Why I love Insurance: Brett’s Story

This article originally published on InsNerds.
Today we feature a guest article by Brett McKenzie Wood, Director of Sales at Evosure.

I haven’t always worked in insurance, but I have always been a worrywart. I remember nights spent lying awake staring at the ceiling of my childhood bedroom and thinking about different ways to keep all the people I loved safe forever. As a little girl, I loved superheroes as much as I did Jem and Barbies, because I liked thinking that all the bad things in this world could be overcome with little more than a cape and a costume.

I have my own little girl now, and at age three, she so earnestly believes that good will always conquer evil: that our dogs will chase the neighborhood skunk away before it can spray her, that a kiss can make a booboo better, that daddy and mommy can prevent dinosaurs from entering our house (valid concern). To a degree, I think all people have a desire to stop bad things from happening, or at least, to minimize the impact a catastrophe has on the people and things that we care about. That is why I love insurance.

I’m only 33 years old, but since graduating college in 2004, I’ve worked for three presidential campaigns, a hedge fund, a manufacturing company, numerous online publications, an enormous non-profit organization, as a wine blogger, and I’ve spent the past six years happily ensconced in the world of insurance. How on earth did that happen? I give a lot of credit to the first industry job I had for instilling in me an appreciation for risk management that has allowed me to feel a little closer to the chaos-preventing superheroes I dreamed up as a child.

I joined Zurich in the fall of 2009 as a member of the media and public relations team, at a time when the carrier was arguably the leading innovator of insurance products and risk mitigation. I was surrounded by brilliant engineers who specialized in assisting some of the world’s most respected brands with their risk management programs. From distracted driving to hurricanes to cybersecurity to supply chain to climate science to solar flares, there was an expert on staff at Zurich dedicated to almost any risk you could conceive of. It was here that I learned about the three pillars upon which insurance is built:

  1. Risk Engineering, which identifies what could possibly go wrong (e.g. “our truck drivers are getting tired which we believe could cause accidents”) and puts programs in place to help prevent or limit those events (e.g., “install telematics and track driver behaviors to ensure breaks are being taken at proper intervals and safe practices are being followed”).
  2. Product and Underwriting, which relies on insurance carriers to build coverages that anticipate risks (e.g., “this business is on a beach in Florida and more susceptible than our other clients to damage by hurricanes”) and tailors policies that allow the insurer to support the customer in the event of an incident without either party becoming financially insolvent (e.g., “higher wind deductible for the coastal client to account for the extra risk the insurer is taking to protect the business from hurricanes without passing undue cost to other clients”).
  3. Claims, which strives to make an insured whole again quickly so that the client can get back to normal (or close to it) as quickly as possible after an incident.

I remember the first time an insured at Zurich told me we’d saved a life. One of his workers had been a dozen stories up in the air making repairs to a building when his harness malfunctioned. Just a few months prior to the incident, a Zurich risk engineer had been on-site and recommended implementing a back-up measure just in case a harness failed. Because of that back-up, the man went home to his family that night. That stuck with me for a while.

Thanks to mentors and colleagues who broke the nuances and industry jargon down for me into digestible bites, I had a fulfilling and rewarding insurance marketing and communications experience in my time at Zurich. And thanks to the global footprint of the organization, I got to see more of the world–whether on trips myself or through the eyes of a colleague two continents away–than most people twice my age.

When I joined Fireman’s Fund in 2013, I went from being a marketing person at an insurance company to becoming an “insurance person.” As part of an elite strategy team that felt like something out of an X-Men comic book, my colleagues and I pushed each other hourly to exercise parts of our brain that you don’t typically use in insurance business development. We were given access to leadership in product and underwriting that created cohesion I’d never seen any where before in my career. I felt like any unit of the company I was embedded with became an extension of my immediate team, and there was such a culture of humanity throughout the organization that there were daily examples to rebut the stigma of “big, bad insurance companies.” I remember a note of gratitude from a widower claimant that was read aloud at a town hall meeting which brought half of the room to tears. Charitable giving was at the heart of Fireman’s Fund, along with compassion in claims handling and an overwhelming sense of friendship in the halls. Fireman’s Fund’s path may have taken a turn before much of what we collectively envisioned came to fruition, but my time there taught me a great deal about having a heart in insurance.

Above the rockstar team at Fireman’s Fund: Back row left to right is Allison Windon (Allianz), Rachel Ahern (Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty), Melanie Rimmer (Berkley Program Specialists, a W. R. Berkley Company), front row left to right is Kristen Schmid (SWC Technology Partners), and me, and Lisa Rowland (Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty).

Like most Millennials do on a regular basis, I’ve reinvented myself again a bit this year. I joined EvoSure, “The Uber of Insurance,” which is driving modernization and focus through the way insurance is transacted between commercial insurance carriers and agents and brokers. When I came onboard, I traded in companies where I had tens of thousands of colleagues for a grand total of nine coworkers. The time I spent at Zurich instilled in me a sense of innovation and industry fundamentals that serve me every single day, and as anyone who has ever tried to pioneer something in a centuries-old industry knows, the heart and sense of teamwork I gained at Fireman’s Fund is not something I can function without.

Above left to right our head of marketing Cody Ward (whom I worked with at Zurich as well), myself, and our CEO Matt Foran.

One of my first projects at EvoSure required a graphic to go along with it, and we talked about how our technology comes to the rescue of brokers and agents who are at a loss for which markets to approach, and underwriters who are overwhelmed by out of appetite submissions. We decided to go with a superhero motif, and in an industry where women continue to strive for equal representation as their male counterparts, we opted to go with a heroine. I still keep this image on my desktop, a throwback to the chaos-preventing superwoman I used to dream about as a girl.

In a world with policemen, firefighters, teachers, and community organizers, it’s a tough sell to ask you to think of insurance as heroic. But trust me when I tell you that the people inside insurance companies are not what you think they are. There’s a little hero inside each of us, trying to minimize the harm and chaos, trying to outsmart the unpredictable risks, and trying to bring heart to victims of disasters, every day, in much of what we do.


About Brett McKenzie

A veteran of Zurich, Fireman’s Fund and Allianz, Brett brings extensive go-to-market and appetite communication experience to her role as Sales Leader at EvoSure. She is based in Chicago.

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