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November 02, 2022

Emy Donavan

New York-based chief underwriting officer, Boost Insurance

San Francisco-based venture partner, Fin Capital

For insurance innovators, entering the market is notoriously difficult. The insurance space is heavily regulated and dominated by incumbents who are sometimes reluctant to embrace new ideas for coverage or distribution - often due to a lack of data and resources. This means the insurance industry has traditionally lagged behind other sectors of finance in everything from how products are sold to the range and desirability of those products. But change is happening as industry incumbents more and more frequently seek out and adopt solutions provided by insurtechs that can help eliminate historic industry pain points. Boost is contributing to this revolution by making the insurance industry accessible to innovators, by providing the compliance, capital and technology infrastructure they need to offer modern protection to their customers.

In close collaboration with Boost’s insurtech and embedded partners, I will oversee Boost’s program underwriting, product development and portfolio management along with the development and execution of Boost’s reinsurance and risk capital markets strategy. I look forward to helping the team continue to lead in this space and working with our reinsurance partners to break new ground in modern insurance protection. Combined with increased flexibility enabled by Boost’s tech platform, which supports both embedded and brokered distribution, we have a unique opportunity to make insurance more accessible and valuable to new customer segments, distributors and capital providers.

There is a dearth of innovation across the industry and collectively we need to keep challenging the status quo to find solutions rather than accepting the norm. We have a huge opportunity to effect positive changes across the industry for the modern insurance customer, and I am excited about using my role at Boost to be a catalyst for this change.

I was hired into insurance as ACE’s first professional risk underwriting trainee. In underwriting training, I got to do rotations through all the major departments (claims, finance, reinsurance, compliance, etc.) It was an incredible introduction to how an insurance company operates and how commercial insurance works in the U.S. for both admitted and nonadmitted lines. At the same time, I got to learn a ton about D&O and E&O, especially particularities specific to the tech and media sectors as well as start-ups. Back then, we were even writing policies for an odd first-party coverage for most of the firms in Silicon Valley -- today we call it cyber insurance. I will always be grateful for that experience.

Embrace the chaos. Insurance can provide a fabulous career, but the rails we run on are extremely complex. It can be hard to find solid analogies from daily life to help ground your understanding when you first start out. When you don’t understand something, don’t assume there’s no rhyme or reason and just memorize a rule -- ask questions. Find mentors outside your day-to-day that can provide you with broad context on issues you may be facing, and try to be open to answers whether they be academic, operational or interpersonal. Stay curious, and never stop applying what you learn. Also, when you can, always go for the group win -- partnerships and trust build this business.

I think I’d be really happy working at a local community garden, cooking for a community center, or becoming activities director at a senior living facility - something in my town with people of common interests, leveraging skills I already have. I’m not sure if these constitute dream jobs or retirement plans, but I’d enjoy them either way.

I majored in rhetoric at Cal-Berkeley (yes - super esoteric, but incredibly interesting - how do you best convey meaning and intent across different mediums and lexicons?). I enjoyed learning how to read and write contracts (like puzzles with words), as well as studying the classics and post-modern theory. I was about a course shy of minoring in city and regional planning, as well, which I found absolutely fascinating. I guess it’s the Californian in me - I could talk about water rights and housing policy for days on end.

The Boost team has really knocked my socks off - they’re all rock stars. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves with them continuing to build the platform, improving process and stakeholder experience as we go.

Virtually any kind of Asian noodle soup - ramen, pho, hot pot, etc.

Tough to say. I’m currently re-reading “Cadillac Desert,” which is great nonfiction if you haven’t picked it up. I’d recommend anything by John Krakauer. “Cloud Atlas” is probably the last fiction book I finished reading and missed afterward.

I’m currently enjoying the Boost fantasy football and Survivor leagues, and additionally love cooking, gardening, hanging out with my godkids and nieces, and wine-tasting/tasting room volunteering at a few hometown wineries.

Does football count?