Board of Directors Profile: Kent Bergene

June 25, 2013, 9:49 p.m. (ET)

Kent Bergene

Q: What is your role on the Board of Directors?

A: I'm an Independent Director, one of five Independent Directors. And one of twelve total directors.

Q: How long have your been on the Board of Directors?

A: Nearly two years; I joined in the 3rd quarter of 2011.

Q: What about USA Synchro attracted you to become an Independent Director?

A: I think the world would be a better place if more people swam synchronized swimming. For many, synchro is more than a sport. I've seen first hand the role that synchro can play in turning around lives, both in giving something positive and focused, but also in providing a sanctuary for those whose lives outside the pool are difficult.  A few hours with friends, teammates, coaches, or pupils can make a lot of other life events bearable. While we are not a social welfare organization -- we're a National Governing Body -- synchro has the potential to become an enormous force for good in our society. I'd like to support that.

Q: Where are you currently employed and what is your position?

A:  My day job is at Ameriprise Financial. I work in the Columbia Management division, as a Vice President of Investments. I'm portfolio manager on several funds of funds, and my team oversees outside managers that perform investment management for some Columbia Funds. I've been with Ameriprise for 32 years, and have done a variety of things during that time.

Q: What skills do you bring to the USA Synchro Board of Directors?

A: In my day job, my team and I assess investment organizations based on assessing the drivers of performance. We get used to thinking about what characteristics do successful organizations possess, and what characteristics inhibit performance. That kind of thinking is useful in helping assess USA Synchro's organizational performance.

Q: Do you know anyone personally who competes in synchronized swimming?

A: Yes, quite a few. Minnesota (where I live) has a solid high school program, with a 12-week season, that was my introduction to the sport. I've also had the pleasure of meeting a number of current and former club athletes, National Team members, coaches, and Olympians. My daughter swims and I've enjoyed seeing her grow, with the help of skilled coaches, volunteers who care, and I'd like to return the favor, if I can. One of my observations about synchro athletes is they are very humble and prone to giving credit for success to others -- teammates, coaches, families -- and I find that old-fashioned spirit of community first very refreshing.  

Q: What made you choose your current career path?

A: I started as an actuary, thanks to good advice from my mom and dad, as well as college professors. After finishing my actuarial education (Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries), I decided to go down a generalist path, which led to a variety of strategic and creative assignments.

Q: Were you a swimmer at any time in your life? If so, what events did you swim? If you did not swim, do you have a sports background?

A: Oh, no swimming for me. I can only do the "sink" in "synchro". I can't even float ... I failed the deadman float test. I've been told I am dense. :)

As to other sports, yes, I've done a lot of individual and team sports.  I grew up in towns that were small enough that we needed everyone to play in order to have a team, so I was in constant motion after classes adjourned for the day.  

Q: What college/university did you attend? What did you study/receive your degree?

A: I graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1981, with a Bachelor of Arts. I majored in Math and minored in Statistics and Computer Science. Unofficially, I also minored as a fan of ice hockey, which is my second-favorite sport.

Q: What is your favorite part about the sport of synchronized swimming?

A: My favorite event is Combo. I love the creativity it provides, the additional dramatic potential, and it expands the range of stories that can be told in the pool. I'd love to see Combo in the Olympics, and am taking it as a challenge to figure out how to make that happen.

From a people standpoint, I am truly in awe of the volunteer network that supports our athletes. That network includes coaches, judges, event volunteers, club leaders, and the myriad of people who volunteer their time to serve USA Synchro through associations, zones, and the national organization. People inside the sport seem too humble to blow their own horn, but I am amazed at what this confederation of experts accomplishes each year.  

Q: If you could tell the USA Synchro membership one thing, what would it be?

A: Keep the faith. There are world and Olympic medals in our future.