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Executive Vice President
Ace Medical Risk Group
Jersey City, N.J.
Caroline J. Clouser's journey to the top of the insurance industry has spanned various roles and two continents. After beginning her career as a claims adjuster in the medical professional liability division at Continental Insurance Co., Ms. Clouser assumed a top underwriting position at CNA HealthPro before joining Ace in 2002. She subsequently spent two years building the company's global medical professional and products liability business, while working at Ace's offices in Zurich. One constant for Ms. Clouser has been an unquenchable desire to learn the industry and a willingness to tackle big challenges. Now as executive vice president of Ace Medical Risk Group, Ms. Clouser contends with one of the thorniest issues of all: helping clients deal with the rising costs of health care.
What's your advice for women entering this field?
My advice for anyone entering the field is to view one's career as a marathon and not a sprint. Early on in many people's careers, they will get a chance to jump to another company for a salary that is really enticing. I would urge people not to jump just for short-term financial gain. In the long run, there's a lot more to get from showing loyalty and commitment to your current employer. You will be able to demonstrate a meaningful career progression that most successful people have. They were able to build their network, gain advanced skills and navigate the internal politics of an organization as they made their way up. So when we look for new talent, we weigh very heavily if a person has been a single employer for a long time. Success takes time and by sticking with a company you will go a lot further in the long run.
What attracted you to this industry?
What initially attracted me to Continental Insurance Co., which is where I started, was their investment in training and development. I am very proud that now working for Ace, we value that same investment in people. I was a human development major in college and I didn't have a lot of the basic business classes, so it was important for me to find a company that was dedicated to job training. It's that mindset that sustained me in the industry. I was able to grow my skill set and gain insurance designations and attain an MBA, and during that time I also had access to different roles. I was a claims person; I was an underwriter; I worked in marketing and employee training and development and compliance. I did this both in the United States and internationally.
What aspects of your job give you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
For me, it's about leading people to achieve goals. I get significant satisfaction watching the team exceed our financial measures quarter after quarter. Whether it's helping a new associate hone their presentation skills or assisting a manager with tracking performance of the organization, all these things help me feel great about what we do. Early in my career it was is more about personal achievements, but as I have matured in my career, I am now looking for ways to promote my team as individuals and as a group and watch them grow. Ultimately, this is better for the organization.
What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
The lesson is to always be intellectually curious. It's a great way to learn, understand and innovate. In insurance, you can be having a conversation with a person and they may throw a concept out there that you don't understand and you can't be shy about asking them to clarify that. I'm always seeking out experts from our claims, actuarial or finance departments to solicit ideas from them or to just bounce ideas off them. I have reading files that to carry around, so that if I am traveling I will have plenty of reading materials. So, I make it a point to be a student of the business.
Outside family, what woman has been your role model?
I don't have to go outside of my family because my mom has been such a big influence. She was a stay-at-home mom initially, but as we got older she started working, earned her degree, and became editor and later the publisher of weekly newspapers. I learned a lot from her just watching how she balanced her work and personal lives. She's the type of person who could juggle it all, while exhibiting grace under pressure. Just a great person to emulate.
What's at the top of your bucket list and why?
Just to spend time with my family. I have two small children and I love to watch them grow and experience new challenges. It's not all that exciting, but it's how I want to spend my time.
What's your secret vice?
It's not that much of a secret, but I really love playing golf with my husband. We love to break away and play when the weather is nice.
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.