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Managing Director, Placement Operations
Willis North America Inc.
In her role at Willis North America Inc., Janet Pane oversees the placement activities of the company’s roughly $14 billion of insurance premium and manages its network of 450 retail business placement professionals. Ms. Pane graduated with a degree in performing arts from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York and, before beginning her career in insurance, spent several years on tour with professional theater companies. Her experience in theater has been invaluable to her growth as a senior manager in the insurance industry, according to her colleagues.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
Find someone whom you respect and admire in an area of your company that you’re interested in learning more about and ask that person if you can set up regular meetings or sessions. Even if it’s not a formal mentorship, just to be able to set aside some time in which that senior person might help guide them through their career in the business is a huge advantage.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR LIFE?
The best advice I ever received was from my mother, and it applies to life in general as easily as it applies to business. She told me how important it is to make good choices about who you invest your time with. For me, finding a partner in business who’s thinking about my needs and my goals while I’m considering how best to help them achieve theirs is the foundation of forging healthy relationships.
WHAT’S THE BEST-KEPT SECRET ABOUT WORKING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
The opportunity to work in so many different functional areas of the business is probably a well-kept secret of the insurance industry. So many companies in this industry offer the opportunity to work in exchange programs, domestically or internationally. Most people think all you’re doing in insurance is handling claims and placing policies, but we have such a diversity and range of roles available in this industry.
WHAT’S THE NEXT MAJOR CHALLENGE IN YOUR BUSINESS SECTOR?
Without a doubt, it’ll be improving our technology platforms and increasing our ability to produce powerful analytics. Being able to capture data in a more centralized way, and then using that intelligence to create more timely and innovative solutions for our clients is huge, and it’s our No. 1 priority. The company that can do that best will be the most successful, and it’s a challenge for our entire industry.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?
If I only knew! I think the only thing you can do is try to carve out time to do some sort of physical exercise. We’re in an industry where we are mentally taxed all day long and the pressure is terrific, but it’s internalized to a large degree. I like to go on long runs, preferably on the beach — and for me, there’s nothing that relieves my stress faster than the sound of the ocean.
WHAT’S YOUR SECRET VICE?
Musical theater, although I don’t know if that actually counts as “vice” or not. I was a theater major, and I still love to escape and go sit in a Broadway theater. It’s a great diversion from the stress of our day-to-day lives. We get to dream a little bit and immerse ourselves in the dark for a couple of hours in another world.
WHAT SKILL HAS BEEN AN UNEXPECTED AID TO YOUR CAREER?
I think it would have to be a lot of the same skills I picked up in theater, primarily the ability to think on your feet. You also pick up in theater the habit of being very practical, which you need in order to organize all of those things that go into putting on a live performance. Those same skills definitely correlate to a business environment.
WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR BUCKET LIST?
Professionally speaking, I think it would be achieving an understanding of what the ultimate client experience is. We used to call it the “Ritz Carlton” experience, and being able to influence the design and creation of that experience is my ultimate goal. I want to be able to change an organization for the better. That, to me, is the definition of success, regardless of what my title is.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women doing outstanding work in insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.