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Global Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer
Aon Benfield, a unit of Aon Corp.
As global chief operating officer of Aon Benfield, Maggie Westdale oversees the global operations of the reinsurance intermediary. In addition, as Aon Benfield's chief financial officer, she is responsible for the financial results of the world's largest reinsurance broker. Ms. Westdale joined Aon Benfield in 2009 after taking four years off to raise her young children: 5-year-old Timo and 3-year-old Kane. Prior to that, she was chief financial officer of the property/casualty division and senior vp of corporate financial planning and analysis at Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. She continues to play a key role in the integration of Aon Re Global and Benfield Group Ltd. after Chicago-based Aon Corp.'s 2008 acquisition of Benfield. She worked to ensure that the merger met Aon's financial and operational goals, and developed a consistent worldwide financial and operational view of the organization. Ms. Westdale recently was selected to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program, class of 2010-2012, a program developed by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
WHAT'S THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU RECEIVED?
Slow down and listen.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
Raise your hand to every opportunity and get as many experiences as you're offered. And in the process, take full accountability for whatever it is. It's not always necessary to go up, up, up in terms of whatever role or responsibility it is. But certainly, get as many experiences and as much varied responsibility and then actually be accountable and do what you say you're going to do.
OUTSIDE OF WORK AND FAMILY, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
Mr. Rosengrin, who was my 12th grade government teacher (at Forest Hills Central High in Grand Rapids, Mich.). The reason I chose Mr. Rosengrin is he was the first person to teach me how to think vs. what to think. And that's probably the most important thing that I think a teacher can do. Last night I met a woman from Afghanistan, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem…and she is teaching women in Afghanistan to read and add and fighting for the enforcement of laws that don't allow women to be abused and murdered in that country….I was utterly in awe of somebody who's out there on a daily basis trying to literally change the world one person at a time.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
When I was 12 years old…I wanted to be a U.S. senator. Trying to think of something that I truly wanted to be from beginning to end, the only thing I came up with is a mother.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
"Sense and Sensibility." It's about the relationship between mother and daughters and sisters; and I'm very, very close with my sister, so it just hits a chord for me.
WHAT'S THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE YOU'VE BEEN?
Singapore because to me it's almost this unreal place in terms of its perfection. It's perfectly clean. It's perfectly new. Everything is driven by technology. It's like going to Disneyland. The perfection is kind of unreal. It's perfectly safe in the middle of the night anywhere.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER AND WHY: PHONE OR E-MAIL?
I think that phone is best in terms of building relationships, consensus, respect. I think that e-mail is so unbelievably convenient that it's hard to ditch it. It's amazing in its convenience and its ability to reach a lot of people without a lot of time, but it certainly lacks in the building of relationships and the things you need to do to really be successful, I think.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature is our attempt to identify and recognize individuals doing exceptional work in risk management, benefits management, commercial insurance and related fields.