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Head of client, industry and business development
Willis Towers Watson P.L.C.
Mary O’Connor discovered risk at Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. after a diverse career that took her from prosecuting criminals in Washington, D.C., to being a financial regulator in London.
“I was a lawyer and a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington in the late 1990s, prosecuting drug cases, homicides and gang narcotics,” Ms. O’Connor said.
“I loved being a lawyer, but then I discovered risk when I came to Willis as head of risk and compliance to support the company in its internal efforts to improve risk management,” she said.
Ms. O’Connor was with the U.K. Financial Services Authority between 2008 and 2012, first as a manager in enforcement, then as head of approved persons. Prior to that, she was a partner at Kilpatrick Stockton L.L.P.
“Among other things, I am interested in using my regulatory and capital markets expertise in the use of alternative capital,” Ms. O’Connor said.
She also enjoys the breadth and reach of the industry and the travel opportunities that come with her job.
Her growth path within the company has been unusual.
“Mary has had a very special career’s evolution whilst working at Willis Towers Watson, successfully transferring from a senior technical control function role to a business leadership role,” said Nicolas Aubert, CEO for Great Britain at Willis Towers Watson.
In addition, she is involved in mentoring other women at Willis Towers Watson, which she said is analogous to her work with the brokerage’s clients.
“Mentoring and client work are similar, because it’s all about helping people achieve their goals,” Ms. O’Connor said.
The changing nature of the business, she believes, affords opportunity to women in insurance.
“Our industry is being hit by a number of megatrends such as technology and the impact of the low-interest-rate environment,” she said.
“With so much change coming to the insurance industry, there are enormous opportunities for women, and I feel privileged to try to help other women,” Ms. O’Connor said.
The Women to Watch awards program has been significantly expanded this year.