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Advice from the C-Suite

February 10th, 2018

Careers are built on lessons learned and good advice from those you trust. To celebrate Insurance Careers Month, we asked several people WE trust what lessons they have learned and what special advice they received to be successful. Here’s what they said.

Susan Haack, (retired) Senior Vice President, Mergers and Acquisitions, Motorists Insurance Group

Lessons Learned

"Keep your eyes open and notice the big picture; don’t get too focused on what you’re doing. This requires building relationships and being curious. For example, my career path was not normal. I started as an accountant, then management, then HR, then IT, and then executive positions. I found that the keys to my progression were knowing what was going on around me and being curious about how I fit in."


Professional advice

"I value the advice I got as part of Dave’s (Dave Kaufman, Motorists CEO) vision process, which taught me that even when I thought I was working hard I should always ask the question, ‘Am I working hard on the right things?’ It challenged my thinking about what were the right things. As far as advice I’d give to others, I would say stop what you’re doing and build a team and focus on the relationships. It’s important to get to know each other, because that opens dialogue about your challenges and the sharing and understanding of diverse perspectives." 


Dave Kaufman, CEO, Motorists Insurance Group

Lessons Learned

"One of my most important lessons was the need to be a continuous learner and to own my own professional development and career. You can’t delegate your future to a company or an organization. It’s up to each person to increase his or her own street value. That ensures you will have more opportunities than you would otherwise. I also have learned that natural curiosity is a tremendous asset; it can lead you to places that you never would have imagined."

Professional advice

"Some of the most important advice I got was from Bob Buford, former chairman and CEO of the Halftime Institute. He challenged me to go past success to significance – meaning making a contribution that outlasts me. He encouraged me to look at work-life balance as integrated and to strive for significance in everything. I learned that success isn’t the end; it’s a pathway to significance."


Chris Paterakis, Group Human Resource Leader, Westfield Insurance

Lessons Learned

"We don’t have a lot of traditional career paths like we used to, so one of the important lessons I’ve learned is that it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up. I’ve learned you can’t pigeonhole yourself into one track and that you have to look forward. Also, you have to explore on your own, understand different positions, talk to people and gather your own information and data. Finally, I’ve learned that you have to take risks in your career in order to gain broader perspectives and to build relationships."


Professional Advice

"I’ve benefited from personal coaches insisting that I be receptive to brutally honest feedback and let people put things on the table so I have a better understanding of myself. This helps accelerate the path to improvement. They’ve also encouraged me to form a ‘personal board of directors’ to help guide me down the right path. I have six or seven people who are close to me and who know they can be brutally honest. Creating a personal board has to be intentional, it doesn’t just happen. I will move people on and off the board, especially if I find someone with a valuable perspective."


Mark Russell, President and CEO, Ohio Mutual Insurance Company

Lessons Learned

"Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in my years in the profession is that company culture is the biggest factor in whether a company succeeds or stagnates. A big part of building a culture conducive to success is building a great team that is aligned to a cause."

Professional Advice

"The best advice I’ve received is to invest the most time in attracting and entertaining the best talent that fits your culture. You can tell who is pulling for the team. You want a team that works together."


Rocky Parker, Chief Talent Acquisition Officer, Nationwide Insurance

Lessons Learned

"One real lesson for me was the importance of giving and expecting loyalty as a way to build strong relationships. Loyalty is both organizational and personal. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you aren’t willing to demonstrate loyalty to them. It must go both ways."


Professional Advice

"I’ve received a lot of good advice, but the best was to not be afraid to take a career risk. For example, don’t be afraid to move geographies, or move to different companies and industries, or to move up, down or across – this enriches your career and your experience and knowledge."


Preparing for Innovation and Great Careers

February 5th, 2018


On January 26, 2018, the IIRC hosted several conversations as the premier sponsor at the Gamma Iota Sigma Ohio Regional Conference at The Ohio State University. Gamma Iota Sigma is an international business fraternity for students of insurance, risk management and actuarial science, with over 75 chapters across North America.

At the Ohio Regional Conference, students from Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania met with many of Ohio’s top insurance executives and spoke with corporate recruiters at the event’s career fair.

On behalf of the IIRC, President and CEO of State Auto Insurance Companies, Mike LaRocco spoke to students about the many changes impacting the insurance industry including technological advancements, the image of the industry and the widening talent gap.

“The real issue is the perception of this industry,” LaRocco noted. “The insurance industry is dynamic, changing, creative, innovative and incredibly important. That’s not the perception, and it has to change.”

In addition to offering advice for students as they join the workforce, LaRocco touched on an aspect of insurance that seems to be a strong driving factor for many millennials’ career decisions: having an impact on others. “For all the change that’s coming, this fact doesn’t change: we take care of people,” he said. “I want people who are passionate about that.”

Following the keynote address, an IIRC industry panel discussed transformations in the insurance industry and how students can position themselves for success in an ever-changing industry. The panel included Casie Grau (Ohio Mutual Insurance Group), Erik Ross (Nationwide Insurance), Doreen DeLaney Crawley (Grange Insurance), and Meg Allwein (Assurex Global).

“Disruption and change have always been a part of insurance,” said Allwein, SVP and chief quality officer at Assurex Global. “The difference is the pace at which it’s happening now. Companies need to be nimble, willing to take risks, and willing to fail so that they can learn from it.”

The panelists also shared what their companies are doing to foster growth and innovation.

“We’ve held nine innovation education sessions where our employees work in teams to perform tech activities and competitions, like making their own chat boxes,” said Doreen DeLaney Crawley, chief operating officer at Grange Insurance. “These investments have opened our eyes as well as our employees’ eyes about innovation and changes. Some of the people that you’d least expect come up with the best ideas.”

Following the industry panel, students headed to the career fair where 14 top insurance companies hosted booths, including many IIRC members like Nationwide Insurance, Ohio Mutual Insurance Group, Westfield Insurance and Hylant. With more than 80 insurance and risk management specific students from around the country, the Gamma Iota Sigma Ohio Regional Conference was a tremendous success in connecting IIRC members with knowledgeable students who are ready to lead the new wave of innovation for Ohio’s insurance industry.   

Is Insurance for You?

September 25th, 2017


On September 14, 2017, ceremonies were held at the University of Akron to launch both its Risk Management and Insurance degree and its Gamma Iota Sigma chapter. Ohio’s Director of Insurance, Jillian Froment, captured the importance of these events in the wake of recent catastrophic events (Hurricanes Harvey and Irma) by focusing on what insurance means to communities. Director Froment noted that the insurance industry is one that truly touches Ohioans and shapes communities.

During her remarks, Director Froment asked an important question, “Do you want to change the world? If so, the insurance industry may be the place for you.”

To illustrate her thoughts, Froment told the story of an airline that regularly chartered flights to a very dangerous area of the world. One day, one of the airline’s planes was shot down, and all passengers were lost. Despite the tragic incident, the airline resumed its flights into the dangerous territory the next week! The insurance carrier, though, determined the risk was too great and canceled the airline’s insurance policy. Finally, the airline had to discontinue its dangerous flights. This is one example of how insurance can change businesses and communities.

Froment provided a few other examples:

After the recent hurricanes hit Texas and Florida, insurers sent in water trucks and supplies and distributed cash cards so those affected could purchase needed items like food, water, generators and diapers. Soon after, huge numbers of drones swooped into the areas to survey the damage, followed by the insurance adjusters, inspectors and specialists.

Froment also noted the industry’s history of advocating for change. Parts of Ohio face tornadoes and heavy winds that damage rooftops. Insurers were and are a major force in funding the testing of building parts, like shingles, and then lobbying Ohio’s legislature to establish relevant building codes.

Today, insurers are involved in working to reduce distracted driving and drug addiction while increasing financial literacy in high schools.

So, is insurance for you? Do you want to change the world?

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