Workplace inclusivity in the insurance industry may have improved significantly in recent years, but it’s important to remember it was not always like this. In a business that has long been dominated by men, women have been figuratively fighting for decades to prove that they, too, could be leaders in the space.
For Victoria Dearing, senior vice president of professional liability & risk at Breckenridge Insurance Group, the battle is a familiar one. Her mother fought at these front lines years ago – and now she has taken up that mantle. Insurance Business spoke with Dearing to learn more about her work, her experiences, and what it means to proudly continue a legacy.
Can you tell me how you came to join the insurance industry? What has held your interest in insurance throughout your career?
I joined the industry when I was just 14 quite by accident. My mom would take me to her insurance office on the weekends and take files home to help them get ready for “paper free in ‘83”. From there, I took summer and after school jobs with agencies she worked with (she was a reinsurance broker/underwriter) to avoid having to work fast food – and it generally paid better.
I never intended to make it a “career”. I majored in photojournalism for my freshman/sophomore year of college. I fought going into the industry but it kept drawing me back in and in 1992 I found my current love, professional liability, and have never looked back. The diversity of classes of business and the new and different challenges every day has held my interest.
What have been some highlight moments in your career to date?
Some top highlights include:
- Working for the Illinois Big I with a mentor that was like a father to me and the many agency relationships I made that still exist today, 30 years later.
- Developing programs and heading a professional liability team.
- Taking over the enterprise risk management of Breckenridge Insurance Group and working for an executive team that supports my ideas and growth.
Can you tell me about your present role – and its key responsibilities?
My current role is SVP of professional liability and risk management. In that role, I function as the professional liability team leader nationwide and handle all the enterprise risk management for Breckenridge Insurance Group. My team and I directly manage a large professional liability book and three programs.
We handle all professional liability lines – allied health, architects & engineers, D&O/EPLI, cyber, miscellaneous, etc. The professional liability portion of this role came about due to my technical knowledge and agency relationships – I have some great long-term relationships with agents that have supported and greatly contributed to my success.
My role as the risk manager came about from complaining – (well, sort of!). I would talk about procedures and loss control so much that the position was given to me as it was obvious I was passionate about preventing losses within our own organization.
What are some of the key challenges facing your clients at this time?
Agents are having to work with a very hard insurance market. There are certain classes and coverages that it is not unusual to see 40-150% increases, coupled with shrinking capacity and tightening underwriting guidelines. I try to help them work with their insureds during this time to provide options and the best possible program in a marketplace where sometimes the best option is still nowhere near as good as last year in pricing.
What are some of the main ways you and your team are supporting clients in navigating these?
We provide education, assistance in deciphering coverage, creativity in layering and manuscripting, etc. to provide options that can help alleviate the current marketplace.
You were a recipient of Insurance Business' Elite Women award in 2018. How do you feel diversity and inclusivity has changed in the sector since then?
I feel that it has broadened a little more– women and minorities are being given looks for opportunities more than ever. We still must work hard and earn the opportunity, which should be the case. No one should be given an opportunity merely because their demographics “check a box”.
The better question is, how has it changed since I first started in the industry in 1981. In short, I stand on my mother’s shoulders. I am here, where I am, because of her and other women like her fighting to be taken seriously as more than just “file clerks and secretaries”. She was ahead of her time in her day. Women didn’t get to her level back then – she cracked the glass ceiling. She has always been an inspiration to me.