2020 Women to Watch: Kim RileyPosted On: Dec. 2, 2020 12:00 AM CST
President, Hylant Cleveland
Hylant Group Inc.
When it comes to business, Kim Riley has no reservations about reservations.
“A mentor told me, ‘Go out and have a breakfast or a lunch every day with people you do not know,’” she said. “That’s how I built my network.”
Ms. Riley’s pre-pandemic habit of meeting regularly with both clients and leads to help them create their company’s risk management plan has gone virtual. Such networking, she said, is as essential as ever.
By building relationships “we are able to have those discussions; they will never have you to the table until you are that trusted adviser,” she said. “If they just see you as a transactional insurance person, they are never going to invite you to that boardroom to have those discussions.”
In 2011, Ms. Riley was hired from First Horizon Insurance to lead Hylant Group Inc.’s Nashville, Tennessee office, making her the first woman to be president of an office in the broker’s then 76-year history. In 2016, she moved to the Cleveland office in the same role, and within 18 months it saw its best year in three decades, she said.
Earlier in her career, while working for various companies including CNA Financial Corp., she “was always on the carrier side where there was never a need for me to have a community presence, but when I moved to the brokerage side, they wanted me to move into the community,” she said.
“On the carrier side, I learned about the brokers, but moving to the brokers side you learn more,” she said. “It prepared me for coaching everybody.”
Then came her favorite part: networking and building trust with clients.
“We are not just insurance people,” she said. “You have to be part of a strategic-thinking team. You are part of their discussion of ‘What are we going to do in the next five years? What is our strategy? What are the additional risks?’”
Of her ability to bring people together, Hylant CEO Mike Hylant said, “Kim has built a tremendous network by prioritizing her calendar to meet for breakfast or lunch as part of her daily activity, much the same as a good sales person does contacting prospective customers.”