WIL NEXT 2020: CSAA's Laurna Castillo


Laurna Castillo is VP, Western State Product for CSAA Insurance Group. In this role, she is responsible for nine State Product Managers managing the long-term growth of their markets. Castillo also led CSAA’s Wildfire Risk Management project, bringing several departments together to help the company adapt to the changing reality of large-scale fire activity in the states she oversees. She was nominated by Ryan Vigus, EVP, Personal Lines Product.

What the nominator said
Ryan Vigus, EVP, Personal Lines Product
"With each promotion, Laurna quickly develops the strengths needed to succeed in the new role. It is the combination of high performance and ability to reinvent herself to meet new challenges, which gives me confidence Laurna has C-suite potential."
Digital Insurance: To what behavior, personality trait or practice do you assign the most credit for your success in your career so far?
The balance of knowledge, flexibility, and resilience have been key in my leadership and decision-making. In practice, enhancing these with some levity and humor has also been useful! To help demonstrate how these interact, I’d like to refer to a quote by the esteemed American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou: “I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going. I have respect for the past, but I'm a person of the moment. I'm here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I'm at, then I go forward to the next place.”

Personally, I think of knowledge as a learning and respect for the past. For many issues, chances are someone has encountered the same issue before! Utilizing the knowledge of what has worked well historically will help accelerate your progress. However, knowledge isn’t in and of itself enough to achieve success. In the moment of each decision, you must carefully center yourself to the opportunities above and beyond past practices. Gathering diverse perspectives and being flexible with established norms is necessary to drive “forward to the next place.” Which brings me to the last trait, resilience. Fully understanding established norms, yet challenging them to accelerate success is not always an easy path. Having the courage to drive new ideas and staying resilient when they don’t work out, while proudly celebrating the wins with your team is a key ingredient for long-term success.
Digital Insurance: What is your favorite, or least favorite, part of working in insurance?
Working in the insurance industry can be described in many ways; it’s complex, exciting, traditional yet innovative, and has many established processes yet vast opportunities to be dynamic! This dichotomy is my favorite part of being in this industry. I consider myself to be a lifelong student in insurance theory, and drive this way of thinking throughout my team. Together, we are not only able to continuously learn, but discover new ways of thinking above and beyond established norms.
Digital Insurance: Is there an area of insurance you see as needing improvement from a digital perspective?
One area that does not receive as much attention is around education and development for new and lifelong insurance students. While education in general has made huge strides in recent in years to using digital capabilities to gamify and iterate the learning experience through artificial intelligence, our insurance education process is antiquated. Actuarial exams still utilize long texts that are often times decades old and the study process is cumbersome. If we were able to create a digital program with study modules, testing, and utilizing artificial intelligence to optimize where students spend their time based on performance, we can significantly cut down the amount of hours insurance students spend studying! These hours can be used productively to further the insurance industry such as on new iInsurance research.