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Kansas City, Kan.
Brenda Ballard’s insurance industry career began in 1986 as a marketing trainee for broker Alexander & Alexander, where she worked her way to become a vp. In 1995, she accepted a senior vp and property broker position at Westrope. In 1998, however, Aon Corp. recruited her to become director of its global property practice. But in 2001, Westrope brought her back to expand its property department. She is now the executive vp for property and a member of the senior management team at the wholesaler.
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Work hard to become knowledgeable and technical because clients know immediately if you understand what you are talking about. Stay focused, flexible and always willing to learn more, no matter how many years you are in the business. And, learn how to play golf well. Take golf lessons and take your game as seriously as your career. It’s a great way to earn the respect of others both in the office and on the course."
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: Ed Baier, a senior executive who hired Ms. Ballard at Alexander & Alexander in 1986 for her first job in the insurance industry has had the greatest impact on her career. "Baier said if I would devote my life to the insurance business, he would teach me everything he could. He was a great mentor and, while he opened many doors for me, he expected me to be able to walk through them on my own, so to speak."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "Our industry needs to be more relationship-based than it is currently. We need to educate all the players that insurance isn’t just a pure commodity. Our business, certainly on the E&S side, requires commitment from everyone to ensure the best coverage, terms and services are provided to the insured. To accomplish this, there must be deep trust among all parties. It is difficult to gain that trust with your business partners when your product is sold purely as a commodity. Bottom line...we must evolve our industry into one of long-term relationships built on joint successes with a strong commitment to the customer...which is how our business used to be."
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.