An insurance career was not top of mind for Jeanette Ward (pictured), chief operating officer at Texas Mutual Insurance. Student loans were calling, however, and an opportunity arose for Ward to get her feet wet in the insurance industry.
“I always tell everyone that this was my job until I found my real job,” Ward laughed. “I just fell into to it.”
Whether it happened by pure chance or not, Ward will have the opportunity to show how far she has come in the upcoming Women in Insurance Texas 2021 virtual conference.
It could be argued that destiny may have played a role. During the last two years of college in Texas, Ward, who was studying Liberal Arts at the time, also worked part-time in the Texas State Legislature. It was during this work stint that she found herself on the House floor when a bill was passed to create the insurance company, Texas Mutual - a company where she just “happened” to find a job a few months later.
Fast forward to 2018. With many different roles behind her and opportunities to see the inner workings of other departments. Ward was named chief operating officer at Texas Mutual - a top posting in a company that she had witnessed the formation of 24 years earlier as a young student. Named to a position that very few women have been able to reach, Ward has never looked back, recognizing that every step has helped lead her to where she is today.
Pausing when asked what she feels are the three keys to success in the competitive insurance field, Ward reflected that the answer lies in “being a problem-solver, never falling into boredom and being willing to roll up your sleeves.” Ward added that: “I was able to apply a natural skillset for problem-solving and process improvement and turn it into a great career.”
Despite unfair labels - insurance companies are designed to help clients
Convinced of the need to tell a good story, Ward is keen to point out the value that insurance serves. This value, she points out, can often be overshadowed by negative stereotypes. “With over 40,000 claims a year only a small percentage have any type of dispute – 99% of the time insurance works the way it is supposed to, making people whole again and supporting the economy,” she said.
Motivated by the belief that the insurance industry has the best interest of clients at its heart, Ward has worked hard to control the message. She and colleagues at Texas Mutual started a series of injured worker success stories to play for employees and to form the base of a set of advertising campaigns. Each of these success stories highlights the positive impact working with insurance professionals has had for many.
“Coming to work every day is fun and rewarding and most importantly, meaningful,” she said.
Technology, COVID and innovation in the insurance industry
There remains plenty of room for innovation from a technological perspective in the insurance field. Insurance is data-driven, where many transactions occur.
“I don’t know how we survived without technology,” Ward remarked. With the rise of venture capital investments, such as insurtech companies, insurance professionals have had to rise to the technological challenge, she pointed out.
The increased competition from outside insurance technology start-ups and increased automation has been positive - she is quick to add that it has forced insurance professionals to look at their underlaying platforms. Companies have been forced to modernize.
“The need to modernize and provide a clean slate for our technology foundation is forcing us to be responsive and flexible. We can take advantage of artificial intelligence in this context and machine learning,” Ward remarked.
Ward also believes that the shift in the industry to an increased capacity to work remotely coupled with the use of video conferencing technology during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay.
“My ultimate goal is to automate the non-value-added functions and tasks so our insurance professionals can do what they do best and deal with client needs and human interaction by directly working on insurance files,” she said.
When asked what single piece of advice would best help women insurance professionals, Ward does not hesitate with her answer.
“Just try,” she said. “You do not have to have all the answers. You do not have to have it all worked out, just try. This is what I have done.”
Climbing to the top echelons of management level in the insurance industry has not been a direct route for Ward, nor does she claim that it has been easy. What can be said is that by trying, results become evident, and success has clearly followed.
Ward is very keen to showcase her strengths and provide an ear to other women in the insurance field by participating in the upcoming Women in Insurance Texas 2021 event. By joining in on roundtable discussions (albeit virtually) and speaking with her female counterparts, Ward will be able to convey her passion for the insurance field - providing a female perspective to both motivate and encourage her colleagues to embrace areas of interest in the industry.