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Ryan Specialty Group
As managing director of Ryan Specialty Group Inc., Debra McClenahan helps to oversee its managing general underwriter/managing general agent business to develop a broad platform of MGUs with unique specialty offerings. From 2007 to 2009, Ms. McClenahan was chief administration officer for Aon Re Americas, and from 2004 to 2007 she was CEO of Aon Underwriting Managers. Prior to joining Aon Corp., Ms. McClenahan was CEO of CNA Re from 2002 to 2003, chief operating officer from 2000 to 2002, and chief financial officer from 1995 to 2000. This year, Ms. McClenahan co-founded Ryan Specialty Group subsidiary ThinkRisk, an MGU agency specializing in errors and omissions insurance in the areas of media, advertising, technology, privacy and network security.
WHAT'S THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU RECEIVED?
Probably something that I came across in a book called "Up the Organization" by Robert Townsend many years ago: When the true leader's work is done, the people say, "We did it ourselves."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
Go for it. You can do it all. By that I mean a lot of young women my daughter's age say, "Well, do I want a family? Do I want a career?" as if they were choices that were mutually exclusive. I say they're not mutually exclusive. Go do it.
OUTSIDE OF WORK AND FAMILY, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
Maggie Thatcher—her strength, she was a pioneer in many ways to take on what she took on at the time.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
Believe it or not, an elementary education teacher. That's what I went away to college to be. When I first went to the University of Illinois, I enrolled in the school of education and ended up graduating with a degree in actuarial science, and that's a long story.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
"WALL-E." My family will laugh at that answer because they know that I love that movie for the entertainment of it, probably the pure enjoyment of it, but also here's a little guy who perseveres, doesn't he?
WHAT'S THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE YOU'VE BEEN?
I really enjoyed Ephesus. We went to Istanbul many years ago and we were able to tour the ancient ruins of Ephesus. That was very interesting.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER AND WHY: PHONE OR E-MAIL?
I prefer phone for two-way conversations, and I prefer e-mail for communicating details.
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.