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Vp and Risk Manager
Silverstein Properties Inc./World Trade Center Properties
Shari Natovitz leads the two-employee risk management group at Silverstein Properties Inc., which is building three towers at Ground Zero in Manhattan along with building and managing other residential and commercial construction projects and properties in New York. Ms. Natovitz sits on the external affairs committee and national conference programming committees for the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc., on a council of national construction contractors convened by Chartis Inc., and she recently was asked to join a global client advisory council established by brokerage Willis Group Holdings Ltd. She also has spoken to classes at St. John's College of Risk Management. The International Risk Management Institute named Ms. Natovitz a 2008 Horizon Award Finalist for marketing innovation in recognition of her role leading the team that purchased insurance for Towers 2, 3 and 4 being constructed at Ground Zero. In 2007, Silverstein was told only about $350 million in capacity was available for the project, but Ms. Natovitz, her assistant and 56 professionals from Willis launched a marketing campaign aimed at insurers. Silverstein eventually secured $6.5 billion in all-risk builder's insurance and an equal amount of standalone terrorism coverage.
Your professional role model: Myra Tobin and Dr. Pamela Newman (both former managing directors at Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.). (They were) extraordinary individuals that took on an industry back in the day that really did not support women and made success of it and balanced a family while doing it. But more importantly, (they) offered extraordinary solutions for clients. And Leslie Nylund (former chief placement officer and national partner for Willis North America)….She was the senior partner at Willis who led their internal team that liaisoned with me regarding the World Trade Center placement. While her folks did a great job, she was really the leader of that group. Her ability to do all of that and do it effectively showed me just how effective a person can be in a leadership role.
Best professional advice you've received: From a career standpoint, I would have to say it was from my husband. I said to him I really want to take this job (as risk manager at Silverstein) in New York. He said to me he'd be fully supportive because he understood just how important wanting to work on the World Trade Center project was to me. And it was the best decision I ever made.
Advice for women entering the field: Develop skill sets whether singularly focused or whether a generalist across all fields. And bring skill sets to an industry that is hungry for young people to join it, that will encourage women that have the skill sets to enter it. And then forget that you're female and just go and get the job done.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I wanted to be president of the United States. I was a (political science) major. I fell into (the insurance industry) just by happenstance and I had the extraordinary good luck to fall in with a group of people who were interested in learning for learning's sake. I spent 35-plus years as a broker and I loved every minute of it. I wanted to be the broker for the (World Trade Center) project and I ended up being the risk manager for it. It's been an extraordinary journey.
The best book you've read recently: "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom, because its life lessons can be shared and valued at any time, not just your youth.
Phone or e-mail and why: It depends on the circumstances. I'd much rather a face to face with anybody given the choice….After that, it depends on what the circumstances are really. (Phone and e-mail) are about equal. You can be more efficient with e-mail, but you don't necessarily get the full flavor of the communication.
Business Insurance’s 2009 Women to Watch feature is our annual attempt to identify women who are doing outstanding work in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.