2006 Women to Watch: Kathleen SwendsenPosted On: Oct. 8, 2006 12:00 AM CST
President, Travelers Global Technology Underwriting
St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc.
Kathleen Swendsen’s career began 22 years ago when she joined The St. Paul Cos. as a programmer and has since worked on special projects related to corporate mergers and acquisitions as well as a major restructuring. Before beginning her new role in July, she served as vp and chief administrative officer for the Travelers Financial and Professional Services unit that sells executive liability and professional coverages to public companies, financial institutions and various professionals. As Travelers’ new president of global technology underwriting, Kathleen Swendsen oversees a division with $495 million in gross written premiums and more than 200 employees.
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Throughout your career, the degree to which you can be effective in your job will be a measure of your ability to work with…colleagues and customers. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to agree with them on everything. You do have to find a way to build and sustain working relationships to achieve business goals. Don’t burn bridges."
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "The person who has had the greatest influence on my career was an individual who was an informal mentor over a long period of time, even though I didn’t always appreciate his advice and counsel. He helped me learn some important lessons that I continue to use and that I’ve shared with others. He strongly…advised me to take an assignment when there was another job path I was set on pursuing. It was the best career advice I’ve ever had, and fortunately, I took it. That assignment opened up a new set of rewarding career opportunities through which I’ve found many more ways I could contribute to the organization’s success and continue to learn and grow as a person and as a leader. His name is Wayne Hoeschen."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "For large segments of our business, we continue to handle underwriting transactions much the same today as we did when I started in the industry 22 years ago. I would eliminate more of the redundancy between the carrier and the agents/brokers in processing the insurance transaction. Also, there is power in diversity, and I’d like to see the staff and leaders working in our industry better mirror the customers we serve."