There are some parallels between the insurance and legal industries – after all, both involve helping people and organizations with their protection needs. But for Aileen Spiker Berry, a former attorney and now executive vice president, professional liability broker at Amwins Group, she found her true calling – and her voice – in insurance.
Berry sat down with Insurance Business to discuss how she made the switch from her former legal profession into the insurance space, what she finds exciting about insurance, and how women can succeed in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
How did you become a broker?
I was an associate attorney at a law firm and realized that there were many things about the practice of law that I didn’t contemplate when I decided to go to law school. Like any profession, there is a lot you don’t understand until you are “in the thick of it.” I enjoyed the negotiations, research and analysis, and identifying possible solutions.
However, I found that the procedures were archaic and very frustrating. After a few years, I realized the legal profession wasn't going to change, so I began seeking out a career where my skill set would be valuable. My best friend from college was working as a property broker, so I took an interview for a position as a professional lines broker. I took the offer and never looked back.
What do you particularly enjoy about broking?
Negotiating the deal and the people. The aspects of the legal profession that I enjoyed the most carried over into my career with Amwins. Every day, new opportunities cross my desk, and there are always different types of businesses looking for different coverage lines.
The things I enjoy the most are negotiating with the markets to craft the right coverage, analyzing coverage forms, educating the clients and creating valuable solutions for the insured. I also enjoy the people that I have met along the way. It is fulfilling to be in a role where I help find solutions for clients and their insureds.
Can you tell me about your role and its key responsibilities?
As a professional lines broker at Amwins, I manage my portfolio and the team that helps make sure our clients are taken care of. Over the last decade, I have created strong relationships with carrier partners and agency principals.
My key responsibilities include negotiating insurance contract structures and educating clients on risks associated with business operations as well as how insurance coverage will defend them in the event of a lawsuit for negligence. I also help with training and developing new talent for the organization as well as analyzing coverage forms.
What are some common challenges you are seeing being faced by your clients?
The changing market landscape – particularly with cyber risk –has made it very difficult for clients to stay ahead of renewals. Technology and cyber coverage is a unique insurance product because it acts differently than traditional insurance products.
Since the insured receives a suite of services with the insurance contract, it offers more than just defense and indemnity. All of the carriers' forms are unique, and each has different eligibility requirements for coverage. Educating and preparing our clients well in advance of a renewal helps mitigate some of the challenges our clients face.
How can women succeed as leaders in the insurance space?
I have three key pieces of advice that female leaders can take away from my experience in insurance.
The first is to speak up. Some conversations are uncomfortable but use your voice to find your seat at the table. Finding your voice and not being afraid to use it will show confidence as well as help you influence others in negotiations.
My second piece of advice is to learn to delegate. Train your teammates so they can handle any task. If you teach people how to do things, they'll gain confidence and be able to accept any challenge you hand over. You can’t do it all.
Finally, it's ok to say no. This was tough for me, but I have learned that sometimes you have to say no. You can’t make every client dinner. You have priorities outside of the workforce and you don’t need to miss family dinner or a t-ball game
What is the current state of diversity & inclusion (D&I) in the US insurance workforce?
Good things take time. I feel that many companies are making adjustments and we are on our way. Obviously, it will not happen overnight but change takes time.
What is Amwins doing to promote D&I?
Amwins is diligent in its DEI efforts. We are working hard to create a culture that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion. In early 2020, we established our first DEI Council. This Council focused on a few key areas: career development, recruiting, inclusivity in the workplace and partnering with diverse associations within the industry.
During my time on the council, we set up a resource page on our intranet. Over the last 2 years, the DEI Council has put on numerous roundtables and educational events for the organization. We are currently partnering with key associations to recruit new and diverse talent within Amwins.