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A Q&A with AXA XL’s Business Insurance Women to Watch North America honoree

Carla Greaves, Global Chief Underwriting Officer, Casualty, was recently honored as a Business Insurance Woman to Watch for 2021. In her current role, Carla collaborates with regional businesses to drive consistency in global casualty underwriting, establishing the risk appetite, product design and strategy for casualty products across the organization, developing and delivering underwriting guidelines in accordance with risk appetite, administering the governance, underwriting controls and authorities, monitoring portfolio performance and developing innovative market-leading products. Carla has more than 30 years of technical underwriting and management experience in the insurance industry.


Fast Fast Forward
asked Carla about her recent recognition, her efforts to encourage other young professionals to choose insurance as a career and why it was the right choice for her. Here’s what she had to say:

Why are awards like Women to Watch important?
Women make up a large percentage of white-collar jobs – the kind of jobs that the insurance industry offers -- but very few of us reach executive level. The percentage of women drops dramatically the higher up in most organizations. Awards like Women to Watch spotlights achievement. It’s important for young women just starting out in this industry to see women in senior-level positions. And for me, as a woman of color, I hope other young women of color can see that they can build a career and reach senior levels in this industry.

What can the insurance industry do to attract more young professionals, especially women, to join us? Why was it a good choice for you?
Sponsorship is huge. I have been so fortunate that to have great sponsors, individuals who others saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself and they created opportunities for me. I thought I had to check every box to be ready to take on a new opportunity. We as women sometimes underestimate ourselves. Sometimes we need to be prodded a bit and I have been fortunate to have industry colleagues cheering me on.

I’ve had some really great mentors including my colleagues Patrick Tannock, CEO of AXA XL’s Bermuda Insurance Operations, and Nancy Bewlay, Global Chief Underwriting Officer at AXA XL, as well as my former colleague and good friend Cathy Duffy who now leads AIG in Bermuda. They have not just inspired me, but they have also taken me along with them on their career journey. While I have always been focused, ambitious and hardworking, I believe connecting with the right people has helped to enhance my knowledge and shape my character.

And yes, a career in insurance has been a very good choice for me. Underwriting has allowed opportunities for continuous learning. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazing and talented people working in this industry and most are keen to support you and share their knowledge. I have also had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the US, UK and Europe. Underwriting Fortune 1,000 companies, I have gained exposure to practically every industry class. Every company’s risk and insurance needs are different, presenting opportunities to first learn and then assess tailored insurance solutions for some very complex risks.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazing and talented people working in this industry and most are keen to support you and share their knowledge.

What can we do to keep them here? What kept you here in the industry?
Again, I think opportunities to learn, develop and contribute to a business or an organization’s strategies are key to keeping talent in this industry. As mentioned, these opportunities have certainly played a role in keeping me in the industry and at AXA XL.

And to be a workplace that retains young people, we have to improve our technology. The industry is not known to be cutting edge when it comes to technology and we are trying to attract and retain young professional that have been exposed to the most advanced technology there is. We have to keep things interesting. The younger generations do not like things to stay the same for too long and younger professionals are not known to stay too long in one place because they embrace change.

That’s not all. Like my sponsors and mentors have done, we have to create opportunities for them. Have them at the table. They bring different perspectives. They are the future after all. We have to look ahead and embrace their thinking. We need to be open to their suggestions and feedback.

Creating a strong culture is also important in attracting and keeping new and even the more seasoned talent. That’s what we’ve done here at AXA XL. I’ve been here for more than a decade because we’ve created a culture where people really care for each other and want to work together to succeed professionally and they also want the organization to be successful.

What advice would you give young professionals looking to make the most of their insurance career like you did?
I would offer the following advice to young professionals:

  • Surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. Feedback is important if you want to improve.
  • Treat people with dignity and respect.
  • Be adaptable and open to change because nothing stays the same.
  • Be self-aware. Know your worth and demonstrate your value.
  • Lead by example. Always operate with integrity.
  • Know that you don’t need to know everything or be perfect to make an impact. Make yourself indispensable to your manager and organization.

How can those of us in the industry do more to help support new talent?
Get involved. Both in your organization and in the industry at large. I am fortunate to lead a global team which is quite diversified in terms of gender, race and culture and I make every effort to ensure they are treated respectfully, equitably and have access to development opportunities within AXA XL and beyond.

It’s important to support your team’s participation in training and development courses and seminars that are beneficial to their career advancement. It’s also important to provide opportunities for them to become involved in special / high-profile projects that give them the opportunity to interact with other leaders in the organization. Recently, I advocated for a several team members participation in the AXA XL Rising Star program and I have also recommended several women of color for our Empower Initiative. We have to advocate for each other.

Be a mentor. I try to consistently mentor individuals within and outside AXA XL both professionally and personally. I’ve been involved in the Bermuda selection committee of AXA XL’s Graduate Training Program, which is a two-year global program aimed at recruiting, developing, and retaining potential future leaders.

And outside of AXA XL, I participate in an informal group of African American women, that promotes networking among women professionals in the insurance industry.

We all need to be involved to get others involved in this industry. There are so many opportunities here. Let’s show them.

 
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