part was that we had a lot of different men in and out of our lives because of the fact that she was a young woman who was still trying to figure out who she was. So, we lived with a biker gang for a while. I lived with a gentleman that owned a tow truck, and to the best of my knowledge and my brother’s knowledge we’re fairly convinced that he stole cars for a living and used his garage as a chop shop. She ended up marrying a gentleman who unfortunately was, very similar to the other previous two examples I gave, not the best father figure that you could look for and was a fairly abusive, individual to, my mother and to all the siblings. It’s a big part of what defined the person I am today, but it’s a very different path than what most people probably experienced in their childhood.
Thad Davis: I would agree with that. I mean, but you stayed in the area and then ultimately high school, and then you went to UM St. Louis, so UMSL.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah, I mean, a bit of a unique journey though I would say that I was not a believer in education and at least at the time I wasn’t. And a big reason for it was, you know many of my family members had never even graduated high school. I think my mother got a GED eventually. So, it was one of those situations where I didn’t really necessarily see the value in it because I didn’t grow up around it or understand the value of education. And so, for me, probably one of the more defining moments was I ended up going to an all-boys school run by Marinus brothers. And in a lot of ways, they became kind of the father figure that I lacked. those individuals also, uh, put a lot of discipline that I would say a young boy growing up in a bad neighborhood needs. And so, in some ways, you know, view it as being troubled youth, if you will. And the friends that I hung out with were troubled youth. And we all ended up going to this same school and this school really put its arm around us and started teaching us both the importance of faith and what is right and wrong in life. And then also understanding consequences, and really starting to put a little bit of value around education. but candidly, I remember at high school graduation I was, I was not planning to go to college. I was done. And my aspirational job at the time, was to become a member of the union at Anheuser-Busch, potentially be a bottler. And if people say to me today, they say, “what was so exciting about that?” Well, two things. One is it was a job and it was a very well-paying job.
Thad Davis: People overlook that. I know that area. I know that job. That’s a good job.
Wayne DeVeydt: It was a great job and you get 10 cases of beer a month as part of the gig.
Thad Davis: Yeah, I remember that. Yeah.
Wayne DeVeydt: You get back to the most basic premise. But for me, I was like, it’s a job. It’s a good-paying job. And at the time, I enjoyed beer. And so, I was like, what more would you want? Right? That was my aspiration at the time. and it was really upon graduation that one of the lay teachers at the school came up to me and my mother was standing slightly behind me and said to my mother, didn’t say it to me ’cause I think she realized I wouldn’t listen to her. I was in a still a state of mind where I’m not going to school. And she said to the, to my mother, “your son has an amazing gift and he’s very talented and he doesn’t even know it.” and she even made the comment about specifically that his gift in finance and accounting is quite remarkable. And if he doesn’t go to college, he’s gonna waste a gift that he’s been given from God. And then she walked away.
Thad Davis: That’s a hyper, that’s a hyper-specific comment. I guess, that shows you how deep you were in sort of the school and kind of their thoughtfulness around you as a person and things like that mean to come up and say “he knows numbers, he knows money and math, he’s a commercial guy.”
Wayne DeVeydt: To be candid, I didn’t realize how monumental of an input that was to my life and my trajectory until my late thirties. when somebody had asked me like, “Well, how did you ever get into finance? How’d you ever get into accounting? Like, what were the drivers in your life?” And, and I kept reflecting and finally, like, somebody had to convince you. And it, and it was Mrs. Taylor, which is the individual that, that approached my mother. And the reason I highlight this was, my mother in that moment in time said to me, “you know, you have a choice. You can go to college or you can find someplace else to live.” And for me, you know, my alternatives were not were not very promising, especially with, with some of the friends I had at the time. And so, I initially started college at, what is today the St. Louis Community College. At the time it was called Merrimack Community College. So, I did my first 18 months at Merrimack Community College. And then I actually transferred out to the University of Missouri, which was in Columbia, Missouri. And the reason I transferred there is because one of my buddies from high school said, “These are some of the best parties you’re ever gonna see. You gotta come out here.” I was not going to school still at this point in time for education. I was simply going, ’cause I needed a place to live. And now I had a chance to go away to school and maybe, enjoy a few parties while I was there. And so, I went out to the University of Missouri. And to say that I, you know, focused on school would be a gross lie. In fact, I remember I joined a fraternity. And to become an active after your pledge year, you had to have at least a 2.0 GPA. And in my fraternity, not a single pledge brother, qualified other than me. And I had a 2.2 GPA that semester.
Thad Davis: You’re the achiever of the group.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yes. And it was a very, very low bar but we had a great time. And I remember sitting down with the guidance counselor and them saying, “Hey, you’re now at a stage where you have to pick what you’re going to major in. You know, you’ve done the community college, you’ve been here for, you know, a semester, what do you wanna major in?” And, and I remember reflecting and thinking like, I have no idea. I don’t know what I’m good at. And I remember Mrs. Taylor saying I was good at finance and accounting. And so, I said, “Look, I’d really like to probably go into finance and accounting.” And I remember the guidance counselor. And while it bothered me at the time, she wasn’t necessarily wrong saying, “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that’s what you’re qualified for. And your grades definitely wouldn’t show that you’re good enough to be in finance and accounting.” And so, I ultimately decided that, as you’ll find,
Thad Davis: No one, no person to back down from a challenge.
Wayne DeVeydt: And as you’ll find in my career, almost every time I was told I wasn’t good enough at something is generally what caused me to double down. A little more outta spite though. Today I do it more out of appreciation and recognizing the value of problem solving and, and challenges and how do you overcome them. But at the time, I ended up doing one more semester and then I transferred to the University of Missouri in St. Louis and decided I was gonna go work full-time. So, I worked in the inner city at a warehouse and general drugstore, that was basically supporting the poor indigent where I lived and grew up. And I worked 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, and then I worked Saturdays as well. So, I ended up working close to 55 hours a week to put myself through school, and then I went to school full-time on top of that. So, I remember my morning started at school, classes started at 7:50. I was done by 11:50, and then I went downtown and started working, from around, uh, a little bit a noon until around 8:30 each night and did that until I graduated. And at that point, was accepted into the accounting program and ended up excelling.
Thad Davis: Did you consider yourself smart? Like, were you like, “No, I’m smart, I just don’t wanna do that?” Or did you actually come to like a later point in life where you’re like, “I’m actually a smart person.” Or have you ever thought about it that way?
Wayne DeVeydt: I had never come to the conclusion that I was a smart person until I was in my mid-forties.
Thad Davis: You know what? That, that’s the same thing. Same thing with me. I was like, not, not, not that I’m not, that I’m smart, not that I think I’m smart, but I, it’s like all of a sudden you look around and you’re like, you know what? The whole time I’ve been pretty smart.
Wayne DeVeydt: I would definitely say not only did I not view myself as smart, I mean I got straight A’s, but when I was in high school and grade school, but not because I really put effort or energy, and I just thought, well, that’s what you get. And the reason that others aren’t getting it is they weren’t really putting any effort, and I at least was putting some effort in. So again, a little bit of being blessed in my life in a path that I didn’t choose, right? So, again, I, I didn’t wanna go to college. I was forced to do that. I didn’t necessarily want to go into finance and accounting, even though I got an accounting degree. And when I first graduated, you know, it was under the first Bush administration. We were during a recessionary period, jobs were not plentiful. And candidly, I just wanted a job. It was really that simple, you know? And I remember the moment when, two moments I reflect on that were so unique. One was, I was interviewing to be the assistant manager of a pet store. It was a global chain. Today, the chain is known as PetSmart, but it was a global chain, and they were rolling out, and at the time they were a startup company that was kind of growing and expanding. And I was being interviewed to be an assistant manager at the store. And then at the same time, I interviewed with what was then Coopers and Lybrand that eventually became Pricewaterhouse. We merged with Pricewaterhouse. And, I would’ve said it was the worst interview I’ve had of any interview I had out there. I remember being so offended at the interview and I didn’t feel like it was honing in, and I just felt like, “gosh, I’m so frustrated that I actually thought I’m gonna write a letter to the firm and actually say to them like, I am so surprised at the type of interview I had and how it went, and I just, you know, politely say, you know, you wasted my time.” Right? But I didn’t write the letter and I remember getting in my mailbox, ’cause back then we didn’t have cell phones, and I had a letter that said, we’d like you to come in for a second interview. And I was like, you got to be kidding me. I remember going throughout the day, it was like eight interviews lined up and some were group interviews, some were single. And about halfway through, they’re like, “I mean, we’re sure you’re probably getting lots of offers. We really hope you like our firm.”
Thad Davis: You’re like, “Absolutely”.
Wayne DeVeydt: Right. And so, so, so, so again, in some ways I look back and people say, “so what, why did you pick accounting and why did you pick Coopers? And did you always know you wanted to be an auditor?”
Thad Davis: Nothing about you screams, uh, audit partner.
Wayne DeVeydt: Right, right. So, and the answer was, I just wanted a job, and it was the job I got. It was the job I got.
Thad Davis: I guess the union of Ms. Taylor’s advice around finance and accounting and the job that is specializes in finance and accounting kind of clicked at some point here.
Wayne Deveydt: Yeah, but I would tell you, Thad, even at the beginning and really until my mid-thirties, I used to like stand in the shower and I would just let the water fall on me each morning before I went to work. And I would be like, “I don’t understand why people continue to think I’m good at this. Like I don’t even know what I’m doing. I don’t understand why I keep getting this greater responsibility.” I mean, every day. And so, I, I tell you this, simply to say that many people look at me and say, “gosh, you’re so confident. You’ve got this vibe about you when you’re out and I can see it and I can feel it.” And it was like it was a charade for so long because I didn’t feel it or believe it in myself.
Thad Davis: People would call that like Imposter Syndrome. You’re like, you hear about that now, you’re like, “no, no, I can’t. I can’t be this successful. There’s something wrong with me. People have clearly made a mistake and it’s like, no, no, you’re actually pretty good at your job.” You’re like, yeah, you have An inability to independently assess your own success.
Wayne DeVeydt: A hundred percent.
Thad Davis: Obviously the thread of insurance comes back again and again. So, I guess you became, because you worked on an insolvent insurance company, you decided to go down the road and you were an audit partner there, correct? Were you focused on insurance or healthcare what was the transition there around the audit to, I guess Wellpoint was the next way station.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. So, this is a bit of an interesting story and I’ll try to put some brevity around it, but it’s worth telling because of how people affect your lives and where they come into play. So, yeah, so, so initially I was heading down the path of, of being an insurance partner. That’s what I was gonna do, property and casualty, life. I was not doing health insurance at the time, and I get this random phone call from a partner, out of California that says, “Hey, your name’s been given to me. We have a client who has a company that the state of California is looking at putting into receivership. And they would like to meet with you, and they happen to be headquartered in St. Louis. Would you go meet with them?” And I said, “sure.” Now remember, Thad, this was my first job that I got in this receivership company. So, I was. 23 years old you know, I worked on it for almost three years, but 23 to 26, I’m a snot knows kid that knows nothing. I have no experience. And so, I go meet with this company at the time. Bush O’Donnell was the name of the company and I mentioned that because the Bush is William T Bush, who goes by the nickname Bucky Bush. He has since passed away, an amazing man. But he is the first President Bush’s brother. And of course, W’s uncle. And Bucky, sits down with me and, and Jim O’Donnell and they grill me for a long time about some of the issues they had. And I’m just sharing my opinion. And I would’ve argued that it was probably reckless. It was educated based on three years of, of very limited experience. and I gave ’em some advice on things I would do and things they might want to consider. And, um, they, probably at the, probably at the time, you were the number one expert in all of St. yeah,
Thad Davis: Probably at the time, you were the number one expert in all of St. Louis.
Wayne DeVeydt: Right. So, they did it and they took the advice and a lot of it worked. And then I got a call from them later on saying, “Hey kid, we’re, we’re looking at buying a company. So, they were essentially a PE shop, and they were looking at buying another company in the Medicaid space in St. Louis and said, uh, would you come in and do some due diligence on it?” And I remember saying, “guys, I, I don’t, I don’t know anything about healthcare. I just, I, I really didn’t know much about rehabilitating a bankrupt company.” And they’re like, look, you’re a smart kid.
Thad Davis: They, they’re like, they’re like, listen, you take premiums in, you pay out any
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. Yeah. So, so you know, I worked on that forum and they ended up buying the company, ended up being a, a really great acquisition forum and drove a lot of value. And I tell you all that to say that if you would’ve said to me before I tell you this next part, did you think you made a lasting impact on anybody? I would’ve said no. I mean, I, I mean, it was a problem they needed to solve. I gave them my 2 cents worth and then I was, I was moving on with my life. And that is right when Arthur Anderson went through its issues and Congress got involved and created the Sarbanes Oxley Act and there was all these things happening. But during that window at time, while all that’s happening, what is today Blue Cross Blue Shield Missouri, but at the time was known as Right Choice, was getting into a dispute with the state of Missouri on whether or not the proper proceeds were paid to make it go from a not-for-profit to a for-profit, et cetera, et cetera. And I get a phone call from the CEO then that says, “one of my board members, which happened to be Bucky Bush, said that you’re a pretty bright kid and we should, have you come in and talk to us.” And so again, at this point in time, I have zero experience in healthcare. I am not a Blue Cross Blue Shield expert. But that’s how I got introduced to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and I was able to get involved in one of the first conversions that happened and, it was post-conversion.
Thad Davis: You were there for a demutualization.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. And, and, and really working with the state on negotiating a settlement and with the outside counsel they were using. If you would’ve said to me, “what role were you playing?” I would’ve said I was a small piece in the chess game that was being played. I would’ve argued I was a pawn in the chess game. What I didn’t realize in hindsight is they were using me for many different aspects of the game that in hindsight, I was not being quote unquote used. I truly was being valued for the ideas I was bringing or the thoughts I was bringing. But again, I didn’t believe in myself enough to even know that some of the things that were happening were having a positive impact. And, and ultimately, Wellpoint eventually bought right choice. And it was during a window, right when Sarbanes Oxy came out and said partners could no longer be on an account for more than five years, and that you would have to rotate. And so, the firm Right Choice came out and said, look, we, we, I’m sorry, Wellpoint came out and said, look, we, we need, we need a new, uh, a firm or we need a new partner. They had been using Pricewaterhouse, we had since merged. And the firm puts forward three names. Uh, and I think one was like the former partner on Ford Motor Company. I can’t remember what the other, but they were, they were big company, long tenured partners, people that definitely deserved the role. And Bucky Bush was the one board member selected to be on the Wellpoint Health Networks board when they acquired Right Choice. And Bucky said, “Hey, there’s this young kid you should throw in the mix he’s worth having an interview with.” And so, I interviewed with Leonard Schafer, who many of you may or may not be familiar with, but he’s an amazing man, and has done so much for healthcare, and for so many people. And I interviewed with, Leonard and David Kolby and sat in a room and I got a phone call a few weeks later that said, kid, you’ve been selected as a new advisor and partner for wellpoint Health Networks. And, and that’s how I got deep into the blues. And I finally moved my family there to California, and the day we closed on our house, they announced they were selling the company to Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Indianapolis. And so that’s how the journey started. But just to flip over, so how do you get into Anthem? Well, I get this phone call from both the Anthem board members and, uh, and from Leonard, and they said, “Hey, we got good news and bad news, kid. The bad news is your firm is being fired as our audit firm. Ernst and Young was the auditors for Anthem, and Ernst and Young is the new audit firm” and I said, well, where’s the,
Thad Davis: The bad news is we’re firing you from your account, you’re like “okay, what’s the upside?”
Wayne DeVeydt: So, in that moment I’m thinking I’ve gotta call the firm and tell them that we’re not winning the bid on the combined company, which would’ve been a great company to be part of. So, I’m thinking, I’m not sure how there’s any good news in this at all, but I’m all ears. And, they said, we’d like you to join us, and we’d like you to come in as our chief accounting officer and head of investor relations, and we want to groom you to be the CFO of the company.
Thad Davis: Over this time, like, I think that most people just listening are people that know you. Like you said, you’re, you have this sort of dynamic energy confidence thing, but doing the audit to CFO to internal, this whole thread requires deep focus. And so like, you have to be able to turn, go dynamic, turn it off, look hard, go deep, do analytics, how has that been through your life? Has that been something where you can switch it on, switch it off, or you can turn out the noise and focus deeply? Or how does your thinking work in that regard?
Wayne DeVeydt: I think what I’ve learned about myself over the years is I’ve always been a problem solver because I had to be. My mom had to go to work. I had to, I mean, so like I look back on life and say, I don’t know that I ever viewed myself as being great at finance or being great at accounting or whatever, but what I have learned to appreciate, I was pretty good at problem solving. And so, whether I knew what the issue was, wasn’t as relevant as, but what’s the problem and what are you trying to solve for? I’m not afraid to say, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Like, I don’t even understand what you’re explaining. I, I go in meetings today and somebody starts talking with acronyms and I’m just like, “I’m sorry, could you, I don’t know what that acronym is.” They’ll be like, “oh, MOR, our monthly operating report.” Okay. Thank you. I mean, as silly as it sounds, people have, people have different acronyms for different things. And so, I was just like, so I think it was a combination of, you know, not being afraid to ask the obvious when others might have been. And then two,
Thad Davis: Active engagement. Deep active engagement and problems
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. Yeah. And, and rarely did I ever know the answer. This is the one thing I would say, Thad, that people, I’m always fascinated by. I rarely ever knew the answer. I just asked good questions.
Thad Davis: Obviously the hard work and focus on unpacking things kind of paid off well, and going through the, the time at Wellpoint, the transition to Anthem, and then obviously going all the way up to, I think a lot of people, especially listening, they, seeing somebody like you, like if you just looked at your LinkedIn, it’s a very contiguous flow. You’re like, “oh, audit partner, Wellpoint, Anthem. That makes sense. He should be a CFO.” But I don’t think it’s ever quite as obvious like that internally.
Wayne DeVeydt: I was 100% convinced that I was ready to be CFO. I received a battlefield promotion.
Thad Davis: the day I started at Wellpoint, I knew I was gonna be the CFO.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah, and, I was a hundred percent blinded by all my ignorance at that point, because what had happened in my career was I was so blessed to have so many good things happening, and I was getting promoted and I was getting this, and I was getting that, and I truly got a battlefield promotion. I think I became CFO when I was 36 years old of a fortune at the time, fortune 100 company. And by the time I left, we were a Fortune 30 company, right? So it was, it was absolutely astonishing, how fast things were moving. And I can tell you in hindsight today, I was 100% not qualified to be CFO at the time. I mean I had no experience in it yet at this point. I had so many things that I would learn and need to learn over that nine year period that I, that I got to serve as the CFO. And it was really that took me into my mid-forties when I started realizing that, where was I dividing between what was this kind of imposter that I thought that people kept thinking was so great versus, you know, what was I actually good at and how do I define what I’m good at and, and where do I go?
Thad Davis: Going back to the imposter thing for a second. I mean to hit on that for a second, was there anyone that would’ve been qualified to create anthem in the way it was created thus far? I mean, that was the era of consolidation roll-ups, basically scaling in the sector. If you’re not qualified, who the hell is?
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. So, it’s interesting. So, you know, looking back, I mean, I can reflect now and see how Yeah, like how things came together and why I was really blessed and fortunate in the things. Although I would do so many things different today if I was in the role.
Thad Davis: Oh, sure. Hindsight, you’re a prisoner of hindsight bias.
Wayne DeVeydt: Right, right. It’s hard to argue with the scoreboard ’cause the company had such great success and things went so well. But I’d say how we, you know, how we played the game and the things we could have done differently. There’s so many things and, you know, I think as we, as we start to migrate, I think probably the most personal thing I could share was just, you know, when was that moment? Like, what was that moment that that changed my whole life and trajectory and when I ended up leaving Anthem, et cetera. The biggest thing was, knowing where I started with my background. And you heard, you know, look, I grew up with a couple basic things that I thought would measure success in life. One was that seeing the men that were in my mom’s life and many of the illegal things they did, I wanted to make an honest living. As simple as that is, that was a goal I had. I wanted to make an honest living. Two was seeing the men and how they treated my mother and how bad they were to her. I wanted to be a good husband. That’s what I wanted to be. It was simple. I just wanna be a good husband. And then the third thing was, I want to be a present father. I wanna be active in my kids’ life because I didn’t really know my father growing up. I didn’t spend time with him. I didn’t, I mean, he wasn’t around. And I clearly didn’t have a relationship with him of any of any sort. And so, for me it was like, those were my basic, if you said, “what does success look like for you someday?” Those were the three pillars I would’ve anchored on. And so here I’m now the CFO of a Fortune 100 company, making an honest living. I’m married at the time. You’ll see where this is going, obviously. And I’m raising three amazing, beautiful daughters. And I remember, my ex-wife today, coming in and I remember I’m getting ready to announce that we’re gonna miss guidance in 2008, in early 2008, because we think the markets are gonna crash. I remember saying to her, “Tomorrow, I can’t tell you what’s going on. But I remember the next day we were gonna change guidance. And I said, tomorrow is the day the world finally realizes that I am not as smart as they always thought I was. Tomorrow’s the day.” And I remember thinking, I got to keep that fake image for so long that tomorrow they figure it out. And I’ll never forget this departing comment she made to me, but she said to me, “in whose eyes, God’s or theirs?” And it really hit home, it hit home now, but then it didn’t. And I was like, “you don’t understand. You don’t get it. You don’t, whatever.” But it was the start of a new beginning that I needed because obviously, We changed guidance, stock plummeted. I had several investors tell me I was the dumbest man in the world they’ve ever met or knew, you know, and several, several, I mean, I remember, right, right, right. I remember one who today’s, this gentleman’s in his eighties. He’s a frequent speaker on a number of news channels, still around business, et cetera, telling me I was the dumbest effing kid he’s ever met. He went on and on and on and on and on, and I just took it and sat back and let him call me every name he wanted to. And eventually I went and had dinner and broke bread with him and we have a very good relationship today. But it was one of these things where, you know, I thought, well, this is what I deserve. And then a number of months later, my ex-wife showed up one day and said, “Hey, I wanna do something different.” And I was like, “oh, great. What do you wanna do?” And she simply said, “it doesn’t involve you.” And she left. And so overnight, I went from, you know, like having the house, the marriage, the children, the job, what I had defined as my perfect world to my ex-wife. My wife is gone. We’re now in a custody battle over the children. I might lose my children. The home is gone. AndI just told the whole world, I don’t know really what I’m doing. And so, you know, I hit a major inflection point during the ‘08, ‘09 window.
Thad Davis: Is it like a crisis of confidence or, or is it more like “I was pursuing a path in a certain way and that’s just that I realized kind of at that point that I was, it was built on some fundamental mis principles.” I mean, like right within that sort of crisis area, like what was the realization like, like obviously hindsight again, but it what, what was the feeling at the time?
Wayne DeVeydt: It really comes back to a couple basic things. You know, first and foremost, what I defined success to look like was based on a worldly view of what success was. And so, I was a check the box guy, right? Well, I attend my kids’ events and games. Check. Well, I, I, again, back to it was a low bar that I grew up around. Well, I don’t beat my wife or call her names, so I must be a good husband check, right? Like really, really like, just very mechanical. And in ways that like, I knew what I didn’t want to be. So, what I really accomplished was not being the worst of the worst. That’s really what I accomplished, right? But I wasn’t the best of what I was capable of being, which meant I had to believe in myself. I had to anchor in what a, what, what being a servant is like true servant leadership.
Thad Davis: I’m, I’m trying to avoid that, but I don’t really have a principal view
Wayne DeVeydt: I needed to be stripped of everything. so that I could get back to the most basic premise, which is, you know, what fills me up isn’t gonna be this world. Right? I really got much closer to, to Christ and my faith is really important to me. And, I’ll say it this way, right? For me, this is a model I learned, which was, you know, for me, I recognized that, I didn’t know that Jesus was all I needed until he was all I got. And for me, he was all I had. And it was a real important time for me to, to really reflect on the fact of, okay, that is what I need to be anchoring on. Like, that’s the type of person I need to be. That is the type of giving I need to do. That is the type of love I need to be showing others.
Thad Davis: You came to the end of this sort of material rainbow, and you got to the end of the material rainbow and you’re like, the problem is you get to the end, you’re like, “oh, everything’s fine.” And then one thing falls apart, then another thing falls apart and you’re like, well, wait a second. I just spent like years constructing this material, sort of mechanical concept. And you’re like, okay, I need to find a more philosophical, principled way. And then obviously your faith’s very important to you so that you’re like, listen, when everything’s getting stripped away and I don’t know what I am, I need to go look for philosophy and principles, I found what I’m looking for and then I can now that I understand that I can rebuild, now that I understand that I can begin to rebuild a life that kind of centers around that sort of principle centering at that point.
Wayne DeVeydt: That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it.
Thad Davis: I actually think that that actually is, the world is probably moving more towards that way because I think more and more people you see, read a lot about philosophy versus materialism these days. It’s a big sort of undercurrent in, in everything that’s going on out there. And the people look for that philosophy, the faith, whatever faith you have, whatever philosophical cornerstone. But people are beginning to, I think, drift slowly towards this need to rebuild around like, wait, we have these core principles.
Wayne DeVeydt: I’m getting closer towards my last couple years at Anthem. I meet my, my current wife, Michelle, who’s just amazing. And I kind of re-anchor on a lot of things and decide, well, what is important to me? And I go back to those same three principles, which was, you know what? I do wanna make an honest living, but, you know, I think it’s probably time for me to exit from my days at Anthem. Right? It’s time for me to separate from corporate America for a while, really reflect on where I want to take this next part of the journey and go from there. Two is, I wanted to be a great husband, but what I realize now, and my wife Michelle, reminds me every day. I used to joke, I prayed for give me a woman that wouldn’t put up with my bullshit. And boy, be careful what you pray for, right? Be careful what you pray for ’cause I got it. But I’ll tell you what, I realized like to really be a, a great husband, you really have to have a servant heart. And you kind of do have to dedicate to a big part of who you are and really pour yourself into somebody else. And then that lend itself to my children. And this idea of like, gosh, you know, I have this opportunity to help so many children. So, I’m a father to these three amazing daughters that live, you know, live with me in Indianapolis. Why wouldn’t I want to have more and more importantly, how many children can I help in these orphanages around the world? And what can I do around that? And so, this became a really defining moment for me that said, Hey, that, that’s great. You’re, you’re not what you used to be. And so, you accomplished that goal, but now you gotta move to who you need to be. And so, I literally went into Anthem and just said, “Hey, I, I know this is gonna come as a surprise, but I’m retiring and I’m gonna move to Nicaragua. And we’re in the midst of adopting what was then our ninth child. And, she was a, a special needs child. And then we just said, thanks for the opportunity to be your CFO for the last decade.”
Thad Davis: So, even, even today, so in prep for this Google about you, you run the newsfeed. There’s like, you know, like Anthem, CFO, resigns, you know, nothing wrong, but shakes investor. I’m like, I’m like, okay. “I mean, it’s just like, yeah, I’m done, guys. Thanks. You’re like, I’m just like, any other gig out there”
Thad Davis: You’re like, oh, okay.
Wayne DeVeydt: That was it. And I said to him, look, you let me know how much time you need to transition. I gave them a date that said, look, my wife was pregnant with our eighth child at the time, and we were in the process. I said, so either I get a phone call that I need to go to Nicaragua to be with our, our ninth child, or my wife goes into labor and whichever one comes first is my last day. So, yeah. So that was, uh, that was
Thad Davis: that could come to, that could come tomorrow. They could come a couple of months from now. Who knows? You guys, you guys figure it out though.
Wayne DeVeydt: Right. So that gets to where we’re at on the journey today. And, and at that point I’m living in Nicaragua.
Thad Davis: And then, and then, and then your free agent. Yeah. You’re Nicaragua free agent. And, so I have a background in surgery partners sort of prior to you, so I understand this, the story kind of leading up. And then you’re, you, you’ve done the Nicaragua thing, you’ve done, we will, we’ll come to the, we’ll come to the, the adoption and orphanage thing here in a little bit, but, and then we’ll spend a little bit of time talking about Michelle, who’s obviously been deeply involved with that. Not only from her own practice, but also just in the, in the inner workings of your life and et cetera. But so, you get called back into surgery partners, you’re like, time to saddle up again, or, because it was, it was a former Anthem team there that kind of came on effectively.
Wayne DeVeydt: Well, so a little bit different though. So, I’m sitting in Nicaragua and I get a call from, Chris Gordon at Bain Capital and, and Chris says, uh, “Hey Wayne. We’ve got your name. Um, there’s this company down in Brazil, Intermedica. We’re thinking about taking it public in a number of years. Your name keeps coming up and we talk about people that have experience in building managed care companies, et cetera. And we’re looking for a board member and any interest in joining?” And I remember thinking, well, yeah, I, I actually knew who the company was. I would be interested in joining the board, but I’m living in Nicaragua and not really gonna move away. And they’re like, that’s fine. Just we’d love to have you join us on the board. So I did. And then after that they said, “Hey, any interest in being a senior advisor?” And I was like, yeah, I kind of like working with these guys, but I don’t really want a job. I’m gonna stay in Nicaragua. And, but during that process, a couple things came out that lent, that lent itself to how I ended up at Surgery Partners. First and foremost was people would say, “how was it living there?” And we still have a home there today, and two of our daughters are adopted from Nicaragua, but. You know, I tell people, “Well, every morning I got up, I opened the doors and overlooked the Pacific Coast. I got to play golf. I got to surf. I got to work out. I got to hang out with my kids. I got to go on walks, I got to do hikes. I got to pretty much do whatever I want.” And for those of us that have seen the movie, Groundhog Day, paradise every day is Groundhog Day. And what you realize, and one of the things I love in that movie, when you watch that movie, if you ever get a chance to watch it again, is he realizes that the problem in his life isn’t everybody else around him. It’s his refusal to change who he is. And it’s only when he changes who he is, does his life actually improve and get better and actually appreciate the unique things about people in life.
Thad Davis: He appreciates, changes himself, begins to appreciate people, and then ultimately achieves selflessness at the end of it. It’s like, it’s like, I’ve studied a little bit of Buddhism and people refer to like Groundhog Day. They’re like, that’s the journey of Buddhism in a movie. They’re like, they’re like, you achieve selflessness at the end, and you’re like, there is no self. And then he’s out of the cycle.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah, exactly. So it was in that window that my wife said, “you know, you just don’t seem as happy as I thought you would be. You actually seem,” and I said, gosh, you know, there really is a void here though. Like, I feel like I need to do more. ’cause at this point, I would argue I’m technically unemployed, right? I’m sitting on a beach, I’m doing whatever I had, I had three goals. And one of ’em was to, you know, and I just felt like, gosh, you know, I got this God-given gift that I didn’t really appreciate. What if I went back and did another chapter, but this time I did it with complete intentional purpose? And so, Bain had reached out and said, “Hey, we’re in the process of looking for a CEO for Surgery Partners. They’re the largest shareholder, but it’s publicly traded.” And I had said to them as well, I had reached out and said, “Hey, I’m not sure that I would be a candidate ’cause I know absolutely nothing about ambulatory surgery centers.” I reached out to them and said, “well, if you’d be interested in having me as a candidate, I’d like to be a candidate.” So that’s how I got a, uh, you know, ultimately, you know, been a Bain guy. I like to look at my careers really fallen in three buckets. It was really those early years of Pricewaterhouse and being a partner. It was my Blue Cross Blue Shield years, my Anthem Wellpoint years of being a CFO. And then, and then it’s really my Bain years and my Bain years have been amazing because I’ve got to do everything boards, CEO, advising. And then today I, I work as a problem solver. That’s my job now. And it’s industry agnostic, which is really fun ’cause now I get to work in all industries.
Thad Davis: Are you still, are you still on the board of NiSource still?
Wayne DeVeydt: So I, I moved off on that because I was getting, I was a little bit over boarded.
Thad Davis: But, but yeah, people, people listening, which is the healthcare podcast, but NiSource is a public utility effectively, so it’s like, yeah, it was like, that is completely unrelated to this situation right here.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. And, and I’m a big believer that people become stale in five to seven years because I think inherently, like whatever leadership you bring or whatever ideas you bring to a board or whatever, and I’ve said this to every board I’ve been on. So, for all my other public company boards, you know, this is nothing new that I’ve said, but I really do believe after five to seven years, whatever you’re gonna contribute, you probably have already contributed in the most positive manner that you can contribute. And so ultimately for me, it really was about, um, you know, that transition. And then of course now I’m on the Centene board, which as you know, is a Fortune 25 company. And it’s been exciting to be on that board.
Thad Davis: Never heard of them.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah.
Thad Davis: Who, who, who is that? Who’s that? Is that, do they do insurance? Yeah.
Thad Davis: So, transitioning for a second. Its something that I talk about, like, so I do this, if you’ve, if you’ve been worked near me or around me at any of the firms, I do an intro talk about when people come into the investment bank as like new analysts, new associates, junior staff that I go through a, you know, a banking 101, which is how to conduct yourself and the career. But I end this, that my talk with how to conduct yourself as a person. And so, I try to take it as a point of where somebody has, in banking, you’ve been chosen and you’ve been put into a position of elite capabilities. You have great income, great responsibility, good influence, go out and put that to work and take a place in both the community and within the community. And I talk about giving back to the things that help you construct with who you are. And so, I, I generally talk about, one is civil service. You need to go back and give to the world. Others are not as lucky as you are. You’re pretty lucky. Consider yourself lucky. Go do something. Go give to the arts in pure creation, innovation, and then go do something extra and, and as well to try to give back to the system, potentially in politics or something like that. But I’ve been impressed that actually, like I use you, in full disclosure, I use you as an example because I’m like, “Look at Wayne. He’s done all these things, but still is involved in these boards of these very important organizations.” So, this has been a thread through your whole career about giving back and being involved in charity and things like that. Obviously that’s a cornerstone of your life. And maybe just take a minute, talk about that. Talk about your work in the, the orphan world and the adoption world, et cetera.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah, so, so maybe at the simplest level, back to this, you know, I had these three goals I set, and of course one of ’em was, you know, how do I become a great father and more importantly, help as many people as possible? And so, Michelle, my, my wife was so fundamental in helping me reframe my thinking. And part of that was she sat down with me and just said, “Look, if you want to, if you wanna have an impact on this world,” and we always talk about being a pebble, right? Throw a pebble into the water and you might not feel like you have much of an impact, but the ripple effect can be massive over time. And, and so her comment was, “Look, you need to be a little more focused though on how you’re going to impact the world based on these priorities, right? And, and so you do, you value education now?” And I said, yes, I value education. She’s like, “then let, we’re gonna make education a priority that is gonna be part of how we give back. Do you enjoy being a father to, to your nine children and, and having children from the Congo and children from Nicaragua and children?” And the answer is yes, I love it. And I cannot say what it’s been probably the most amazing blessing I’ve ever had in my life. And, and to have all nine of them with me a week ago in Chicago was amazing. And we just, we were just a family, and it was awesome. And, and so she said, “so why won’t you do more in that space? Help more families, help more children, like, make that, you know, a focus of yours.” And so, we have really taken a lot of what we’ve done and, and put our energy around it, both our time, you know, and our treasures. And so, I think that was one thing that we anchored on. And, and then the second thing was fundamentally, Michelle and I both believe this, but it’s not our money. It’s not our money. I, I came into this world with none of this money. I grew up with a, you know, poor neighborhood on food stamps with a mother who did the best she could do. And I’m gonna leave this world someday with none of that money as well. And so, I think when you can wrap your head around the fact that if you just happen to be the one that got blessed with a whole lot of m&ms, as I like to tell a couple of my friends, then you’ve got an obligation to give away a whole lot of m&ms. And you don’t have a right to, you have an obligation to. And so, with that, you know, Michelle and I have really spent a tremendous amount of our energy helping, education. and the focus on education has been generally for inner city areas and, students who would not otherwise get a chance. Many may not know this, but my alma mater where I went to school, uh, this all-boys Catholic school that was run by these Marinus brothers, was informed by the Archdiocese last year that it was gonna be shut down after being around for almost a hundred years. And the school the last two years, it’s a very poor neighborhood, it’s the poorest of the poor, um, uh, a lot of minorities in the neighborhood. And, what a blessing that the school called and said, “we wanna keep it open and we wanna make it a private school. Any interest?” And the answer was, hell yeah, I’m interested. And so, you know, there’s been a whole bunch of us now, and that school now stands on its own with no support from the Archdiocese. But I think there’s a reason I went to the school, and I think there’s a reason I’m in a position today to be able to help. And that’s one of many examples where those students that are in those schools today, uh, go Dragons, St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis, actually won the state football championship the last two years. And, you look at it and you say, those kids who had no shot at anything. Just won state championship. I mean, the ability to believe in yourself and be a pebble to the rest of the world. We’re gonna support that. So that’s where our education dollars go and our time and energy go. And then on the father front, again, back to my wife Michelle. She’s just amazing. She’s spent her whole career and family law, attorney by trade. She has always felt from day one, a desire to help orphans around the world. Initially trying to help women, who unfortunately we have a sex trade environment that’s awful out there, and many of these women are abducted from these third world countries. And, and so Michelle was like, “look, I’ve had this mission forever. It was originally called the Fatherless Foundation.” She was supporting all these children in these third world countries, helping these women get their identities back, helping support ’em on the front end. And we just said, “look, ee have all the resources in the world, right? So, we have really no excuse and we feel an obligation to help.” So, we’ve made that a really cornerstone of what we do is helping orphans around the world and our flagship project under the Global Orphan Foundation, which if you go out to the website, you can read more about what we’ve done. But, uh, one of the things that we did about 10 years ago, two of our boys are adopted from the Congo, and we realized that one of the biggest challenges that we’ve had has been this inability to really help kids in a country where you don’t have clean water, you don’t have food, the mortality rate is 50% under the age of five. I mean, it’s just, the numbers are insane, right? You have war, you have famine, you have AIDS, you, you just name it. You have everything. And so, we took on a bold project about a decade ago where we said, “Well, let’s go build a village, not an orphanage. Let’s build a village and let’s hire women who have lost their husbands to war or disease or whatever, that are widows. And let’s train them and let’s make them house moms and let’s build homes for ’em, and we’ll build them a home in the village. But they’ve got a job and they’re gonna get a sense of purpose. And their job is to become a mother to eight orphans.” And these orphans are rarely ever biologically related. They’re children abandoned in the streets, left with us. We work with the Congolese government, to know that we’re a resource. We worked with Purdue University to help us figure out how to do clean water and how to do, uh, proper plannings and solar and all these things. And we said to everybody, “We don’t need a single dollar from you. We’ll do it. We’ll put the money behind it, but, but we need your know-how, your resources.” And then, uh, over the years, many organizations and Thad, you know, Leerink and, and others, you know, really, I just found over the years relationships I had bankers and others all just, you know, just said “we want to help.” And so, they started plowing money in, and you know, today we’ve got this 50 acres that employs, you know, over 50 people today, you know, house mamas who have a home now and have a job, farmers, bakers. We have over a hundred plus children that live in the orphanage, uh, every at the village, I should say. Every day as children get school, they get education, they get to, they get to be involved in sports. We open the village to those outside the village now. So instead of being in an orphanage, you’re actually in a village and you’re part of the community. And we invite them in. We’ve built soccer fields, uh, basketball fields, you know, et cetera. And I always tell people, like, I, I don’t, people say, “are you making a difference in this world?” I gotta be honest. Sometimes I worry about, and then what? These kids grow up and yeah, we’re teaching them trades and we’re teaching them how to, how to be seamstresses or how to bake goods, or how to be a farmer.
Thad Davis: You, you can’t control the outcome. But the pebble analogy’s a good one. You can’t, that’s the thing. People lament, I’m involved in a, in a, a food insecurity, a very scale food insecurity charity here in New York, and people lament, you’re like, I feel like I’m pushing like this Sisyphean task up a hill, and you have no idea what the outcome is or like, I need to ensure the outcome. Like, you can’t do that. You just have to provide the right direction. Provide something for something in there will create good, you have to have faith in the people that you’re helping. They will sort it out. Everybody’s fundamentally got their motivations, right? If they’re given the right opportunity. That’s sort of like, am I doing enough or is this matter, or you gotta, or you have to avoid nihilism about it.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. And, and then back to the pebble. Here’s the most fascinating thing. So, we set what we thought was this bold, audacious goal that in 10 years we would have this great village. We’d be farming the land. We have goats, chickens, uh, we have a community center. We have a medical center with two nurses full-time, plus a doctor that comes once a week. You know, we have all these things we built, and we said if we could ever accomplish that, that would be success and kind of the way God does things in life, right? He takes our little things and can always turn ’em into something greater. And so, when we started this village, there was very few people that lived outside of the village, but because we created clean water and access to medicine and access to activities and sports and, and access to education and all this, people started moving around the village. And today, 10 years later, if you go there, there’s thousands of people that now live outside the village. And I would not be surprised in 10 years if there’s as many, as 50 to a hundred thousand people that will live surrounding this village. Every time I go, every six months I go.
Thad Davis: A little nucleus of stability and a little bit nucleus of stability in community can manifest into a much larger situation.
Wayne DeVeydt: That’s exactly it. So, it’s been actually astounding and um, you know, it’s just a, shows the power of a lot of things, right? I think this journey I’ve been on and, you know, I’ll turn 54 in the next, you know, five months or so. But, look, it’s been an amazing journey that I look back on my life and go, well, was your child upbringing everything you would ever want it to be? No, but man, oh man, I wouldn’t be the man I was today if it wasn’t for those challenges. Kind of forces a bit of perseverance and grit into you that you didn’t have otherwise. And then people say, well, were you highly aspirational? No. No. I didn’t even wanna go to school. Right? I just wanted a job to making some money and getting beer. That was my aspirations. Right? You know.
Thad Davis: So, so I got, I gotta ask one, one thing before we wrap up piano. So, how, like, are you, you’re an accomplished piano player, or how good are you at piano?
Wayne DeVeydt: All right, Thad, this is, I’m coming clean/
Thad Davis: All right, here we go.
Wayne DeVeydt: Okay. So, one of the things my wife makes us do, Michelle makes us do is she makes us open our home up to any organization that wants to be able to use our home. Now, for all those that are listening that are in the greater Indianapolis area, I have told her we have to put the stop to that because we had so many.
Thad Davis: You’re like, you’re like, “I’m gonna build, I’m gonna build a house over there just to say that’s my house, and you could borrow that. And this is my house”
Wayne DeVeydt: And, and so we’ve, we’ve got, we’ve got this amazing barn and we’ve got this where you could do big, big events in and we’ve got all this stuff. And so, we eventually had to stop ’cause with all of our children and just life in general, it was over the top. But we had already agreed, we collectively agreed we were not going to do anymore for a while. Maybe we would limit it to one or two a year. And she came in and said, “I’m sorry, but I said yes to something.” And I said, “what did you say yes to?” And she said, “well, I got a call from the American Piano Society and they would like to host an event. And they’ve got these two young amazing piano players that they host, and this is their big fundraising event, and they’re gonna do it in our home and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” And I was like, “okay, now I thought we had a discussion, but okay. And why did we go this route?” And she goes, “well, that’s actually the, the hard part I gotta talk to you about. I told ’em how much you love music. And I went on and on and on and on, and I think they just made an assumption that you played the piano, and they want to interview you.”
Thad Davis: I mean, if you, if you, if you do a Google on you, people would assume that you played the piano.
Wayne DeVeydt: Exactly. And so, I said, look, I, uh, I, so they’re interviewing me and I said, look, you guys set up the, so I got the cameras there and I’ve got all this, and they want to talk to me for their event. And I said, guys, “I gotta be honest with you. I’ve never played the piano a day in my life, but I love music.” And they said, “just do the interview. I’m sure it’s gonna be great.” So yes, I get asked
Thad Davis: It’s a great, it’s a great YouTube. It’s a great YouTube man. It’s like really good.
Wayne DeVeydt: So, you almost have to go watch it now, watch the YouTube now and
Thad Davis: Oh yeah. Everybody, everybody, everybody Google Wayne Piano, and it, uh, it just comes up immediately and you’ll be like, you could watch him talk about the piano and he, he looks like you’re getting ready to play right then and there. And I’m like, oh, what’s he gonna play?
Wayne DeVeydt: No. And now you’re gonna watch that I never talk once about playing the piano. I talk about loving music, and I love, you’ll see, I don’t lie at all. Not a single time, but it was the hardest interview I ever went through.
Thad Davis: And either you’re like “I play a little, but I’ve, I’ve quit over the years. I don’t play anymore. I don’t want to, I don’t wanna embarrass anyone.” Excellent. Well, I, you know what, that wraps up. That wraps up everything. I really appreciate the time you spent with us here. I think that your insights will be very eye-opening to many people, and I, I do really appreciate the fact that you’ve had this, like, this thread of philosophy that’s kind of run through everything and, frankly the personal insight, just in internal insight to kind of pivot and then try to change the life to make a difference in other people. It’s just truly inspirational. So, thank you for joining and I look forward to talking to you more as we, as we go on.
Wayne DeVeydt: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Have a great day.
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