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2015 Women to Watch: Monica Ningen

2015 Women to Watch: Monica Ningen

Monica Ningen

Managing director and chief property underwriter for the U.S. and Canada

Swiss Re Americas, a unit of Swiss Re Ltd.

Armonk, New York

Age: 41

Monica Ningen got into the reinsurance business by accident.

As a senior at the University of Minnesota-Morris, Ms. Ningen attended a job fair and met with an employee of reinsurance brokerage E.W. Blanch Holdings Inc. looking for candidates for its insurance/reinsurance trainee program. But her work at Blanch as a catastrophe risk analyst paved the way for a lengthy career in the reinsurance sector.

In 2000, Ms. Ningen joined Employers Reinsurance Corp., a unit of GE Insurance Solutions, as a senior catastrophe risk analyst. She eventually became the global natural catastrophe risk leader, and it was during this time that her leadership skills were seriously tested because her team was working on loss estimates for several catastrophic events during the unusually active 2005 hurricane season, which spawned Katrina and Rita, while the unit was being acquired by Swiss Re Ltd.

“Getting people motivated to work for and maintain product support and risk management for a company when they don't know if they are going to have jobs after the acquisition is a huge leadership challenge,” she said. “I had to get those people to follow me when they didn't know what the future looked like.”

Ms. Ningen, who is based in Armonk, New York, has devoted countless hours to Swiss Re's Diversity and Inclusion program, which for her goes beyond gender and racial diversity to include diversity of experience and expertise, and creating an environment that allows for diversity of thought.

Mentoring is also important to Ms. Ningen, and she expects a lot from her mentees, as Overland Park, Kansas-based Clara Maingi, vice president, operations manager at Swiss Re and mentee since 2008, can attest. Ms. Ningen expects her mentees to be prepared and to work on their career development, and is tough but constructive, Ms. Maingi said.

Thanks to Ms. Ningen's coaching, Ms. Maingi said she has been able to navigate nerve-wracking situations such as a meeting with the CEO and a new position that involved a location change. She has taken to heart Ms. Ningen's advice that if she can deal with the worst-case scenario, she should go for it — advice Ms. Ningen shares not just with her mentees, but also with her two daughters.

“Often we create boundaries for ourselves,” Ms. Ningen said. “It's about having the courage to break your own boundaries.”

» NEXT: Valerie Lynn Oldfield

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