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Chief Underwriting Officer
Zurich Global Corporate in North America
Sabrina Hart leads the Zurich Global Corporate in North America team that develops underwriting solutions for corporate customers, generating annual gross written premium of approximately $4 billion. Ms. Hart has been with Zurich since joining the insurance company in 1997 as Southeast regional health care underwriting manager with Zurich's specialty products unit. Prior to joining Zurich, she had been Southeast regional health care practice leader with brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. and Southeast regional manager for health care for American International Group Inc. She is a member of the Association of Professional Insurance Women. Ms. Hart has a bachelor's degree in math with a minor in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and she earned a Certificate in Strategic Management from the Kellogg Business School of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
What's your advice for women entering this field?
You have to have a passion about the business and obtain a financial acumen, which does not necessarily have to come from schooling — you don't need a finance degree. You also must have a blend of skills, technical as well as operational and interpersonal. You must think of the industry and its place in the global economy, and take a view of the business toward being able to contribute to the executive function.
What attracted you to this industry?
I decided to major in something I enjoy — math — figuring if all else fails, I could teach math. I selected underwriting because it uses technical skills but also has market-facing opportunities. I wanted interaction with clients. You must have financial acumen and interpersonal skills. I grew vertically in underwriting for many years, and working at AIG at a young age was exposed to activities generally beyond the grasp of younger employees. Growth took me from commercial line manager to practice leader at Marsh and ultimately to underwriting regional manager at Zurich.
What aspects of your job give you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Clearly, people. Seeing individuals come together and execute a plan and seeing a team develop — the talent that you've developed — building great teams, diverse teams, high-performance teams. To me that is really the greatest reward — that we consistently deliver results in a culture of execution, coming together and delivering what we promised.
What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Two things come to mind: The importance of having the right people in the right job at the right time (and) making decisions. When you have a tough decision to make, generally tough decisions don't get easier with time: “Bad news does not get easier.” When you know you have to make (a tough decision), once you make it, it's usually not as hard as anticipated.
Outside family, what woman has been your role model?
In the business world, I've had role models, but too few of them have been women because of our industry. I have worked with some tremendous women and learned a lot. I've tried to build a network within the industry to give myself insight and different perspectives. Had you asked me five years into my career — Corbette Doyle, now a professor at Vanderbilt University, and was with Carroon & Black (Corp.). She was definitely a role model, because she had a blend of technical and market-facing capabilities.
What's at the top of your bucket list and why?
I don't really have a list because having a list would be proscriptive, and I don't want to miss opportunities because I was too proscriptive. I have also already had the opportunity to live some dreams — like living and working internationally, when I worked for Zurich in Switzerland. That said, I love to travel. Travel is the one thing that comes to me — I love other cultures. I am planning a trip to South Africa, Capetown and safaris. I've wanted to do that for some time, but to go that far takes time and you have to make the time to take it. You must have the discipline to achieve life balance.
What's your secret vice?
I am a “Words With Friends” junkie on my iPad, sometimes playing as many as 15 games at once. Also, I like reading People magazine — meaningless stuff about the stars. I am a dark chocolate addict. And Candy Crush — I don't know what a good level is, but I'm at 169!
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women who are doing outstanding work in commercial insurance, risk and benefits management, and related fields, including consulting and law.