For Alicia Calhoun, SVP at XPT Specialty, progressing in her career was driven by an insatiable hunger to learn and not feel complacent.
Throughout her decades-long involvement in the industry, she would define her shining achievement not as a specific business milestone, but instead, never being scared to take a chance and see where the path leads to.
“I’ve always had a fire in my belly to explore different facets of this profession and not fall into a place of feeling too comfortable,” Calhoun said.
“I’m constantly building up myself as a professional in the industry, but I’m always trying to break through new doors. Nobody can control my destiny but me.”
In conversation with Insurance Business, Calhoun spoke about the many moments in her career that were guided by an ambitious desire to learn, why mentorship is important to her and her hopes of building a family legacy in insurance.
Calhoun started her career in insurance back in 1999, when she worked in a hospital business office handling health insurance claims.
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“I kind of hit the ceiling where I was and came across an ad for an independent retail agent,” she said.
While she had claims experience in her current position, she was immediately drawn to the opportunity to explore a more detailed approach to the claims sector and was happy she had found a person who was willing to take a chance on someone who was equally as ambitious.
Initially hired for a claims role, Calhoun eventually switched to work as an account manager for commercial accounts, working on a broker’s personal book. Here, she able to acquire her P&C license within four months and her CIC license within six. She was also able to travel across New England while working on accounts in restaurants, car dealerships, contractors and home builders.
“Every hour I was putting on a new hat, and each business owner had their own view of what was important insurance matters,” Calhoun said.
12 years passed, and Calhoun encountered another opportunity to flourish, this time joining a budding a wholesale firm that would broaden her repertoire in the industry while focusing on the oil and gas industry, a sector she had not previously dealt with.
“I had a mentor who was willing to take me on, and we were able to build this business from the ground up,” Calhoun revealed.
After the wholesale firm was acquired in 2018, Calhoun’s ambitious mindset began to take hold, and she wondered how she would be able to progress into unknown but exciting terrain.
“I was always working for someone else, writing business for someone else’s book, and I was wondering if I was personally and professionally ready to step out on my own.”
Based in Houston at the time, she eventually acted on that impulse and began her own oil and gas practice group at Jimcor, located in New Jersey.
“I had to build a book with a non-compete, which enabled me to build new relationships with underwriters and other insurance professionals, basically starting from scratch,” Calhoun said.
For many the COVID-19 pandemic caused many to rethink their professional obligations as the world underwent a debilitating, yet revelatory reset.
Realizing that her business plans were not being met during her life in lockdown, she received an opportune call from LP Risk, which was recently acquired by XPT Specialty.
“They told me they were looking to expand its oil and gas business and wanted someone with my specialty to join along,” she said.
Being fully transparent with Jimcor, Calhoun decided to take the leap of faith once again and enter into another company while also being able to resume working in Houston.
“Working on the company’s oil, gas, construction and environmental books, I exceeded my first year expectations and am track to do so again,” she said.
One of the guiding principles that has led Calhoun to success in insurance is maintaining focus, keeping a positive attitude and nurturing an inquisitive spirit.
“One thing I will always practice is showing everyone respect,” she said. “The quote that I find most relative is, ‘treat a janitor the same way you would a CEO’.”
This empathetic perspective is also present in Calhoun’s willingness to mentor next generation women in the industry.
“Personally, mentorship has gotten me to every stage of my career,” she said. “And I want to be able to pay that forward, and help younger women navigate a career that they may not know how they can flourish in this industry, while helping them maintain the attitude that drives success and relationship building.”
Describing insurance as a rewarding industry that is bursting with opportunity in various sectors, Calhoun is hoping to engender this sense of excitement in her own kin.
“I have four boys, and what I would love to do is build a legacy in the industry and have my sons join the business in some capacity,” she said.
Whether you are analytically focused, sales driven or thrive in an independent, startup environment, “there is a different hat to fit any professional inclination.”
“What I want to do is showcase all the opportunities that are involved in insurance and pass that passion on,” she said.