Take 5 with Nancy Bewlay, AXA XL’s Chief Underwriting Officer, Global Casualty
Nancy Bewlay stays on the pulse of the insurance industry’s casualty underwriting trends and most pressing issues. She has to. As Chief Underwriting Officer for Global Casualty, Nancy is responsible for underwriting and portfolio management for all of AXA XL’s Casualty insurance coverages globally.
Since joining AXA XL in 2017, Nancy has really changed colleagues’ perception of a Chief Underwriting Officer’s role. Traditionally, CUOs like her were called into underwriting situations to make decisions on the toughest risk. While she still does tough risk vetting, a bigger part of Nancy’s role is keeping an eye on the big picture. Here, in just five questions, she explains why and more.
1. How did you first discover the insurance industry?
Admittedly, I had family exposure to the industry. My father was a reinsurance executive. After graduating with a degree in clinical psychology, I was struggling to find a job. I loved the research end of clinical psychology and couldn’t imagine doing much else. But as my father pointed out underwriting required its own set of research and it really turned out to be a great extension of my education.
I began as a trainee at General Star Management, a division of General Re, where I spent 13 years in different roles. I absolutely loved every minute of it and I learned more working as underwriter than I ever would have imagined.
Even as a trainee, I was motivated by seeing the bigger picture. I consider myself quite lucky to be given the opportunities I was given. Early on, as an underwriter, I understood that the decisions I would make today would have long term impact. And that’s when I got hooked on liability. I found liability risks so interesting because underwriting the risks required insurers to make decisions that took so many years to develop. Liability is very complex and always evolving. The risks you were trying to insure were always changing, and are still changing.
One thing that I learned about working in insurance is that your career path is endless if you let it be. The industry has allowed me, and many of us, to redefine ourselves year over year. It gives us the freedom to push ourselves and craft our careers.
2. What’s the best part of your job today?
I love listening to our clients’ challenges and concerns, and then trying to find the best way to approach them, whether it’s through traditional risk transfer or developing new products. In our industry now, we have a real opportunity to go beyond the promise of being there when we have a large loss. We have the opportunity to help our clients grow their business, have more stability, enter new markets, create new jobs and more. For instance, this year we saw more of our clients looking to incorporate more autonomy in their operations. As a result, we pooled our collective intelligence together and launched an Autonomy Centre of Excellence to develop insurance solutions to better address the new risks that more autonomy poses.
We have this opportunity to provide the insurance but also define how the marketplace can define a risk exposure. Consider commercial auto. Insuring commercial auto is at a crisis level right now. We don’t write a lot of business. So we have to look at the model that should be deployed to helps make the world a safer place and protect jobs as well ascompany profits. What we do as underwriters is so important in people’s lives, in their business success.
3. You are involved in the APIW, IICF and the Insurance Supper Club. What does that involvement mean to you? What keeps you motivated to continue that work?
My involvement in each of these organizations is important. I believe each serves a different, but important purpose in our industry. The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), for instance, has done a tremendous job raising the industry’s profile in communities and helping recruiting young entrants into the world of international insurance.
For individuals in the industry, the Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW) provides valuable educational and networking opportunities. It’s built a community that women in the industry can call on for support and mentoring.
The Insurance Supper Club is an executive level networking group, more of a think tank. It brings together senior-level women to talk about key issues affecting inclusion and diversity in the industry. What’s important about these discussions is that, as senior level executives, we are in influential roles within our companies, especially in how we build and support our emerging leaders. When you have a senior cross section of the industry, having these discussions builds momentum, particularly when we bring it back to our organizations.
Sometimes I say that I have to stop overcommitting myself. But, every time I go to these industry events, I get motivated. I see that it makes a difference. And that makes it worth the extra effort.
We have an opportunity to change this industry. Five years from now, we should be different. Ten years from now, we should look even more different. We all have to make a personal commitment to make it happen. It’s not going to happen by accident.
The way I look at it, in this industry you can go very far if you allow yourself the opportunity and take the chance."
4. What do you hope for the next generation of women in this industry?
I think we are seeing a lot already. You see much more flexible work environments for everyone in the industry. There’s greater flexibility in hours you work and where you work. The technology that we use today is helping us build strong teams no matter where everyone sits. We don’t waste time figuring out how everyone needs to be alike and in one spot. I’m proud of the work environment that AXA XL has created.
5. What would you tell up-and-coming female professionals in this business?
I would tell them to stretch themselves. Raise your hands and jump at opportunities. Put yourselves in positions to learn more and take more responsibility whenever possible. You have to take every opportunity available to you. By doing that, you’ll be able to have more control over your career path. You will be able to steer your career to places where you want to go.
The way I look at it, in this industry you can go very far if you allow yourself the opportunity and take the chance.
Want to chat further with Nancy? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.