The true value of insurance

This issue’s guest columnist is Joan Lamm-Tennant, winner of the 2013 Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW) Insurance Woman of the Year award. Here she reflects on the significance of the award and the need to stay relevant as an industry.

The APIW Insurance Woman of the Year award has been presented annually since 1976 and recognises exceptional women who have achieved prominence in the insurance industry, so I was tremendously honoured to be chosen as this year’s winner. Accepting an honour such as this provides an opportunity to thank everyone who has supported you and made it happen, both personally and professionally.

This award is very important for celebrating women in the industry. It creates a forum for recognising the accomplishments of all women and an opportunity to encourage women to remain engaged in their work through the various hurdles that might exist.

Our industry is no different from many others in that women lack representation in senior management roles. At the same time women made up more than 50 percent of college graduates last year, about 38 percent of individuals receiving MBAs, and 51 percent of those receiving PhDs. Women are a highly educated sector and yet women in insurance and in business in general are still very much under-represented in the executive positions.

Against this backdrop, membership of APIW is an opportunity to connect with women who have had similar experiences and who can offer support and mentorship. It also offers the reward of providing the same to other women, so it’s valuable in terms of what you receive but also a network by which you too can serve as support and mentorship to other women in the business.

The appeal of membership of APIW for me was the professionalism of the group, the level of engagement that the women have in their careers, and the diversity of the members.

I received the award during a lovely evening with about 250 people in attendance. Many were individuals from whom I have learned and met over my 40 years in the business, but some were people I met for the first time. It really was a celebration of the industry and of the opportunities it had given not just me, but all the women in the room.

As winner of this year’s award I will speak at an APIW luncheon event in November, which will give me a more intimate setting in which to get to know the members. I’m an economist and so I’m going to talk about the changes in the global economy and the opportunities that now result as risk management moves forward as a more integral part of sustained development. 

I hope that by talking about the opportunities that lie ahead for not only profitability but also for social and economic development in emerging countries, more women will opt in as opposed to opting out. Insurance is very important not just as a contributing sector of the GDP but also in terms of advancing society, particularly in the emerging countries and their emerging middle classes.

The world population is seven billion; of that the middle class is only 1.8 billion—but that number has the potential to almost double in the next seven years if we make the right choices today. By that I mean health and education but also financial inclusion. Insurance has an important role to play in this. As society advances people need access to credit and in many situations you have access to credit only if you have access to risk management.

As an industry we’ve been resilient through the global financial crisis, but we need to stay relevant. One of the ways we can provide financial services to the emerging middle classes is through micro insurance. I will be putting the case for what I call collaborative innovation: the establishment of a micro insurance facility that’s owned by a consortium of carriers to advance insurance among the underserved. I hope to convey that there are alternative ways of innovating and advancing one’s career in what can appear to be a very staid industry.

Joan Lamm-Tennant is global chief economist and risk strategist for Guy Carpenter & Company and currently serves on the board of directors for Selective Insurance Group, Ivans, and the International Insurance Society.  

Insurance, Joan Lamm-Tennant, Association of Professional Insurance Women

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