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Linda Johnson, now the highest-ranking female in Benfield Inc.’s history, entered the industry after college graduation in 1987 as a management trainee for the company’s predecessor organization, E.W. Blanch Co. In the early years of her career, Ms. Johnson held several sales and marketing positions while earning her master of business administration and Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation. She became executive vp in 2000 and was part of the senior leadership group involved in Blanch’s sale to Benfield in 2001. Ms. Johnson heads Benfield's casualty specialties team.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "My mother was a phenomenal role model for taking charge of your destiny. She became a single parent and immediately had to go on welfare. She then got a full-time job, finished college, earned her MBA and became controller of Bass Shoes. In the industry, Jane Nelson, who was president of St. Paul Surplus Lines, showed me how smart women in the business can be. Art Horowitz of E.W. Blanch was the first person I worked for as a reinsurance broker. He was a great role model with respect to strategic thinking."
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Believe in yourself. Everything is possible. It all depends on finding creative solutions and not accepting that if you have children, your career will be on the ‘mommy track.’ How you invest your time in your career in your 20s pays dividends when you are in your 40s."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "I wish we were able to identify our ultimate liabilities better. Often insurers are the deep pockets and litigation over insurance contracts makes it difficult to know what your potential losses are. Another thing I would change is that the insurance industry does great things for the entire economy, and we’re constantly being kicked reputationally. We don’t get kudos for all that we do."
Business Insurance's report on "Women to Watch" is our attempt to identify some of the women who are leading change in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.