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Women in Insurance: Meet 2 Industry Leaders Paving the Way for the Future of Insurance

October 25, 2016

by Applied Communications
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Women in Insurance: Meet 2 Industry Leaders Paving the Way for the Future of InsuranceInsurance Networking News’ 9th Annual Women in Insurance Leadership conference took place this month in Chicago, celebrating gender diversity in the workplace and honoring the important contributions of women who have helped redefine the insurance industry. The conference provides a platform for women around the country to learn from industry thought leaders, network with other influential peers and discuss the key issues facing the insurance business today. One of this year’s key issues is the role that gender diversity and inclusion play in ensuring the successful future of the insurance industry.

Each year between 2006 and 2015, women comprised about 61% of the insurance workforce, with 1.5 million women employed in the insurance sector in 2015.1 Additionally, new research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.2 In a historically male-dominated business, it is clear that the insurance industry today is making important strides towards gender diversity and inclusion. However, when it comes to women in leadership positions, the insurance industry falls short. A 2012 study showed that women hold only 6% of top executive positions, 12.5% of board seats, and 8% of inside business, legal or actuarial officer roles.3


Women Leaders in Insurance

Women in leadership roles continue to actively promote gender-inclusive workplaces by establishing mentorship programs for women and sponsoring executive networking opportunities. Read on for insights from two influential women who are helping to reshape the insurance industry and working to inspire the next-generation of leaders and thinkers.

Kris Hackney, Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, Applied SystemsKris Hackney, Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, Applied Systems

Kris Hackney is the Executive Vice President of Customer Experience at Applied Systems. She is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and Cloud-based solutions.

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

I have spent more than 20 years in the software industry, primarily focused on business intelligence and predictive analytics, which gave me an opportunity to be exposed to many industries, including retail, insurance, telcommunications, manufacturing and government. I was drawn to Applied, and thus to a focus on insurance, because of the great opportunity to leverage technology to empower such a critical industry.

What is one important thing that you’ve learned from your professional experience?

At Applied, our mission is to power the business of insurance through innovative, cloud-based software. In my role as the leader of our customer experience organization, I’m responsible for customer delivery strategy and operational execution of Applied’s professional services, support and cloud-based solutions. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to build great teams. I’m especially proud of how we’ve coupled deeply experienced experts in insurance with individuals from diverse technical backgrounds who bring new perspectives to the table – true innovation takes strong, collaborative teams focused on challenging the status quo.

What do you believe the future of the insurance industry will look like?

The convergence of technology and changing consumer preferences in the insurance industry have agencies and brokerages adopting new, innovative technologies that blend the personal, trusted advice of the agent with customer preferences for interaction – and that is a tremendous business opportunity to capitalize on. Consumer demand for anywhere, anytime access to information is challenging agents to scale their resources to provide around-the-clock service and adopt new technologies that extend the personal touch and trusted guidance of an insurance agent to a 24/7 insurance experience. To provide this experience, digital agencies and brokerages require client self-service software that allows their clients to review policy information, request changes, make premium payments and manage claims processing via online portals and mobile apps. Native mobile apps offer clients quicker, more convenient access to insurance information directly from their smartphone or tablet, providing greater flexibility and servicing options while keeping their agency and brokerage’s trusted advice top of mind.

Jackie Gould, Chief Operating Officer, AssuranceJackie Gould, Chief Operating Officer, Assurance

Jackie Gould is responsible for the overall client service delivery platform at Assurance, as well as maintaining an efficient operation structure through high quality standards. Jackie’s strength lies in leading Assurance through major operational changes and managing multi-faceted projects that touch many organizational areas.

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

I started my insurance career at Liberty Mutual one year after I finished college, after moving back to the Midwest from Seattle. It was a time in my life where everything I owned could fit in my car – and it was a very small car. The district sales manager at Liberty hired me as a Special Products Representative, where I worked closely with our sales reps in the greater Chicago area as a property insurance specialist and a liaison to place coverage with our internal underwriting team. It was a training ground like no other to be able to go out on calls with a wide variety of producers, and the experience dismantled my prior conception of what it meant to be an insurance salesperson. We were out meeting business owners every day and helping them manage major risks and costs in their businesses. I learned the technical coverage and underwriting side of the business, as well as how important insurance coverage and the associated services were to a business owner or executive.

What is one important thing you’ve learned from your professional experience?

Scrappiness matters. I discovered that I was hired in that first job with no experience largely because my boss was impressed with the way that I had worked my way through college and how I approached new challenges. Every job I’ve had since has allowed me to get things done with limited resources by being creative and scrappy. I’ve never had a role where I’ve simply taken over a well-defined and well-oiled machine and kept it running. I’ve always been able to roll up my sleeves and make an imprint, build something special, and help to define the future. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people over the years with a similar approach to getting things done.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that women face in the insurance industry today?

I don’t tend to think in terms of challenges for women differently than those for men and that is a testament to the hard work of women in the business world before me. I believe the biggest challenge that we all face is changing our insurance and employee benefit delivery system to catch-up to the current technology, risk, legislative, and consumer environment. As a broker, we must continually earn our position in this new and evolving world. Our role is much bigger than placing coverages with an appropriate insurer and managing the associated transactions. We sit at the risk management and employee engagement table with our clients and help make their businesses better. If we can’t measure our impact, and our clients don’t experience a partnership and value when engaging with us, then we will become obsolete.

What do you believe the future of the insurance industry will look like?

Managing risk is complicated. Engaging employees and providing benefits is complicated. Insurance is complicated. As an executive in my company, I rely on professional partners to help our business with complicated accounting, tax, legal, real estate, and other issues. Although there are mountains of information out there in all of these areas, I don’t have the time to wade through the research and figure out how to apply the information to a given situation. I find trusted advisors in each field to help me. I believe the future of the insurance industry is similar – business owners and executives want trusted advisors to help them to navigate all of the requirements, options, and decision points in their insurance and benefit programs. Analytics will continue to play a rising role in this process, and my hope is that the providers and carriers break down proprietary walls that impede the ability for their clients and brokers to access and use data for better transparency and decision-making.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on how women are shaping the insurance industry of the future.

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2015
  2. McKinsey Analysis: Why Diversity Matters, 2015
  3. Saint Joseph’s University Study on Insurance Industry Demographics, 2012

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