Since its inception at the start of the new millennium, AmRisc - a managing general underwriter (MGU) for commercial property risks – has nurtured something unique in the E&S marketplace. It’s not only about technical expertise, solutions or market capacity (although the MGU boasts impressive differentiation in those areas); rather, what makes AmRisc an anomaly is the percentage of women the firm has hired and supported through to management positions. In 2020, approximately 40% of AmRisc’s senior management team and 65% of its middle management team are female – and the firm has a clear roadmap in place to see these women progress further, especially in the realm of executive management.
The MGU, which is a leading provider of catastrophic wind capacity in the United States, hasn’t always been this way. It was founded in 2000 by a group of male engineers who all went to college together. As the company grew over time, they started hiring underwriting analysts, many of whom were women. Then, via friendly referral, more and more women started joining AmRisc and the more experienced cohort progressed into management positions. Unlike many other insurance companies today, AmRisc’s female-heavy workforce can be described as a natural evolution built from homegrown referrals and internal promotions, as opposed to the concerted effort that many firms have had to put in to hire more women.
So, what made AmRisc such an attractive place of work for female employees? Laura Beckmann (pictured), AmRisc Group president and chief operating officer, said it’s all down to culture, camaraderie and the clear opportunities the MGU provides for career development and growth.
“AmRisc is a very family-oriented company; there’s a lot of support and internal camaraderie among our teammates,” Beckmann told Insurance Business. “We also provide clear opportunities and career paths for our employees to grow. When it comes to leadership, we will always consider women for management positions. Our female employees see that, and they’re encouraged to grow because they know there’s a potential spot for them. My goal now is to start getting more of a balance on the executive management team. I’m the only woman on the team at present, so I’m working hard to identify who might be right for future executive positions and what they bring to the table. We have a lot of women in management positions within AmRisc, so we’ll likely see more natural evolution where more women progress up the ladder.”
Over time, AmRisc grew such a significant female teammate base that the MGU had to do something almost unheard of in the insurance industry today, which was to actively seek out more male employees. As Beckmann pointed out, having a high-majority female or high-majority male underwriting unit is “not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily very diverse either.” Recognizing the importance of diversity in the workforce, beyond diversity of gender, AmRisc has made a concentrated effort in recent years to target and hire external underwriters who can bring a fresh perspective to the very organically grown firm – an exercise Beckmann says has brought some “fantastic talent” into the MGU. Nurturing and retaining that talent is the next step, which is why AmRisc places such importance on mentorship and sponsorship.
“One thing I’ve noticed as we grow is that when I post [job adverts] for management positions, oftentimes I’ll hear crickets from the workforce,” said Beckmann. “We need employees who want to manage people and are passionate about it. If you start identifying that talent at an early career stage, and you see somebody who is passionate and wants to learn more about management, then you can use mentorship and sponsorship programs to provide support. That’s better than getting to a point where somebody is retiring and it's difficult to find a replacement for them because nobody’s raising their hand. At AmRisc, and I think the industry in general, we’re starting to recognize that, which is why we’ve seen some positive developments in [career] support programs.”