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Assistant Treasurer Risk Management and Insurance
Verizon Communications Inc.
Basking Ridge, N.J.
Sheila Small leads a team of 19 professionals in developing and implementing the worldwide corporate risk management programs at Verizon. Ms. Small is the president of two captive insurance companies, which she uses to place hard-to-insure risks, manage the commercial market process and develop customized solutions for individual client needs. She is the president of two captive insurance companies, whereby she oversees the actuarial analysis and audit process, develops investment strategies, establishes measurement criteria, selects investment management firms and monitors performance to ensure the captives' profitability and attainment of investment objectives. Ms. Small often is sought after to participate in advisory boards and speak at conferences.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY: "I actually worked for Bell Atlantic Corp. I was out for my fourth maternity leave. I was a finance type before this and basically when I was due to come back, my job had been restructured out, so I interviewed for other positions within the company and this one came up. I told the interviewer "I'm not so sure I know anything about risk management," and his response to me was, "If you know the company well and you know finance really well, you'll learn the risk management side.""
THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED: "The best advice I ever received came to me from a mentor of mine that I admired very much. He was a vp and he eventually became a vice chairman of the company. The thing I admired most about him was he seemed to respect everyone. It didn't make a difference whether you were the janitor or another CEO, he treated you with the same respect. I always remembered that and I really try to do that in my everyday business. I try to treat everybody with as much respect as I can. It doesn't matter whether they're the vp or somebody on the line just working. You really have to respect the people you work with."
ADVICE WOULD FOR THOSE STARTING IN THE INDUSTRY: "It comes down to being ethical, the idea of respect and also to listen to people. I always considered myself someone who was constantly learning. There was so much knowledge in the people I met. I always felt there was something to learn from people that made you a better...risk manager and made you more effective. You should always be the best you can be. For me, it was a matter of furthering the education process in risk management. I came in at a director level with no experience in risk management and I had to trust my people who knew so much more than I did. So I listened to them. I tried to learn from them, but I also felt it was incumbent upon me to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I went for my certifications. I have my ARM; I have my CPCU. Once again, this idea of trying to be the best you can be: It's a matter of going to classes, taking certifications and trying to educate yourself from the people around you."
WHAT YOU WANTED TO BE PROFESSIONALLY WHILE GROWING UP: "I'm not one of those people that when I was a child I kept thinking about what I was going to be. I have two master's. Education was key for me. You just want to make sure you're open to opportunities and I think that was what I was able to do. I was open to opportunities and taking advantage of them without even having conceived an idea of what they would be."
Business Insurance’s Women to Watch feature is our attempt to identify some of the women who do outstanding work in commercial insurance, risk management,employee benefits and related fields.