2009 Women to Watch: Louise PenningtonPosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Integro Insurance Brokers
As the only female managing principal in Integro Insurance Brokers' New York office, Louise Pennington is responsible for managing the New York office's commercial book of business within Integro's management risk practice. She is part of the office's leadership committee, which is responsible for strategy and operational organization. In addition to managing a team of people, Ms. Pennington manages a book of business that includes Fortune 100 companies. Ms. Pennington started her insurance career in 1990 with Marsh Inc.'s financial and professional liability practice. She later pursued a legal degree and became a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, as a trial and appellate lawyer. She worked in private practice before returning to Marsh FINPRO in 2001 and joined Integro two months after its inception in 2005.
Your professional role model: My mother. She always worked outside of the home and continues to do so. But her inspiration wasn't the fact that she worked, maintained her very happy marriage—going on 52 years now—and raised two daughters, but the fact that she did all of that without seeming to compromise her work or family life. She also did all of that while constantly challenging herself professionally from getting her Master of Public Administration degree at night—with two children—to working in marketing to investment banking to running her own Internet company. She is extraordinary and without a doubt is a role model to anyone with whom she comes into contact.
Best professional advice you've received: I don't think there is a single "best" piece of advice, but I would keep the following in mind every day: 1) Listening is more important than talking. 2) Managing "up" is just as important as managing "down." 3) Self-confidence without arrogance is a key to success. 4) Knowing what you don't know is as important as recognizing what you do know. 5) There is truly no "I" in team—no one person ultimately succeeds on their own in this industry. We are only as good as those around us and those who support us. 6) Never burn bridges—your junior associate could become your boss on any day of the week. 7) Recognition for a job well done is always appreciated and can pay dividends for employee morale.
Advice for women entering the field: In any industry that is historically male-dominated, it is important that young women understand what it means to be a professional in that world. The ultimate goal is to build enough individual credibility due to work ethic and expert work product as a professional so as to make your environment gender-blind. There is enormous opportunity for women in insurance. It is possible to find balance between one's personal and professional life without feeling that one is sacrificing, but the right support system in the office and at home is critical to execute upon that goal.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I never intended to make the insurance field my ultimate career. Growing up, I was obsessed with running a restaurant with great food. I was surrounded by a gifted sister who always knew her path would lead her to an MBA and financial services, which it did, and two loving and driven parents who, to this day, work full time, not out of necessity but out of a passion for their careers. I started my career in insurance brokerage as a first step "into the real world," but was drawn back into it many years later after leaving it to pursue a legal career. While I continue to be somewhat obsessed with food and restaurants, it amazes me every day now how interesting and challenging the job continues to be after all of these years. It is that dynamism of my clients, the constant change in the industry, and the people that I have the honor of working with which ultimately keeps me motivated and is why I continue to find this career so satisfying.
The best book you've read recently: "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell
Phone or e-mail and why: Phone, without question. Our over-reliance upon e-mail has detracted what true service in our field is intended to be, which is personal. Today, I think our clients have grown accustomed to e-mail responses in our 24/7 world. E-mails have an important place in dedicated client service. However, personal phone responses are often more efficient than e-mail and ensure a better chance of developing and maintaining one's client relationship for an extended period of time. It also forces one to think on one's feet and not hide behind an e-mail.