From sceptic to believer

She used to view industry negatively, but made an about-face into a fulfilling insurance career

From sceptic to believer

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Insurance isn’t a first-choice career for many, owing to the public’s lack of familiarity with the industry.

Even the best and brightest in insurance usually say they started their careers by accident.

“I definitely did not choose an insurance career by design,” Margaret To, CEO of specialty insurer Chaucer Singapore, told Insurance Business, despite majoring in actuarial science and risk management in university.

“Unless you have friends or family who work in the industry, you wouldn’t have the exposure or knowledge, and therefore wouldn’t aspire to work in insurance.”

In fact, To initially had a poor perception of insurance, but she grew into career spanning 20 years, and counting.

“After I graduated I didn’t know much about the industry and had been sceptical about the insurance industry growing up. It was tainted by stories about the unprofessional behaviour of life insurance agents,” she said.

To initially applied for jobs at several banks, but received no response. Then one day she was invited to work for broker Johnson & Higgins in Hong Kong (which was later acquired by Marsh). She spent three years with J&H, working on infrastructure development for their power, railway, and utilities projects in Asia.

She later shifted to Allianz, where she entered the underwriting side of the business. In 2009, she joined Chaucer Singapore, initially as a senior underwriter.

She became CEO in 2014.

“I feel very fortunate to be part of Chaucer, which has been a key contributor to the establishment of Singapore as the largest insurance hub outside of London,” she said.

As fortunate as she said she has been in her career, To said more work needs to be done in the industry to ensure other bright sparks find their way into insurance.

“We need to show them [young people] what a positive difference the industry makes to the world,” she said. “By supporting business risks we enable them to grow – our industry is an integral part of the economy.

“The path for success is not a short one – it takes time to accumulate years of knowledge through practise and exposure. [But] the rewards are great.”

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