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Jennifer Barton

Jennifer Barton

Jennifer Barton
Chief operating for human capital practice
Willis North America Inc.
Age: 41

Jennifer Barton has never let the scale of a challenge presenting itself stop her.

Whether it's hiking the Grand Canyon from to rim to rim in a single day or building a human resources consulting practice for Willis North America Inc. from scratch, Ms. Barton has displayed an innate ability to blaze a trail.

After interacting with the brokerage frequently as director of human resources for a Willis client, she was recruited to join Willis 12 years ago. She quickly grew the consulting arm into an integral part of Willis' human capital practice. Ms. Barton said her experience as an HR director paid dividends. “In my previous job I went through a lot of mergers and acquisitions and managed a lot of locations, so I faced many of the same challenges that all organizations go through today,” she said.

Ms. Barton ran the consulting practice for nine years but was then tapped to take her current role at Willis. “Handing off the consulting practice and moving into a more operational role was a huge decision for me,” she said. “I had to move outside my comfort zone, but it has been a great move.”

Jim Blaney, CEO of Willis' human capital practice, couldn't agree more. He said her ability to think strategically while at the same time effectively managing operations sets her apart.

“Jennifer is a former HR director, so she brings in the thought process of the end user,” he said. “She's also ... understands what we need to do operationally to empower those clients.”

Ms. Barton expects her role at Willis to become increasingly global: “I've previously worked for Willis in London, and as I look around I see more work abroad in my future, as we know that globally people are now faced with many of the same types of risks.”

Mr. Blaney agreed she will be instrumental in the charting the way Willis operates globally, but said her impact on the company is already evident. “She has informally created a great example to other women at Willis of what can be accomplished,” he said.

By Bill Kenealy