Category Archives: Careers and Employment

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Susan Holliday, Senior Advisor, International Finance Corporation and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar

By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.

Susan Holliday

March is Women’s History Month, and this month we interviewed Susan Holliday, a Senior Advisor at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank where she focuses on insurtech and insurance for SMEs and women. She is also a non-resident scholar at the Triple-I. Holliday sat down with us to discuss developing trends in insurtech, how technology and innovation can help close the protection gap, and the importance of collaboration in tackling climate risk.

Tell us about your current role at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). How did you fall into a career as an advisor and an investor in insurance?

IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank. We focus on making investments and advisory work in emerging markets in sectors ranging from infrastructure to banking and insurance and healthcare. I’ve had a 33-year career in the financial services industry, particularly focusing on insurance and more recently fintech. I joined IFC to work on insurance and fintech. I’m currently working within different departments at IFC and at the World Bank and building a board portfolio. I’m also a non-resident scholar for the Triple-I. 

A lot of your work is focused on insurance for women and SMEs. What do you hope to achieve in investing in insurance for women?

Before I joined the IFC in 2015, the company completed research in conjunction with Accenture and AXA about the insurance market for  women. The study found that the insurance market for women could be USD 1.3 trillion globally by 2030 and half of that would be in emerging markets. The research also indicated that women have a better understanding of risk, are very open to insurance, and can be loyal customers and excellent employees in the industry.

After the She for Shield report was published, IFC started advising insurance companies in emerging markets on how to successfully serve women. IFC already had a program called ‘Banking on Women,’ which provided financing for banks to lend to women and women-led SMEs. Whenever we make investments in emerging markets, we are interested in taking an angle that better supports women. 

Can you elaborate on the protection gap between women and men and between people with different financial backgrounds?

If you think about it, the insurance industry has a great history and is hundreds of years old. A lot of products were developed a long time ago when society and family structures were very different from what they’re like now. For example, today there are lots of single women and single parents, and most women work, which was not the case when the products were developed. We also have gig economy workers. The default option has always been to continue to offer products that have been offered for 50-100 years, but they do not necessarily meet the needs of today’s customers, whether they are women or men. 

This is the reason why I like technology and innovation. To close the protection gap, we need to protect the things that people care about and that need to be protected. There has been a mismatch between traditional products and the actual risks people are facing. 

There’s been a report by the Chartered Insurance Institute called “Insuring Women’s Futures” which looked at different times over a lifetime of one person, and it shows where a woman can be treated differently than a man. For example, having time off for maternity leave, having less pension, and living longer. It pointed out all these things that could accumulate and leave a woman being in a much worse position [than men]. Families are no longer a guy who’s working, a stay-at-home woman, and kids. Insurance needs to catch up to reality, and this not only applies to women but all underserved communities. This will not only be a challenge for the industry but also an opportunity to grow. 

As an advisor to insurtech start-ups, what impact do you see these companies making? Are there any recent trends or developments in insurtech and fintech that excite you?

I think insurtech, digital, and innovation are critical. There is no insurance without insurtech. We’re never going to close the protection gap unless we use and utilize new technologies to do it. 

One of the trends is bite-size insurance on demand. For example, instead of buying an insurance policy for a year, you would be able to turn it on and off, which is relevant to gig economy workers, and is popular in developing countries. Some people would rather access [insurance] when they need it.

Another trend is using alternative data to close the protection gap and get insurance to more people. If we just rely on the old sources of data, a lot of people get excluded from the market or get priced out. It may have built-in biases, which were not intended, but may disadvantage women or certain racial groups. The combination of alternative data sources and artificial intelligence is exciting. 

You’re part of the leadership team for Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator. Tell us about your work with the initiative and why you chose to join the team.

An area where the protection gap is big in the U.S. is in natural disasters and climate-related risks. We’ve seen so many things happen in recent years, such as Hurricane Harvey, and most recently, the very cold snowstorms in Texas and the wildfires on the U.S. West Coast. I think this is an extremely important area. It’s something that impacts everybody, regardless of gender, income level, or political identity. 

I particularly like Accelerator, because I think insurance has a bigger role to play in prevention and mitigation, not just about compensation, and I like the approach of bringing different stakeholders together.  

2020 was a historic year for natural catastrophe losses. What is the insurance industry doing to mitigate future losses and to prepare for a world impacted by climate change? What are the industry’s biggest challenges in creating resilience?

First and foremost, making insurance more available and more affordable. For example, there is parametric, index-based insurance, which can be provided at a micro-level and is used in some developing countries.

We need to get involved in longer-term thinking about how we can be more resilient against these risks in the first place. We must think about building towns, cities, and farmland in a way that they will be more resilient against weather losses. It has to do with planning, infrastructure, and it may have to do with changing certain industries.

I would like to see the insurance industry at the table in these discussions with regulators, local and state governments, and with private sectors so that all sides are working together. The industry needs to have a voice and be taken seriously. We need to think about how different parts of society can share the risk of climate-related losses.

Women’s History Month
Karen Clark: A Model of Success

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

Like many people, Karen Clark’s career was influenced by circumstances and serendipity rather than advanced planning.  In graduate school she developed a love of building computer models, leading to her first job in the research department of Commercial Union Assurance. 

“One of my first assignments was to figure out if the insurer had too much coastal exposure because they had been growing along the coastline,” said Clark.  “I started to research hurricanes and how I could potentially build a model to estimate hurricane losses.” 

That research ultimately led Clark to write her seminal paper “A Formal Approach to Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Management,” published in the Casualty Actuarial Society Proceedings, in which she argued for probabilistic models rather than the subjective rules of thumb then used in underwriting. 

“Catastrophe modeling was a game-changer because it introduced a whole new way of understanding and managing risk,” Clark explained.  “We don’t just look at worse-case scenarios, but we develop a probability distribution of potential outcomes.  What are the chances of a $1 billion versus a $10 billion hurricane loss?  You need probabilities so you can evaluate how likely you are to have a solvency-impairing event and how much reinsurance you want to purchase and for pricing the product.  You also need to know what the costs and benefits are of different mitigation strategies.  That’s what was missing prior to the catastrophe models.” 

Being Taken Seriously as a Woman in the Insurance Industry

When Clark first started out, catastrophe reinsurance was primarily written out of Lloyd’s of London.  “Lloyd’s was 100% male,” she laughed.  “I gave my first presentation in the Lloyd’s Library to about 100 male underwriters.  Not only was I a woman, but I was an American woman, and I was seven months pregnant,” she said.  “Along with that, I was carting this portable computer. Many underwriters had never seen a portable computer, much less used one. 

“After my presentation, there was silence in the room, and little interest, but that didn’t dissuade me.  I was determined to find those innovators and forward thinkers and I did find a few in Lloyd’s and in the U.S., who helped me to develop AIR’s first product, CATMAP.”

Clark said it is important early on to find those forward thinkers who believe in what you’re doing and are willing to make a commitment.  She advised women not to take no for an answer and to be good communicators.  “You always have to ask for what you want.  The worse that can happen is you get a no.” 

Clark hasn’t looked back since.  As founder of the first catastrophe modeling company, Applied Insurance Research, later AIR Worldwide, she became an internationally recognized expert in the new field of catastrophe risk modeling, revolutionizing the way insurers, reinsurers and financial institutions manage their catastrophe risk. 

Clark declined many offers to sell her company over the years, but eventually decided to sell AIR to Insurance Services Office (ISO).  Several years later, she co-founded  Karen Clark & Company (KCC) with her business partner, Vivek Basrur, never intending to develop catastrophe models again.  “But as my partner likes to say, life is what happens when you have other plans.”

Reinventing an industry

“Through numerous consulting engagements with global (re)insurers we discovered the models were not meeting all the needs of the senior level decisions makers.  We started hearing several consistent themes and eventually developed what we called the CEO Wish List”, said Clark.

That CEO Wish List informed the KCC vision for a new generation of catastrophe models—models that are more accurate, fully transparent, and provide decision makers with additional risk metrics and insight into large loss potential.  “We didn’t change the fundamental structure of the models”, says Clark, “but rather how the models are  delivered to (re)insurers and how they can be leveraged in new ways.”

Clark said that KCC is doing a few things differently than other modelers and one of them is their scientific approach.  “Rather than extrapolating from historical data, we have implemented advanced physical modeling techniques for the more frequent events, such as severe convective storms, winter storms, and extratropical cyclones.  This enables our models to capture all weather-related claims and not just those defined as catastrophes.  Our internal systems automatically ingest over 30 gigabytes of data a day from all the satellites, radar stations and global models so our clients have high resolution hazard footprints every morning for monitoring and managing daily claims activity. 

“Interestingly, reinventing the catastrophe modeling industry was just as challenging as inventing it”, says Clark, “because most people thought it was impossible.”  “We again had to find those industry leaders and early adopters who believed in our vision and then worked with us to make it a reality.”

Clark said she’s very fortunate she discovered her passion at a young age when she first started her career.  I just love what I do, and until I can come up with something else that I could enjoy doing daily as much as I enjoy KCC, I’ll be right here.”

Cross-posted from the Triple-I Resilience Accelerator blog

Mentoring: Insurance for Success.
Spotlight on Cathy Weatherford

To commemorate Women’s History Month, Scott Holeman, Triple-I’s Media Relations Director, interviewed Cathy Weatherford, the first woman to serve as Insurance Commissioner of Oklahoma.

Like most insurance and financial service professionals, Cathy Weatherford didn’t pick her career. It picked her. Taking advice from her father who served as a state legislator in Oklahoma, Cathy applied for state government jobs where there were a variety of opportunities with health and retirement benefits. She landed at the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

For 16 years, she climbed the department’s ladder while honing her skills in public policy and insurance regulation. She also learned the art of politics while serving as a top aide on a gubernatorial campaign. Soon after, Weatherford landed the job of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner, the first woman to serve in that role. “That was a ceiling-smashing moment for me,” said Weatherford. “I suddenly became acutely aware of the torch I was carrying for my daughters and for younger women in my state.”

Many of her direct reports at the department were young women. The terms “mentor” and “sponsor” were not common in state government or even the private sector, but Weatherford says she used her role to help younger women and men enhance their professional growth by sharing her unique perspectives, honest feedback and earnest advice.

“Mentoring is about sharing your experiences, suggestions and knowledge,” says Weatherford. “Hold back on trying to push your personal opinions because mentees need to make their own decisions in order to gain confidence and strength. Be a mentor—not a mother. Stay out of relationship and marital advice. Support them in difficult professional moments and celebrate their professional accomplishments.”

After leaving the Oklahoma Insurance Department, Weatherford worked in private industry before being named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, where she led efforts to modernize insurance regulation. “We moved regulation into a highly efficient and productive process through technology and innovative software solutions,” said Weatherford. “We developed educational credentials for regulators to further professionalize regulatory careers, and we engaged in and play a major role in the international regulatory arena. Most importantly, we proved that state insurance regulation works and does not need federal intervention.”

Her next stop was to rebrand and rejuvenate the National Association for Variable Annuities/NAVA after the financial crisis. As president and CEO of Insured Retirement Solutions (IRI), she moved the association from Reston, VA to Washington, D.C., expanded the role of the association and made it more consumer-facing. She retired from that job in 2019 after 10 years.

In the last 13 years, Weatherford has mentored six young women. One of them is Molly Meek, a Kansas City, MO-based account executive for an insurance brokerage firm. Meek almost left the industry after her first job wasn’t providing the experience she’d hoped. Weatherford encouraged her to try again before switching career paths. “It’s so amazing having Cathy as a mentor,” says Meek. “Having someone I can call who can help explain large organizations and their politics, as well as helping me focus my efforts, is invaluable. That’s not something college prepares you for.”

Weatherford is the author of “Women and Wealth: Inspiring Stories from Real Women on the Path to Financial Success.”

Change Through Action: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Insurance

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Dr. Leroy Nunery II

While the insurance industry acknowledges the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), has it become part of the core values and culture? The short answer: there has been progress, but more action is needed. Triple-I met with Dr. Leroy Nunery II, author of The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals and Triple-I non-resident scholar, to discuss how the industry has advanced in DEI since his 2018 study.

Nunery describes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as interoperable, noting that each is often defined separately but can’t stand alone. “Diversity is the practice of considering differences from whatever the norm is at a company. Equity is about access to opportunities that people might not have. Inclusion is bringing people together at the same table and the concern that they have for each other,” he explains.

According to S&P Global research, the number of Black professionals in the insurance industry increased to 12.4 percent of the workforce from 9 percent in the last 10 years, with the number of Asians and people in the Other category increasing to 6.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. While the numbers are rising, the pace of change is lagging.

One of the primary challenges to DEI within insurance is the barrier to entry. Nunery explains, “Insurance is largely nepotistic and driven by family connection. It’s challenging to succeed without that group connection or network.” He believes that people of color can shift these numbers and take advantage of that momentum. “We can be exclusive at times. We say, ‘We’re all in,’ but we do everything we can so only a small group can get in. We need to do a better job of transferring knowledge,” he says.

Companies are realizing that commitment to DEI is more than hiring more people of color. There are markets to develop, business alliances to form, and investments in training and advocacy. Nunery is working with a client on a six-month job shadowing program that partners people of color with senior executives – granting C-suite exposure and access to meetings that were previously out of reach. “It’s important to coach up talent to perform at a greater level,” Nunery says of these programs. “It’s a tightrope to walk, but I tell people not to worry about failure. Worry about how successful you’re going to be.”

Camaraderie and mentorship can only go so far. A September 2020 survey by Business Insurance showed that 63 percent of respondents believe that the CEO bears the greatest responsibility in making DEI work. Nunery agrees and adds that the CEO not only needs to say that DEI is important but also puts it into action.

“When you ask companies to prove DEI, they come up short,” Nunery says. “Managers are not evaluated for it. There are no key performance indicators. Boards ask about it but don’t make it mandatory. To make DEI successful, let’s be more honest with our exchanges.”

Spotlight on Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais

By Scott Holeman, Media Relations Director, Triple-I

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance.  Connecticut’s first Black Insurance Commissioner, Andrew Mais, is an undisputed insurance leader and mentor as the video above makes clear.

“Connecticut is the insurance capital of the known universe,” says Mais. The state ranks number one for insurance employment and payroll and has the highest concentration of actuaries in the U.S.

Mais wants young people to understand the tremendous opportunities that the insurance industry offers and to consider it as a place to start a career.

From Sharecropper to Chairman of the Board: Spotlight on Roosevelt Giles, Chairman, Atlanta Life Financial Group

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance. Innovation and leadership are two words that come to mind when you meet Roosevelt Giles, chairman, Atlanta Life Financial Group, as much as his humble beginnings speaks to his resilience and fortitude.

Roosevelt Giles

Giles is the son of Bo and Lake Giles, two sharecroppers who lived in servitude to a plantation owner in South Carolina until the 1960s. He describes life during these times as “legalized slavery” and says that he picked cotton throughout much of his early childhood. “I only went to school when it rained,” he says. “If it was sunny, I was in the fields.”

Giles says that his family left sharecropping when his older sister paid off their $11K debt [to the plantation owner] and bought the family a home. This freedom allowed Giles to pursue higher education and led him into business as a tech founder and investor. In fact, it was Giles’ technology background that brought him into insurance when he was asked to transform the over 100-year-old company into the digital era.

Atlanta Life has proven to be an attractive opportunity for Giles. The company was founded by Alonzo Franklin Herndon, a former slave with only three-months of formal education. Herndon was emancipated in the late 1800s and went from selling goods on the side of the road to real estate and eventually insurance. He made many investments in infrastructure – housing and education – over the years, believing that Atlanta Life was successful only when the community was successful. In 1950, Herndon and his son Norris created the Herndon Foundation and named the people within the community as shareholders. The company has been credited with funding the Civil Rights Movement and became the primary source of life insurance policies for Black people during that era, most notably insuring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta Life and the Herndons were recognized and honored with the Nobel Laureate Foundation in 2018.

Giles feels a kinship with Herndon and his desire to provide comfort and dignity to the Black community. “When I was growing up, we’d sell fish fries on Friday or Saturday nights to make enough money to bury someone. Alonzo went into insurance because he wanted to take care of the people most at risk,” Giles says.

According to Giles, Atlanta Life has been invested in “stakeholder capitalism” since the onset. He credits the company with being one of the first to support women on the Board and in the C-suite as far back as the 1920s.

Recently, Giles has made another move towards improving racial equity by creating the Herndon Directors Institute (HDI), a 6-month program that trains underrepresented individuals – women and people of color – to be “board-ready”. The program launched earlier this month with fellows receiving mentorship from an impressive list of global corporate leaders.

“Capitalism is making it happen. Capitalism started this problem, and capitalism needs to fix this problem,” Giles says.

He just may be right. Several top companies have implemented commitments to racial equity, including NASDAQ who requires board diversity on any listed company and Goldman Sachs, who won’t take a company public without it.

While programs like HDI will be a huge step in ending generational poverty, Giles recognizes that his industry still has a long way to go. “The insurance industry needs to be more inclusive. We need to build products that address the wealth deficits in communities of color. The way to end generational poverty and build wealth is through financial literacy.”

“As the only Black Insurance carrier in the U.S., Atlanta Life is positioned to do just that. The brand is trusted in Black and underserved communities, and there is no other company, owned by a foundation, that is positioned to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Black and people of color communities on an annual basis,” Giles says. “So, when companies partner with Atlanta Life, we can eliminate generational poverty.”

Spotlight on Kevin Henderson, Founder and CEO of Indenseo

By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I

Kevin Henderson

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance. We sat down with Kevin Henderson, Founder and CEO of Indenseo, an analytics software company based in Palo Alto, CA to talk about his background in insurtech and how telematics is shaping the commercial auto insurance space.

Originally from West Medford, Massachusetts, Henderson moved to the Bay Area in California during the Web 1.0 internet boom in the late-1990’s, where he led the global data business for telematics company @Road [later acquired by Trimble] and partnered with commercial auto carriers on their telematics programs. Henderson’s extensive experience in insurance telematics led him to create Indenseo in 2013.

Data has an enormous potential for insurance, according to Henderson. We are now able to know in real-time what’s happening with the vehicle and how it’s being driven. Combining telematics data with contextual data like the road conditions, the limit is your imagination.

Yet, obtaining funding for Indenseo as a Black business owner provided initial hurdles for Henderson. Citing a Harvard Business article on diversity in innovation, he says there’s a positive correlation between the [racial] makeup of partners and those who get funded.” However, his difficulties with obtaining VC funding also led him to be more strategic in his fundraising approach. “It made [us] use the capital we did raise more efficiently,” he says.

While funding was an initial battle, Henderson shares the importance of having a vision and people around you that you trust.

“You need to have people around you that know the ecosystem, and people who will be honest with you. It’s a numbers game and you need to be creative. Learn how to target investors with an interest in the markets you’re trying to get into,” he says.

While telematics is synonymous with commercial fleets, use in personal lines insurance remains low. COVID-19 has revealed telematics’ potential in personal lines. “People are more open with sharing their data,” Henderson says. “The shift in driver behavior caused by the pandemic has revealed that people want to be priced based on how much they use their vehicles as opposed to a standard premium that doesn’t account for vehicle use.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought its own set of challenges for Indenseo, including a slowdown in developing international business, but Henderson believes those opportunities will help expand his business in other countries. “Not everything can be done on Zoom. I will be back on airplanes when international travel and in-person meetings are practical again.”

As on the future of telematics in insurance, Henderson believes that commercial auto will evolve very differently than personal lines.

“The risks are different, and the technology is different. The risk you care about for an 18-wheel truck or a service van will be much different than the risk for a four-wheel sedan,” he says.

With the rise of new specialty markets and new companies, distribution models will change, and new products will emerge. All this makes the future of telematics and commercial auto insurance quite unpredictable and exciting.

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Indenseo will be hosting a free webinar with Jeffrey Williams of Forrester on February 25th, 1PM ET as part of the “Connected Insurance” series on how IoT will transform insurance. During the webinar, they will talk about trends, technologies, and use cases.

You can learn more about the webinar and register here.

To learn more about Indenseo, visit Indenseo.com. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinGHenderson.  

Insurers make Fortune’s most admired companies list

A number of insurance companies are among Fortune magazine’s 2021 ranking of the world’s most admired companies.

Berkshire Hathaway, at Number 6, tops the property/casualty firms listed, followed by USAA, Allstate, Chubb, Swiss Re, Travelers, and Zurich, respectively.

MetLife tops the life insurance companies included, followed by New York Life Insurance, Massachusetts Mutual Life, Northwestern Mutual, and Prudential Financial.

The survey asked respondents to rank companies using criteria including: products, quality of management, financial soundness, ability to attract talent, and social responsibility.

The rankings came out just in time for Insurance Careers Month. To find out more about why working in insurance can be such an attractive career choice, check out the stories told by people working in a variety of fields who sat down for interviews for our Insurance Careers Corner series.

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Suzanne Meraz, External Affairs Executive, CSAA Insurance Group

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in  insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.

February is Insurance Careers Month, and this month we interviewed Suzanne Meraz, an external affairs executive at CSAA Insurance Group. Suzanne discusses why she chose a career in insurance, the impacts of the pandemic, and the importance of racial equity in the industry.

Suzanne Meraz

Tell me about your current role at CSAA.

As external affairs executive for a AAA insurer, I’m fortunate to work with a talented team that manages PR, social media, thought leadership, executive visibility, reputation management, and relationships with industry associations (like Triple-I, The Institutes). Our team works to promote CSAA Insurance Group and its associated companies, such as Mobilitas, our commercial insurance company, and Avanta Ventures, our venture capital arm.

You’ve worked in PR and Corporate Communications for many years. What led you into insurance and to make a career in the industry?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked in PR my whole career, and in insurance for about 15 years. Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm later acquired by Aon, is where I started working with insurance. I was responsible for promoting the healthcare practice, helping companies with their healthcare benefit programs.

Working in insurance has provided me the opportunity to promote and learn about innovative products and services, such as green and entertainment insurance, as well as multiple lines, including P&C, healthcare and medical malpractice. I’ve truly enjoyed these experiences and working with many talented and smart people, but I am also proud to be part of this noble profession. As society’s financial first responders, we’re making and delivering on a promise to people to be there for people in their time of need. It feels good to be working in an industry that is doing something positive for the economy, for people, and for communities.

2020 was a rough year for the insurance industry. Can you talk about some of the challenges that you’ve faced?

2020 was challenging on many levels, but I’m very proud of what we’ve done at our company and overall as an industry. At CSAA, we quickly transitioned employees to work from home while continuing to serve our customers well. Our industry wasn’t known for having a work-from-home culture, and we all surprised ourselves in a good way.

The pandemic also spurred a lot of innovation which allowed us to think about ways to do things differently. For example, CSAA created efficiencies that allowed us to introduce a touchless claims system, which enabled customers to share pictures and videos of auto damage claims versus handling in person. We have received a lot of positive feedback for this enhancement, since it saves a lot of time and makes the entire process much more convenient for customers.

As an industry, insurance has assisted customers and communities throughout the pandemic with donations and community service. The industry also took a stand on racial equity issues. There is so much more to do, but it’s important that we start to use our voice as an industry to support important issues that we are facing. Our industry needs to become more diverse and better reflect the communities that we’re serving.

Let’s talk about Diversity & Inclusion. It is the topic that’s front of mind in the industry, particularly lack of representation for women and people of color. What challenges have you faced and overcome during your career?  What is CSAA’s commitment to D&I?

As a mixed race female (half Japanese and half Polish), I feel that I bring a unique perspective to the table. While the communications field has strong female representation overall, that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve or don’t face other challenges. Women in leadership positions and people-of-color still remain very under-represented.

During my career, I have encountered sexism and discrimination. It’s a challenge many of us face, but I’ve been fortunate enough to not allow it to derail my goals and aspirations. To this day, I am often asked “What are you?” in terms of my ethnicity. In time, I’ve learned that it’s not my problem that people can’t put me in a box or easily categorize me.

The insurance industry has traditionally been tight-lipped on many social issues, but one of my proudest moments was when our CEO, Tom Troy, publicly supported Black Lives Matter. Coming from a mixed family, it meant so much for my company to take that stand on this important issue and to say those words. I’m grateful to be a part of a company that cares about our employees, customers and communities, and isn’t afraid to speak out on injustice.

You’ve just been honored as part of the 2021 APCIA Class of Emerging Leaders for your work in 2020 and helping to navigate CSAA with challenges through the pandemic as well as promoting diversity and equity. What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?

It was such an honor to be recognized along with my other CSAA colleagues who are so deserving: Briana Clifford, Beti Cung, Jachyn Davis, Christian Myers, and Maureen Parish. We need more events that bring the insurance industry together, whether it’s by function or discipline, to keep the industry engaged and share the stories of how we’re making a difference.

I’m proud of CSAA’s inclusion and belonging work. Over the past year, we’ve explored diversity training around unconscious bias and micro-aggressions. We also have a CEO that is truly supportive in addressing racial inequity and providing the space, budget, and support to launch programs that address these issues. Just acknowledging that these are serious and important issues is a big deal, yet we’re taking the necessary steps that will help us move forward and take real action. We’re on a journey with this, and we are not perfect, but we are committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce and advocating for representation at every level of our organization.

There’s so much work to be done in this area that it sometimes can feel overwhelming, but our team is committed to advocating for real change that can make a difference for our company and the communities we serve. For us, this is not a bandwagon moment and ‘Black Lives Matter’ wasn’t just for 2020. Inclusion and belonging is now and forever, and we will continue to move forward with action and purpose. We are working on a CSR report that will document transparency about where we are, what we are doing, where we have work to do and where we are headed. This is an exciting, important and pivotal time for the insurance industry and the world, and I am grateful for the role we can play in influencing a positive and long overdue outcome.

Society of Insurance Research Survey Reveals Impact of COVID-19 on Insurance Professionals

The Society of Insurance Research (SIR) held its annual conference virtually in October, and, as expected, the impact of COVID-19 on the industry was at the top of the agenda.

SIR conducted a survey of insurance industry professionals in May to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the business climate. The survey asked how the pandemic was impacting staffing, budgets, work-from-home arrangements, business travel and professional development.

At the time of the survey, 97 percent of carrier respondents said staffing levels have not decreased. When asked about work-from-home arrangements, only 10 percent of respondents said they plan to return to the office full-time once restrictions are lifted.

Travel restrictions will remain in place indefinitely for most respondents. Even when travel restrictions are lifted, nearly everyone will remain cautious of traveling nationally, and nearly three-quarters expect their travel budgets to be reduced.

Micheal Myers, Lead Competitive Intelligence Analyst at USAA and President of SIR, said, “This was an extremely insightful and timely survey of industry professionals. SIR put the insights into action by quickly pivoting from planning an in-person conference to meeting virtually (with record attendance). We also published COVID-related research reference library to help researchers solve business problems. As is consistent with SIR’s mission, we provided these resources to members and non-members alike to advance the industry.”

Over 180 professionals responded to the survey; 67 percent were carriers and 33 percent were suppliers/vendors. A variety of lines and businesses were represented, including commercial, personal, life and health.