Risk is a fundamental problem that businesses face every day, and Ashley Hunter (pictured) has built her career helping companies solve it. As a founding partner of A. Hunter & Company, a global risk management advisory and consultancy firm, Hunter has a wealth of experience in solving problems.
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“You need to be nimble. You’ve got to accept nos and figure out how to pivot to find a yes,” she told Insurance Business.
Hunter is a moderator for a panel on strategic problem-solving at this year’s Women in Insurance Summit in New York. With a panel of fellow female leaders, Hunter will help unpack what it means to be an impactful problem-solver in the workplace.
Solving problems means constantly moving through thought processes – reframing problems and communicating and re-communicating them to arrive at solutions. But Hunter acknowledges it’s a skill that requires a willingness to bend.
“A lot of times, it’s just not getting too stuck in what you want the outcome to be or how you’d like the journey to the outcome to go because it rarely ever goes the way you want it to,” Hunter admitted.
Before founding A. Hunter & Company, she assisted start-ups and corporations with alternative risk transfer schemes and reinsurance placement globally as managing director of HM Risk Group, an international insurance brokerage and risk management firm.
“I spent most of my time talking to carriers, trying to negotiate terms and capacity. Most women probably reading this will know that it is a constant battle. I am constantly problem-solving, trying to figure out the best approach and who to contact,” Hunter said.
“I think women try to think that we can do it ourselves. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I realized that it is okay to ask for help because that will make solving a problem a lot easier.”
Ironically, Hunter’s advice for other women faced with problem-solving challenges is not to listen to advice.
“A lot of people have a lot of advice about how they did it, or how it worked for them and what’s best for them. I always tell women that they can take advice. But they should always trust their instincts because ultimately, my instincts have gotten me to where I am today,” she explained.
But building a community is important too. Hunter said that expanding one’s network beyond the insurance industry will prove invaluable, especially to women wanting to advance in their careers. Friends from complementary fields such as media technology have significantly boosted Hunter.
“I think that we are quick to be insular in the insurance industry. It’s easy to think: ‘We’re in insurance, and we want to network with only women or men in that industry.’ But you have no idea how people in complementary professions can help navigate and move your career to the next level,” added Hunter.
There’s no shortage of problems to solve in the insurance industry. One of the most significant issues is achieving gender parity at the top. Despite gains over the past few years, women are still vastly underrepresented in insurance companies’ C-suites.
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report in 2021, women continue to face a broken rung at the first step up the corporate ladder. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. As a result, fewer women move on to become senior managers, directors, and vice presidents. Women of color also lose ground at every step of the ladder. For Hunter, solving this problem means providing extra support for women through the leadership pipeline.
“You need to bring in women who have proven capable and ready for board positions. And quite honestly, you need to bring people in the room that look like you,” Hunter said, adding that women who make it also play a role in creating opportunities for others.
“If there aren’t any women in positions that can bring other women up, we will have boardrooms stay the way they do now. Eventually, the brain trust is going to all retire, and they’re going to leave the industry, and then we won’t have anyone,” she warned.
Want more top-level insights on problem-solving and other leadership issues? Join the Women in Insurance Summit in New York on September 7 at Westin New York Times Square. After a two-year break, the conference is back to reunite women in insurance for a day of networking, learning, and empowerment.
For more on the summit and how to register, visit newyork.ibwomenininsurance.com.