Always keep your eyes and mind open and never stop learning - that’s the message from Enya He, one of Insurance Business America’s Elite Women 2017.
Born and raised in China and educated both in China and the US, He brings something special to the insurance industry. She has a Bachelors, Masters and PHD in insurance and has knowledge across multiple markets.
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He is currently the South Central regional director for Lloyd’s, with responsibility for market development activities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. She manages relationships with multiple stakeholders, including Lloyd’s underwriters, Lloyd’s brokers, US retail and wholesale brokers, independent insurance agents, and risk managers, as well as many trade associations.
Before joining Lloyd’s, she was a tenured professor in insurance at the University of North Texas. Back in her native China, He worked for Ping An Insurance Group, Tong Tai Insurance Brokerage and Swiss Life Group.
She is an active director on the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation Southeast/Texas division board and a member of the National Steering Committee for the Women’s Insurance Networking Group.
Resilience, experience and a passion for learning have helped He thrive in the industry. We caught up with her to find out more:
Why are you passionate about insurance as a career?
My father passed away when I was six and my mom was making minimum wages while raising three of us all by herself. I grew up in one of the tough neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city where most of my friends did not go to college. I stumbled into insurance by fate and luck. Insurance has changed my life, not only by providing a good way of living, but also by enabling me to help others both at work and in the community.
What was it like building your career in China?
Two things I learned most from the Chinese culture that I grew up with are the need for resilience, and to never stop learning and getting better. Chinese are very resilient people: we fall, we get up and try again, and we don’t quit. In a way, Chinese culture is also embedded with a sense of urgency encouraging us to keep learning. Not getting better is equivalent to falling behind, which is very true in today’s competitive marketplace.
I was very lucky. When I was in college, China began opening its doors to the outside business world, with insurance leading the way in the financial services sector. The presence of many world insurance leaders in China, including Royal & Sun Alliance, AXA, Alliance, AIG
, and Swiss Re, created great opportunities for many Chinese including myself to work with and learn from the best in the insurance industry. Gross insurance premiums in China grew rapidly from a little over USD 250 million in 1980 to over USD 400 billion in 2016, now the third largest insurance market in the world. While it has not been easy, China has come a long way and has picked up things quickly – always learning is the key.
How have you found your time at Lloyd’s and what have you learnt from the company?
Lloyd’s is always very exciting and fascinating, but it also has some mystery in the sense that people don’t quite understand it. We are the best-known yet least understood brand, given the unique structure of Lloyd’s being a marketplace and not an insurance company.
I am honored and very excited to be a part of Lloyd’s. In the US, our Lloyd’s team works with hundreds of stakeholders in our respective regions, many national stakeholders as well as the 200+ Lloyd’s brokers and 90+ Lloyd’s syndicates. We partner with multiple stakeholders who have different objectives and goals. They also all have different interests, which can be very challenging, but also fun.
The best thing about working for Lloyd’s is the people inside and outside Lloyd’s. I have met so many amazing people from all sorts of different backgrounds, who are wonderful, talented, passionate, energetic and it has been nothing but fun working with them.
What about gender and diversity in the insurance industry?
While major challenges still remain in today’s environment, we have made great progress in attracting diverse talents to our industry. We certainly owe a great amount of appreciation to those before us, women and men, who have broken the ceilings and risen to the top, and who have fought to get us where we are today. Personally, I am very grateful to the many men and women in my life who championed, mentored and sponsored me along the way. Across the industry, the effort and initiatives from organizations, such as the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), its Women’s Insurance Conference Series and Multi-Generational Conference, Women’s Insurance Networking Group (WING), and the Dive In Festival started by Lloyd’s, are now expanding globally and will continue to advance diversity in our workforce.
What advice would you give to someone trying to make their way up the insurance ladder?
Always keep an open mind and a little patience is very helpful in our business. Even if the first person you interact with and the first position you take is not that exciting, try to give it some time and be patient. Most importantly, always keep your eyes and mind open and never stop learning. Insurance is such a vast field with many facets and ample opportunities for everyone. We will never know everything but if we learn something new every day and use that knowledge to help people, it is very rewarding.
If you weren’t working in insurance, what would you be doing?
I love good food and enjoy cooking as well as travelling. Perhaps I would have a food truck, be a chef and cook for people. I love to be creative in my cooking and enjoy helping people with my healthy yet easy recipes.
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