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President, Surplus Lines
XL Group P.L.C.
Since joining XL Group P.L.C. in 2011, Roxanne Mitchell has overseen five major surplus lines of business and has transformed the company’s wholesale distribution network. As Chicago-based president of surplus lines, Ms. Mitchell has built out the New York-based insurer’s excess and surplus lines capabilities to include property, railroad, wholesale umbrella and excess auto coverages, along with its general liability surplus lines platform. Ms. Mitchell’s career in the insurance industry spans more than 30 years and includes roles in claims adjusting and underwriting management. Most recently, Ms. Mitchell was zone executive for Lexington Insurance Co.’s Midwest region, overseeing 100 employees in five offices servicing 14 states. During her 20-year tenure at Lexington, Ms. Mitchell led a sizeable business growth in the region, increasing it tenfold. Throughout her insurance career, she has helped advance other women in the business. At XL, Ms. Mitchell is founder and executive sponsor of a mentor program in XL’s North America property/casualty unit and participates in XL’s Women’s Networking Group.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
Find another woman mentor you have respect for. Sometimes it’s better that it’s not a direct manager but another woman who has been in the business … and just absolutely be a sponge. I think that’s one thing with women; sometimes we’re too caregiving, so we think we have to do it ourselves. One of the greatest things is when you find someone else you can just bounce things off of or get advice from. It wasn’t available that much when I started in the business all those years ago. I just think that that’s available to women more now, and almost anyone I know who does that feels better about themselves and it helps them grow.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR LIFE?
Be true to yourself. Be direct, open and honest. My mentor gave me that probably about 30 years ago. It carries you through in the business. No matter what, a person in the mirror doesn’t lie back to you in the morning. I think that works personally and in business, too. What you have in business is your reputation. That’s the main thing you have control over at all times.
WHAT’S THE BEST-KEPT SECRET ABOUT WORKING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
People don’t realize that it’s not dull and boring. It’s exciting. (You’re) doing something different every day when you’re working on accounts. You always can learn something about the business, especially in the commercial property and casualty business. People outside the business think that it’s just boring insurance. But there is always a new challenge and something new and exciting to work on.
WHAT’S THE NEXT MAJOR CHALLENGE IN YOUR BUSINESS SECTOR?
Growing the business. We’ve spent the past 16 months setting up some new business lines and also fixing one of the lines that was there before. We needed to fix it; we needed to underwrite it to bring it to profitability. Now the next challenge will take these new lines that we’ve established and grow them to the next level. They’re all set up, the people are there, they’re in their position. Now it’s (time) to move it forward in 2013 and grow those lines of business. The strategy is to capitalize on our relationships with the brokers and our knowledge in the industry.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?
I do enjoy the outdoors. I live on a lake and year-round I will sit outside and just enjoy the fresh air. To me, the outdoor air and being on the water is just calming, and no matter what it calms me down. It’s the outdoor, the fresh air — it absolutely always reduces the stress. I also enjoy being with other friends. I have a great group of girlfriends that I’ve had for a long time. Getting together with them is a stress reduction.
WHAT’S YOUR SECRET VICE?
An Absolut martini with blue cheese olives. Just one, though.
WHAT SKILL HAS BEEN AN UNEXPECTED AID TO YOUR CAREER?
I went to college to be a teacher, and I taught high school for two years before I entered the insurance world. I didn’t realize that skill … has taken me through my insurance career. In the management world, you are always teaching or should be. When people ask me what keeps me up at night, like we ask our clients all the time, it’s the human capital. We have great kids coming in from college or coming up through the ranks and people have to be there. They can’t learn the insurance through the book. I love taking kids out of college and teaching them underwriting … and different things about being a manager.
WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR BUCKET LIST?
To go to Italy with my husband. We’re hoping to do that soon. That country always has been somewhere that I have really wanted to go. There’s so much there between the food, the culture, history and the religious aspect. It’s very exciting.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women doing outstanding work in insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.