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2009 Women to Watch: Patricia Guinn

Posted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST

Patricia Guinn

Managing Director
Risk and Financial Services
Towers Perrin
New York


Patricia Guinn is managing director of Towers Perrin's global risk and financial services business segment, which is comprised of the firm's reinsurance brokerage business, risk consulting and software business, and retirement risk solutions business. During the past several years, Ms. Guinn has guided the expansion of Towers Perrin's insurance consulting business by investing in new products and services areas that leverage core areas of the firm's expertise. She recently was invited to testify before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, where she provided Congress with her perspective on how the U.S. government should oversee the insurance industry. Ms. Guinn also has been a role model for women at Towers Perrin and in the consulting and insurance industries. She holds board positions for the Actuarial Foundation and International Insurance Society, which promote the actuarial profession and the role of women within it.


Your professional role model: The earliest one was an actuary named Jack Turnquist, who was with the firm in 1970s and 1980s, but recently passed away. He served as Tillinghast's professional standards officer. He mentored me personally, and I watched the way he interacted with me and all young professionals. I liked the way he approached his job, and he wanted to help us do the best we can do and showed us how to take a piece of work and make it a little bit better. That is kind of something that stuck with me all along the way.…I've worked with a lot of leaders of client organizations and there are two in particular that made a big impression on me, both former chief executive officers at AEGON Americas, Case Storm and Don Shepard. They taught me about leadership—teaching me two things in particular, about vision about where the business is going and about relating to people because you are not going to deliver on that vision without bringing people along.


Advice for women entering the field: First, I would say it's a great field to enter. I recommend insurance and the actuary field because I think it is important work. I think the role insurance plays in our economy and society is important. It is a relatively stable industry. It may not as glamorous or sexy as the IT industry was in the 1990s or as glamorous as the fashion industry, but it is a pretty stable industry—especially the property/casualty side. In the early stages of your career, it is a true meritocracy. At least that is what I've experienced. The good people advance, and that is really a nice environment to be in.


What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I grew up in a farming community in Arkansas and I had little exposure to the business and corporate world and had little exposure to insurance other than being a policyholder. I came out of graduate school with a B.A. in mathematics and went on to work towards a master's. I received a fellowship to Columbia University in New York, which got me out of Arkansas. And I was having difficulty seeing how I was going to take care of myself with a mathematics degree, so I was trying to figure out how to bring this into a business setting. Then I learned from a friend of mine about becoming an actuary, and I thought it was something that I could do, too.


Best professional advice you've received: Set your standards and goals high and stick with them.


Best book you've read recently: The "Yoga Mala" by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He was one of the most influential people spreading yoga to the Western Hemisphere.


Phone or e-mail and why: It really depends on the purpose. E-mail is great for transmitting information, but it's best for data where there's no intonation or inflection. But if it's a matter that requires any delicacy or interaction, a phone call or in person saves time and produces a better a result.

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