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Erin Hamrick – Reactions Magazine Top 50 Women

By January 21, 2014News

Profiles: Top women in re/insurance
06 January 2014
Profiles: Contrary to the diverse consumer base insurance serves, most industry C-suites are dominated by white, older men. Reactions speaks to some of the industry’s most renowned women as well as what can be done to get more women in the industry.
Inga Beale, CEO, Lloyd’s

Inga Beale is the new chief executive of Lloyd’s. Taking the helm in January 2014, she is the London insurance market’s first female chief executive in its 325 years of history. She replaces Richard Ward, who announced his resignation in July. Beale will leave her present job as group CEO of Canopius, a role she has held since January 2012.

She has a long and distinguished career within the industry, beginning with Prudential Assurance in 1982 where she trained as an international treaty underwriter. Prior to Canopius, Beale was group chief underwriting officer for Zurich, and sat on the company’s management board.

Despite her own successes, Beale expresses disappointment though when she looks at the number of women in senior leadership positions. “I’ve been working in the industry for over 31 years and when I look around at the market and think how many females that entered the industry when I did and then when I look at how many women are at my equivalent level, it still doesn’t look like we’ve made any progress,” Beale told Reactions.

While there remains a gap at the very top of the industry the greater proportion of women fulfilling insurance roles is likely to mean that this dynamic may change as people retire and there are highly qualified women to take on the senior leadership roles within insurers.

Beale says: “From a very general perspective it looks as though we’ve made slow progress over the last 30 years. But I think underlying there are all sorts of good things going on and certainly we have got many more women actually in professional roles like underwriting, broking and things like this.

“So I believe fundamentally we are making progress – it will just take time for them then to become more senior and to take on leadership roles. We’ve got a gap at the top of the organisation still but I think there is a great pipeline of talent coming through.”

Diversity in leadership is important, Beale emphasises, as it promotes differences of opinion and more rigorous debate at board and decision-making levels. She says: “If you have diverse people then you will have diverse views and they would look at things from different angles and represent different stakeholder views.”

When executives build boards around their existing network of contacts, it can lead to less diversity of opinion, Beale thinks. Women can miss out on top table positions through personal networking, she believes.

She also thinks women can sometimes express opinions with less of a fear of personal reprisal or damaging their network, she believes.

“I think there are so many things going on that mean when women are participating in these teams we have a different approach. We challenge more openly because we’ve got less to protect,” says Beale.
Lori Fouché, president and COO, Prudential

With over 20 years experience under her belt, Lori Fouché celebrated her new role as president and chief operating officer of Prudential’s Insurance arm in June 2013. She was previously the CEO of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Allianz.

“I did not plan to enter insurance,” Fouché confesses. “I majored in history at Princeton and obtained an MBA from Harvard. While in college, I had the opportunity to pursue an internship with Chubb & Son, part of a programme that partners with corporations to offer internships and training to minority students. This sparked my interest as I learned the connection between insurance and the economy.”

Fouché has seen the face of the industry change throughout her distinguished career. While she accepts that the industry has become more diverse over the course of her career, she argues that more needs to be done if the industry is to reflect its customer base.

“It is important for the industry to keep pace with the changing demographics in the country, mirroring the customers we serve,” Fouché tells Reactions.

“Having said that, I will say there has been a gradual change over the 20 plus years I have been in the business. For example, I see more women in line jobs or leading revenue-generating businesses. But we still have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to seeing greater diversity of leadership in the executive suite.”

“The answer is pretty straightforward,” says Fouché. “For success to be sustainable in any business, it is imperative to attract and retain the right skills and the best minds, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical capability.

“I view having a diverse leadership team as creating a culture that allows people to bring their best and represents the communities we serve a business imperative. Not only does this foster inclusivity, but also can serve as a competitive advantage and a driver for growth”.

Fouché feels that inclusive workplaces are crucial when supporting employees, welcoming of new ideas, and appreciating valuable experience, she insists.

“That begins by recognising that no one can succeed alone. So, establishing support systems that provide guidance and direction for people to expand and grow through processes like mentoring, as well as through formal and informal channels, are key. As an industry we need to do more work in attracting diverse individuals to insurance and in taking action to ensure diverse slates of candidates are interviewed, particularly in leadership positions,” says Fouché.

Sharon Ludlow, president and CEO, Swiss Re Canada

Sharon Ludlow is considered a leader in the Canadian market and was recently named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women. Her career had more humble beginnings starting out as a public accountant before moving into life insurance where Ludlow had several financial roles. Ludlow now leads Swiss Re’s Canada and English Caribbean operations. Prior to this she was CFO for Swiss Re, Canada.

Speaking to Reactions about the industry’s transformation, Ludlow says: “What I have seen the industry today is a lot more inclusive than what we have seen in the past. Companies tend to have much more flexible work arrangements and workplaces where people in both genders can operate effectively wherever they need to and how ever they need to.”

A pressing industry problem is talented people dropping out of insurance at the middle management level. For women, this is often to raise young families or because of their company refuses to offer flexible working hours.

Flexi-hours may also promote loyalty and allows employers to retain key staff and aids a positive work-life dynamic, Ludlow argues.

“To me diversity is a lot more than simply gender and what I’ve seen across the industry is a move along the continuum towards more flexibility. I don’t think all companies have embraced things like ‘own the way you work’ [a Swiss Re flexible working scheme] entirely and I think many companies are still somewhere on that continuum moving towards it,” says Ludlow.

Pina Albo, president, Munich Re America

Not only is Pina Albo a renowned gender diversity spokesperson in the industry, she is also president of Munich Re America’s reinsurance division, after joining the firm in 1992. Four years after joining the company she was instrumental in the creation of the Munich Re Women’s Network at the reinsurer’s headquarters in Germany.

The group promotes working flexibility in various way, for example through the creation of a infant day care centre. During her career with Munich Re she has overseen operations in the UK and Ireland before joining Munich Re America in 2008. She also sits on several Munich Re boards as well as those of the Reinsurance Association of America and the Insurance Information Institute.

“The fact is that demographics in the US, whether it’s in the labour force or amongst the buying public, are changing and companies are seeing that change,” says Albo.

“Consequently, there is a growing recognition in the insurance industry and other industries that a diverse workforce is not just a nice thing to have, i.e. diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather there is a real business imperative for diversity. It’s important from a talent acquisition/retention standpoint as well as from a market-wide and operational perspective. The change is this heightened recognition of the importance of diversity in businesses.”

Albo credits the international nature of Munich Re’s operations and the diversity of her experience as the key to her success and suggests that international and operational diversity can lead to well rounded executives.

She says: “I have never seen working for an international or a German-based organisation as a challenge, rather it’s been a real source of opportunity for me. I’ve been involved in projects where I’ve had to get my head around issues that were strategic, involved economic questions, political questions, social questions and legal questions.

“I have also had the benefit of looking at the organisation from the home office and from abroad, and I’ve been exposed to so many cultures and perspectives, not to mention some really great people.”

Seraina Maag, president and CEO, EMEA, AIG

The New York Times recently wrote a profile on Seraina Maag titled: The resume that stood out. This is certainly the case if you consider that Maag was elected as a young global leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009 and is often cited as one of the most influential young executives in the industry. As president and CEO of AIG’s EMEA operations she oversees AIG operations in 47 countries.

Prior to joining AIG, Maag was the CEO for XL’s North American property/casualty business where she also held global responsibility for excess casualty and surety. London-based Maag has also been an advocate of gender diversity in the insurance industry and for working to close the gender gap.

She spoke to Reactions prior to joining AIG and took the time to discuss the gender gap and what women could do to help promote other women within the industry. Despite there still being a clear gender gap within senior leadership positions in the industry, Maag feels that attitudes may be beginning to change. “I think there is a bigger awareness of the general gap in our industry,” she says.

Women can be a driving force behind the promotion of other women in the industry Maag argues, insisting that senior women should recognise that they have a responsibility to help others with career progression.

She says: “I take it very seriously being a senior woman in the industry, there are very few of us. We always say you have to send the elevator down and bring other women up because you had someone who was your sponsor as well. So creating more awareness and finding people who are willing to coach and mentor and sponsor women I think is really important.”

Maag sees the lack of women in senior leadership positions as a particular problem as it could deter other women from staying in the industry long-term because of the perceived infeasibility of achieving seniority in their current companies.

“There’s a lack of role models. If you don’t have a lot of women at the top you don’t have a lot of women who think it’s possible to get up there, you need role models so you have somebody to aspire to,” says Maag. “When I came into the industry there was no one there in the corner office and it would never have occurred to me that I would end up in the corner office because I didn’t think it was possible, there was no role model there.”
The top 50 women in the insurance industry

Andrea James, president, Kemper Preferred

Ann Haugh, chief operating officer and global chief underwriting officer, Aspen

Barbara Sutherland, senior vice-president, general counsel and chief claims officer, Argo Group

Bert Fortney, director, North East insurance leader, Deloitte

Beth Mercier, vice president, personal Lines, Travelers

Beth Voorhees, chief claim officer, Catlin US

Carol Murphy, managing director, Aon Risk Solutions, Mid-West

Cathrine Kalaydjian, chief operations officer and chief claims officer, Endurance

Celia Brown, group human resources director, Willis

Deborah Aldredge, chief administrative officer, Farmers Group

Debra Weiser, president excess casualty, Travelers

Denise Lynch, president and P&C group executive, Kemper

Diana Cossetti, senior vice president, umbrella underwriting, Crum and Forster

Erin Hamrick, partner, Sterling James

Heather Lavallee, president, employee benefits distribution, ING

Inga Beale, chief executive, Lloyd’s

Ingrid Carlou, CEO, Patria Re

Jane Tutoki, executive vice president and chief claims office, Zurich, North America

Janice Co, chief marketing officer, Wholesale Insurance Group, IFG Companies

Jennifer Fahey, executive vice president, chief broking officer, Aon Risk Solutions, Americas

Joan DeLemps, chief underwriting officer, Endurance

Joan Lamm Tennant, global chief economist and risk strategist, Guy Carpenter

Joan Woodward, executive vice president of public policy and president, Travelers Institute, Travelers

Joanna Rodgers, chief diversity officer, New York Life

JoAnn Martin, president and CEO, Ameritas

Kathleen Tierney, executive vice president and COO, personal lines, Chubb Group Insurance

Kristine Westall, COO, BMS Intermediaries

Laurie O’Shea, vice chairwoman, head of global insurance practice, CT Partners

Leigh Ann Pusey, president, Insurance Association

Lori Fouché, president and COO, Prudential

Marie Carr, partner, PwC insurance practice

Marlene Ibsen, CEO and president, Travelers Foundation

Mojgan Lefebvre, senior vice president and CIO, commercial markets, Liberty Mutual

Noreen Randazzo, vice president and CIO of enterprise solutions, The Hartford Group

Patricia Henry, executive vice president, Ace Group

Paige Freeman, chief legal officer, Munich American Reassurance Company

Pina Albo, president, Munich Re America

Rebecca Amoroso, vice chair, US Insurance Leader, Deloitte

Robin Lenna, executive vice president, corporate benefit funding, MetLife

Roxanne Mitchell, president, excess and surplus lines unit, XL Group

Sandra Bell, chief human resources officer, Gen Re

Sallie Graves, head of insurance and distributed services of IT, ING

Seraina Maag, president and CEO, EMEA, AIG

Shohreh Abedi, senior vice president, CIO, Farmers Insurance Group

Susan Kostro, senior vice president, specialty casualty, Ironshore

Sharon Ludlow, president and CEO, Swiss Re Canada

Teresa Chan, senior vice president, AIG energy warranty, AIG

Terri Vaughan, former CEO, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, corporate director, Validus

Tricia Mackechnie, SVP and CIO, consumer markets enterprise operations of IT, The Hartford

Victoria Carter, vice chairman, international operations, Guy Carpenter

By Sam Kerr – [email protected]