Every day should be a learning experience

Ask Lynn Oldfield about attracting and mentoring new people to the insurance industry, and her face lights up.

Risk Management News


Ask Lynn Oldfield about attracting and mentoring new people to the insurance industry, and her face lights up.

“Celebrating the property/casualty industry as a career opportunity for youth and for college, university,” says Oldfield, the president and CEO of AIG Canada, “and high school students are something we don’t do enough of, and we can’t do enough of.”

Influencing young minds and mentoring those in the industry is a passion for Oldfield, who has been with AIG/Chartis since 1991, starting as an executive liability regional manager, then moving on to become a national accounts sales and marketing and eventually becoming regional vice president.

“We run a program for Mohawk College insurance students, where we bring them in and we call it ‘AIG For A Day,’” she told Insurance Business. “We give them exposure to all areas of our business, and try to give them some career counselling and advice – while making it fun.”

The irony of giving back to students and paying it forward is that our own team members at AIG end up taking away more than the students do, says Oldfield.

“It is invigorating,” she says, urging others in the industry to bring the message of ‘insurance as a career choice’ to teens.

“Surround yourself with young, talented minds,” she says, “and the questions and queries are absolutely like fuel.”

Sending the message that a career in insurance offers myriad opportunities needs to be sent at an early age, Oldfield stresses, whose company recently hosted the Take Your Kid To Work Day, hosting six Grade 9 students. (continued.)

“In Grade 9 this year, the school is encouraging my daughter Mackenzie to plan her course selection with what university programs she is interested in today,” she says. “I find that very surprising; we as an industry need to get to the kids now. As for my daughter, we’re encouraging her to keep all of her options open.”

An Established Leader
Oldfield’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, as she received the honour of being named to the ‘Established Leaders’ category by the CIP, which also included Johanne Lépine, executive vice president and leader for eastern Canada at Aon Reed Stenhouse in Montreal.

“I was honoured. I have spent 31 years in the property casualty business in Canada, over 23 of them with AIG, and it was particularly meaningful that my team nominated me for this award,” says Oldfield. “I am moved and honoured.”

With just over three decades of experience in the industry, Insurance Business asked Oldfield what has changed in the insurance landscape.

“Everything. It is easier to talk about what hasn’t changed,” she says. “My career has been spent in the commercial side of the business. It is fast moving, it is interesting, challenging and filled with diversity. It is still very much at its core a relationship business. So building and fostering relationships with our broker partners and our clients – as well as our own team members – is a real core foundation that continues to hold my interest in the business.”

What has changed is the technology.

“The capturing and utilization of technology and big data,” says Oldfield. “It is a game-changer, and we are investing as an organization significantly in being able to capture and analyze and utilize many decades some of the most robust data in the industry, and turn it to use for clients to laser-focus them on their claims challenges; for our broker partners to create new growth opportunities; and for our own team members to assist them in their risk analytics and decision making.”

But in an ocean of available data, how does Oldfield find those valuable grains among all the chaff? (continued.)

“That is a great question. I wish I had the golden answer” she says. “I prioritize my information overload. I will focus on ‘new, new’ if you will. I have a particular personal interest in emerging young professionals and in leadership development. I spend vast amounts of personal time learning about how to mentor, expand and excite the generation that are coming behind us.”

The Three Es
What is important to Oldfield is teaching young insurance professionals the basics – what she calls the Three Es.

“You have to have education,” she begins. “Meaning you have to have a technical understanding of our business. That is easy. People can learn very, very quickly.

“You have to have experience. You have to implement a training program, like the one we have called ‘Take Them Along’ or ‘Take Your Underwriter With You.’ I don’t go anywhere alone – I run contests for people to join me at speaking engagements, or at conferences and panels, and at industry events.

“Finally, exposure,” says Oldfield. “That means creating opportunities, bringing young professionals along to interesting client meetings; robust negotiations – not so much so they can participate, but so that they can learn the nuance as to what makes a great discussion, and build their own network.”

“I love to see people experiment with their place in the industry. We have had team members from our finance and accounting team to our underwriting, we’ve had them move from underwriting to claims. And when one of our team members puts up their hand and expresses an interest, we are able to get them involved in a project where they can test drive a new skill set – or work with a new team to expand their horizons.”

That is created through our diversity of inclusion council, our emerging leaders, our training and development programs, and quite frankly through work teams where people are passionately pursuing something that interests them.

We have a very talented young team, and they are creating new products from scratch. (continued.)

“The innovation experience – we have an innovation ‘boot camp’ that really expands their thinking outside of the box. I don’t believe in directing talent, I believe in exposing talent to find its own path.”

That is the exciting thing about the property/casualty business, is that even after 30 plus years, Oldfield says she still learns something brand new every single day.

And with the recent additions to her leadership team, the reciprocity of knowledge has only increased.

“I have added some talented members to my senior leadership team this year, and they have taught me more than I believe I have taught them,” she says. “We have really upped our diversity of thought, and bringing folks from different backgrounds and different walks of life, different organizations, has created an opportunity to relook at how we do things, and how we can become more efficient and effective, and also a little more creative in our delivery.

“Diversity of background and thought creates the richest environment for growth.”


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