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Chief Executive Officer
Aon Risk Services Americas' eSolutions Group
Kathleen M. Burns started her insurance career at Aon Corp. as an intern and now leads a team of 200 professionals as chief executive of Aon's Risk Services Americas' eSolutions Group—which provides clients with Internet-based claims and risk management tools. In 2003, she left the company for a time to join Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.'s technology solutions group. There, she led the group to record profit margins, helped manage the postacquisition integration of two $60 million technology firms, and became the first female member of Marsh's executive committee. She returned to Aon in April, and in less than six, Ms. Burns and her team have led the unit to its highest sales revenue in its six-year history.
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Know that whatever they want to achieve, they can. Networking is absolutely essential; network with other women, but also more broadly than that. Being aggressive and not being afraid to go after it. Seeking out other women and keeping those relationships in your life with other women who have maintained balancing a professional career and a healthy marriage."
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "In terms of a person, my father has been the biggest influence on my career. My parents taught my sisters and me from a very early age that we could accomplish anything if we were willing to work hard. Both of my parents earned college scholarships, and were the first to graduate college in their families. My father had a highly successful business career, and was a great role model for balancing work and family. I always felt that the opportunities for me to succeed were limitless. The other significant influence on my career is athletics. I was an athlete my entire life, ultimately earning a college scholarship for volleyball. The lessons learned in being part of a successful team, and leading that team, all translate directly to the business world. So being a team leader and team member have significantly shaped my management philosophies."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "Taking this industry to the next level where technology is not a back-office operation, but an enabler of doing business, so our industry is at the level of the way that the financial industry and financial institutions are run."
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.