• Laura Hay, Leadership |

Helping to solve big problems will never get boring

The insurance industry is transforming at pace and, as a result, is eager to hire a diverse workforce of talented individuals, including STEM women who can sometimes overlook the sector as a fantastic opportunity to build their careers.

As part of the STEMphasis blog series, I interviewed 12 extraordinary KPMG women who have enjoyed great careers in insurance. Many came to insurance by accident. Or, they didn’t anticipate the opportunities that awaited them.  Their message to other STEM women: “If you want to apply all your skills, you don’t need to take a ‘wild ride’ at a start-up firm or BigTech. Join insurance if you want to help solve big problems and innovate, and you should never be bored.”

Dive into big challenges

Alison Rose, Partner and Actuary at KPMG in Canada, jumps straight in to share some of the challenges STEM women can get involved in: “Some of the problems addressed in insurance can make other stuff look like nothing! For example, when you look at life insurance, you are projecting 100 years ahead to make decisions today. And there are a full set of tools to do this! Having a STEM background teaches you to tackle big problems.”

“I’ve met so many excellent minds here,” Anette Bronder, Partner at KPMG in Switzerland, shared “You’ve got so many excellent people around you and everyone has the bigger picture in mind. We’re moving from a data-supported world to a data-led world, and insurance is in the middle of all that.”

Insurance has demonstrated that it has a role to play in today’s most topical issues. For example, Vivianne Lefaliave, Head of Insurance at KPMG in France, highlights the global challenges she’s touched in her career: “Whatever you’re talking about, from natural catastrophe to e-business, insurance is linked in some way. That means that over the next five to 20 years, insurance has a role to play in almost all of the largest issues.”

And this can appeal to challenge hungry STEM graduates. Among them, Jessica Hong, Digital Transformation Director at KPMG China, points out that, “I like to help solve problems, including different challenges at the same time, and insurance presents that opportunity to learn. Now the industry is talking about AI and how to institutionalize these technologies into what insurance professionals do every day.”

Lead insurance transformation

Indeed, the STEM women I talked with are enthusiastic about the opportunities to help insurance transform for the future: “The role of insurance is changing and there’s so much excitement about using data and technology to connect with the customer. Insurtech can bring that innovation to a traditional industry,” says Alissa Ristic, Advisory Managing Director at KPMG in the US.

This means that there is opportunity for anyone who wants to be part of the processes. “From digitization and financial transformation, to regulatory change, and non-financial value creation for customers, there are lots of opportunities, and women really can raise their hands to help problem solve these transformations,” enthuses Helen Stijnen, Partner and Head of Insurance at KPMG in the Netherlands.

The industry knows that we need women to get there. Leanne Allen, Partner at KPMG in the UK, shares: “When an industry is innovating, particularly using data science and AI, it’s absolutely necessary to have diversity in your teams, to help ensure there’s no data bias. The industry must attract diverse talent to the insurance business.”

That message came across as these insurance women described the collaborative, ‘all hands on deck’ workplaces they have co-created. Fiona Chau, Partner and Actuary at KPMG China, points out that insurance has helped her make her way: “There’s so much demand for STEM skillsets and I’ve built a great network of amazing people who work together and lift each other up. That network is very important to me, to feel welcomed and included.”

Be curious, be bold and find your place

While these women recommend insurance as a great place for colleagues to develop their STEM skillsets, they also emphasize that sometimes women must push themselves forward, to find these opportunities, continue to grow, and stay relevant amidst evolving challenges.

So there’s a message here for women to be curious, willing to explore, and ready to use your voice to articulate your ideas and be heard. And, there’s a message for the insurance industry to ‘amp up’ its marketing and recruiting to attract more STEM women. 

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