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Chief Broking Officer of Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Aon Risk Services
As the first chief broking officer of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region for Aon Risk Services, Marguerite Soeteman-Reijnen continues to be a trailblazer. Ms. Soeteman-Reijnen is Aon's representative on the Industry Insurance Panel, which is a European group that shares ideas and best practices in risk management. She also was the first female chairman of the Dutch Reinsurance Assn., an office she held from 1996 to 1999. In 2000, she was named honorary chairman. Between 2006 and 2008 she chaired the Aon Women's Network and is active in groups that include the European Professional Women's Network and Women in Financial Services Netherlands. She also is a board member of the Dutch charity that fights amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
WHAT'S THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU RECEIVED?
To make sure that you always have your integrity and be yourself, because that is the one thing that no one can take away from you. You take your reputation and your integrity to the grave. You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
You need to create your own style of leadership. Don't copy anyone else's style—don't do "karaoke management." Set targets for yourself, but also do what you love and love what you do. Have some fun; do something you enjoy. Treat everybody as you would like to be treated. Everybody in the company has a role; a company is like a car and a car needs a mirror as well as an engine.
OUTSIDE OF WORK AND FAMILY, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
Nelson Mandela. Leadership is not just about profitability but about meaning. He has been a great leader. And Hillary Clinton. I admire the way she has bounced back after her husband (left office) and has regained her own position and is now Secretary of State. She turned a very negative situation (in her private life) into a very positive one and has gone after her own goals. I really admire that.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
A reporter, a journalist. When I was younger, I lived opposite the press officer for Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. and he advised me not to go to journalism school but to study something else first. So, I studied law and ended up in insurance. But like a reporter, I am always very curious. I don't take situations at face value; I like to find out what other people think about things and look at it from their view.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
"Soldier of Orange" directed by Paul Verhoeven. It's a Dutch movie about the Dutch resistance in World War II. It was filmed near where I live in The Hague. The key message is to guard your freedom. It is about people who stood up for freedom.
WHAT'S THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE YOU'VE BEEN?
Wamena in the Baliem Valley in Papua New Guinea. It was in 1938 that the people who lived there were discovered. I went in 1996 with my husband and we trekked and went to places that are accessible only by little rope bridges and people cannot get out very easily. We met a disabled child there who, had he fallen ill, would not have been able to get out easily at all. The children didn't have toys but they were very happy. I learned how privileged we are but also that happiness is simplicity. The children there were happy. We (in the developed world) have so many choices, but sometimes that makes people unhappy. Our society is much more individualistic. I am a person who likes luxury, but this was amazing. There, it is a completely different world—I loved the simplicity.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER AND WHY: PHONE OR E-MAIL?
E-mail is convenient, phone is more personal; but what I really prefer is to meet in person. That way it is a two-way communication in the sunlight. Personal contact is best because you can look the person in the eye. E-mail is one-way communication. Phone is two-way communication in the dark. Meeting face-to-face is two-way communication in the sun.
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.