Despite coming from a long line of insurance professionals, Jennie Carr (pictured) never had any plans of following the footsteps of those who had come before her. However, when she had a chance to talk to Arlington/Roe & Co. president and CEO Jim Roe when she was studying Communications & Culture at the Indiana University Bloomington, she had an epiphany: right there and then she knew that she would want to take the chance to work for the firm.
Carr started her foray into the insurance space in information technology support at Arlington/Roe. After just over a year, she moved to the firm’s marketing department and, from there, she worked her way up and now serves Arlington/Roe as senior underwriter & broker.
One key to Carr’s success in the insurance space has been the relationships she has built with retail agents, carriers, and colleagues. In fact, she has been deeply involved with the insurance community: she is a member of Indiana’s Young Agents Committee and the Nautilus Insurance Company NexGEN Committee.
While she started with limited knowledge of insurance, her determination and desire to serve and create solutions for clients made her a seasoned insurance professional and a role model to up and coming professionals in the industry.
Outside the insurance sphere, Carr serves as a board member for the Early Childhood Education Board for the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis. A mother of two young boys born with bilateral hearing loss, Carr also puts time and effort in to assist and volunteer for the Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing and HEAR Indiana.
In this exclusive interview, Carr tells Insurance Business the biggest issues the insurance industry has to face in its current setting and also shares some advice on how women in the industry can break through the glass ceiling.
Tell us how you got into the insurance industry, what led you to this career?
I come from a long line of insurance professionals, and I had no plans to join them. Now, almost 14 years later, I consider myself a “lifer.” While I was still in college, I was inspired to join the Arlington/Roe team during a four-hour eye-opening meeting with our president and CEO, Jim Roe. I was motivated by the values and the opportunities at Arlington/Roe, and I was equally inspired by what it means to people, businesses and our economy to have access to the security that insurance provides. My knowledge of insurance, at that time, was very limited, but I knew it was an organization for which I wanted to work.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work in the insurance space?
An insurance career turned out to be a lot more fun than it sounded. Beyond the ongoing task of building my knowledge of insurance came the real job of developing relationships and earning the trust to find and create solutions. Working in the excess and surplus lines side of the business gives me the opportunity, more often than not, to think outside the box. My job can be extremely rewarding when I can pull a rabbit out of a hat, so to speak. It’s not always the end result that is gratifying, although I absolutely love binding business and making deals happen; it’s the journey of working with agents, my internal associates and insurance company teammates that ushers long-term fulfillment.
What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the insurance industry today?
I believe our most challenging issues are not specific to the insurance industry. Technology has no doubt changed how we do business. Technologies are traveling and demographic differences are converging at lightning speed. What are the possibilities and risks associated? How does the industry maintain relevance to an increasingly tech savvy and speed insistent insurance-buying public? We need to be proactive, add value and stay relevant. I think that a lot of us on all sides of the business are grappling with this task. There are just so many questions, but we can also use these advances to improve and to grow. Perhaps the most important question is, what are the opportunities?
I believe we will automate what can be automated without gaps in coverage. I also believe that the complexities of these possibilities will provide us the opportunity to be students of the business and problem solvers. It will allow us the ability to have more face time with the clients, and less time entering and re-entering data. We have resources at our fingertips, and are able to conduct business from just about anywhere! It is an exciting time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?
Attitude is everything.
Do you think a glass ceiling exists for women in the insurance industry? How do you overcome it?
The topic is of great interest to the sociologist in me. I think it does exist in many instances. I also think that it has also evolved and is more nuanced than it was in previous generations. More women are being “seated at the table” and the glass ceiling metaphor is not as prominent as is the issue of equal pay. A great deal depends on an organization and its leadership. I am lucky to work for an excellent company. That’s important. I imagine that it all hinges on the culture of the people with whom you work. At my company, if you work hard, you are smart, and you care about people, you’ll pave your own way to advancements, male or female.
To others feeling like they need to break through, I would suggest they not fear being the only woman in a group, but also don’t be disappointed if you aren’t. Women must support and promote other women professionally. Get involved, volunteer, find a mentor, be a mentor, never stop learning and keep a positive outlook. And if all that falls short, find another employer or start your own business.
Tell us briefly about your company and its role in the insurance industry. What makes it different from other companies in the same space?
Arlington/Roe is a family owned and operated managing general agency and wholesale insurance broker. Since 1964 the company has grown to $205 million in premium, with eight office locations and 185 associates. We do not write life & health products nor personal auto. For all other risks, main street or highly complex, we have the expertise and over 200 markets. A few differences that I value:
We have strong relationships with our markets so we can go to bat for our clients.
We have standard market contracts as well for agencies that don’t have access to national carriers so that they can compete.
We celebrate our people, we are philanthropic, and we are lots of fun!
If you were not working in the insurance space, what would you be doing now?
I would likely be a sociology professor and/or Pilates instructor, or maybe I would be working to help children who are hearing impaired. My two young boys were born with bilateral hearing loss and wear hearing aids. This experience has opened up a whole new area of interest for me. Perhaps I would explore speech and language pathology, early intervention or outreach work. But as I said earlier, I truly do hope to have a long and fulfilling career in the insurance world.