Women to Watch: 2007Posted On: Apr. 7, 2009 10:23 AM CST
Platinum Underwriters Reinsurance Inc.
H. Elizabeth Mitchell was valedictorian of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., class of 1985, where she majored in the classics. She joined the Insurance Services Office Inc. after graduation, training as an actuary. After a little over a year, she moved on to Tillinghast/Towers Perrin, where she remained for six years. She held the position of corporate actuary at English & American Insurance Co. Ltd. before joining St. Paul Reinsurance Inc. in 1993, where she held several senior positions before becoming the executive vp responsible for all North American casualty underwriting. As part of restructuring, the unit was spun off and renamed Platinum in 2002. Ms. Mitchell held the position of chief operating officer and executive vp of Platinum before being named president in August 2005. Ms. Mitchell was named Insurance Woman of the Year by the Assn. of Professional Insurance Women in 2007 and became a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society in 1990.
Advice to young women: "As a woman, it's helpful to find ways to distinguish yourself. Having some formal education or professional accreditation--I'm an actuary, for example--but to be a lawyer or accountant or getting one of the underwriting designations gives you a credential that you always have. Someone can't take it away from you. An industry badge so to speak. Plus, you learn something by doing it, which makes you smarter and more capable in the business."
Professional role model: "I really haven't had a single role model. I try to observe other people and take a little bit away from each of them and make it my own. I've also done a lot of different things in my career, which meant that I've worked with a lot of different people from whom I've learned different things. Some people have a good way at presenting themselves. Other people tended to have a good way of communicating really technical things in a very easy-to-understand and nonthreatening way. I've also always gravitated toward people who tended to be ethical, honest and forthright in their dealings with people. But I wouldn't say there was one single role model."
Best professional advice: "Al Beer from Tillinghast told me that I shouldn't consider each career decision as being a life or death decision because other opportunities would come along. I think it's important to solicit as much advice as you can, but I think you have to make your own decisions and you have to go with your heart. You shouldn't follow someone else's decision or pre-defined career path. If something feels right, or you enjoy it, or you think it's a broadening experience, whatever, you should give it a shot. You should judge what the risks are of each."
Founder, Chief Executive Officer and President
Within one year of Brenda M. Olson's 2003 creation of ORG Corp., it became the leading firm in Montana in number of captives and captive premium volume. It remains in that top slot today. Directing and managing Montana's largest captive management firm, she is in charge of strategic risk consulting and alternative risk financing for clients in a variety of industries and oversees captive insurance licensing, formation and management. She's also chairwoman of the Montana Captive Insurance Assn. Inc., and the founder and manager of the Montana Reinsurance Exchange, a reinsurance pool for Montana captives.
What would you change: "Insurers and agents alike need to focus more on what their customers want and improve service quality in key areas. Customers don't like receiving quotes or declinations a few days before renewal. Insurers demand premiums up front while customers wait months to get policies, sometimes to find surprise exclusionary endorsements. Fronting costs are often seen as too high for the services being provided: More insurers need to partner with customers in this area. Claims service seems to be a low priority for many insurers, yet highly valued by insureds. Dissatisfaction with insurance company service is a frequent reason that our clients have turned to captive insurance: to get the service they want and need."
Professional role model: "In addition to being a personal and spiritual role model, my father was a professional role model as a director of HR for a multinational oil and gas company. During his life, he treated everyone with respect; always kept his cool during stressful situations; and valued loyalty, integrity and high ethical standards. Although he passed away two years ago, my father's teachings continue to define the standards I've set for myself and ORG."
Early aspirations: "I'm often introduced as someone who chose to be in the insurance industry, so it seems that's somewhat unique. I never gave serious thought to any career choice until I entered college and explored many different subjects. My geology undergraduate degree introduced me to mining economics and business risk concepts. I loved the business topics more than the earth science, so I went on to get an MBA with a concentration in risk management and insurance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since then, the multidisciplinary and ever-changing fields of risk management and alternative risk financing have continually been exciting, challenging and very rewarding for me. Still, a favorite hobby is adding to my rock collection and sharing it with local schools."
General Electric Co.
Stacey Regan manages a world of risk at General Electric, which has operations ranging from jet engines to financial services to news and entertainment in more than 70 countries. In overseeing the company's global risk and insurance programs, Ms. Regan is responsible for design, strategy, procurement and management. Ms. Regan, who became GE's global risk manager in 2001, also has developed a contract guidance tool for managing risks as part of GE's aggressive growth strategy; expanded GE's captive, Electric Insurance Co., to cover risks in the European Union and Canada; and introduced benchmarking and process improvement programs with GE's insurers and brokers to ensure that the company's risk management and insurance programs are aligned with company objectives. In addition, Ms. Regan has co-led the Fairfield, Conn., hub of the GE Women's Network, which helps women advance within the company and promotes collaboration on solutions across the GE's various business units.
Best professional advice: "A former boss of Ms. Regan's bearing no relation, Tom Regan, "told me that it's great to think things through but to pay attention to your gut and what that's telling you. I think in my instance, it's helped me make the right decisions. One in particular was when I decided to leave Becton Dickinson to work for GE Capital. A few folks commented to me that it was not the right decision to make because I had such a great position and opportunity at Becton. I was the planned successor as the head of risk management at Becton. (But) I had the confidence to follow my instinct, and in retrospect, it is the best career path decision I have made."
Professional role model: "Probably over a 20-year career, I had different role models at different points. The one that influenced me most was one of my prior bosses, Tom Regan--no relation. This was at Becton Dickinson, a medical manufacturing company in New Jersey. He had a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities when I was relatively young and starting out in my career and gave me confidence to stretch and tackle new things."
Early aspirations: "I was very interested in being a stockbroker. But living in New York and relying on commissions wasn't going to work at a young age. I started as an underwriting trainee at Aetna back when Aetna was big in (property/casualty underwriting) right out of school. I started taking CPCU classes, and coincidentally, a recruiter called me about a risk management job. I really wasn't aware of that profession until then and found it very interesting. I did take that job."
President and Founder
Specialty Risk Management Inc.
Lago Vista, Texas
Where there is risk, there are people like Pamela Ritz, whose lengthy career has led her to develop and head her own company, Specialty Risk Management Inc., which provides risk management solutions to small, midsize and large organizations, including such global entities as Lloyd's of London. She is responsible for introducing her company's national 1-800 hotline service, which has been expanded to include crisis management for food-borne illness and product recall claims on behalf of underwriters and her private client base. The service has logged in excess of 200,000 inbound calls and is backed by an internally developed database system that allows her company's risk managers to be interchangeable when fielding a client problem, enabling any risk manager to interact with any client.
What would you change: "Insurance is a business solution. I wish more time and effort was spent on creating the right insurance solution and educating the insured on the value of the insurance product and whether it will deliver the desired solution, rather than just boiling it down to competitive pricing and landing the competitive deal. In insurance, you often get what you pay for."
Best professional advice: "Don't lose your sense of humor. Great ideas require intense belief and sometimes require years of selling over and over again to be adopted. If your idea is not accepted immediately, watch your timing, persevere and try again. You have to pay your dues and make the investment and constantly replenish your intensity."
Early aspirations: "I entered an engineering college in a year that the first official class of women was admitted. My goal was to work in heavy industry. The insurance industry found me after an industry career, but it has made use of all of my previous career experience and more. Like everyone in my organization, we never intended to enter the insurance field, but we are here, creating new ideas."
Global Ethics and Compliance Officer
After working initially at a law firm following her graduation from Columbia University School of Law, Audrey M. Samers joined the New York Insurance Department in 1998 as special counsel to the superintendent on Holocaust-related issues. She was named the department's deputy superintendent and general counsel in 2001, where she served until joining ACE in 2006 as deputy global compliance officer and associate general counsel. Ms. Samers assumed her position as global ethics and compliance officer in January.
Early aspirations: "I didn't intend to have this specific position, but I always wanted to have a career where I worked at a dynamic company with intelligent and energetic people who are also guided by ethics, and where I could help in that company's growth."
Professional role model: "My mother instilled a lot of confidence in me and always made me feel I could achieve whatever I wanted. And at the same time, she taught me great values, to work hard, make smart choices, be honest, be loyal."
Advice to young women: "Find a mentor or someone they can trust to give advice and guide your choices and career decisions, and to build relationships with people that you can rely on."
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