Katherine Wilson, VP of underwriting at CNA, has been named the August Leader of the Month, voted on by the Women in Insurance Leadership LinkedIn group. Wilson has been with the commercial insurer since 2005 and held underwriting responsibility in a number of areas, including excess and surplus, package and general liability and currently, as head of general liability and umbrella underwriting.
Wilson has more than 25 years of commercial and surplus lines underwriting experience with the last 20 years spent in underwriting management roles. She earned a bachelor's degree from Fontbonne University in business administration and has worked for several carriers, including Royal Insurance, Crum and Forster, Chubb and Fireman's Fund.
INN: What challenges have you faced as a woman in insurance--and how have you overcome them?
Wilson: Challenges come in all shapes and sizes and I believe most can be solved. Most of the challenges I saw early on in my career were self-inflicted. But as my skills and confidence grew, I created fewer personal roadblocks. Today I view most challenges as an opportunity to make improvements, to find a better idea or to remove roadblocks for others. The key is to not feel defeated by challenges; instead meet them head on and enjoy the positive feeling after they have been resolved.
INN: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Wilson: I'm fortunate to work in an organization where I can provide input and feedback on many fronts. Working in an underwriting department, my decisions can influence the kinds of risks we accept and create the type of coverage we will sell. Working across the company, I have an opportunity to make decisions and recommendations that will help businesses meet their goals and objectives. Collaborating with these business leaders on risk decisions ensures we bring the best ideas forward.
INN: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Wilson: Creative thinking is best achieved through diversity of thought. Encouraging and respecting different opinions and viewpoints allows for better decision-making. The best solutions often blend disparate ideas into a common theme. Allowing others to voice an opinion brings the best ideas forward while getting more people to support the final decision. I'm always surprised when someone not close to an issue can come up with the best idea or solution. It's a good reminder for me to always check my stakeholder list to ensure I obtain a good mix of ideas.
INN: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Wilson: Every good leader has to be a great communicator. Effective communication will carry you through tough times by keeping people aligned and it will drive results during the good times. Sometimes listening can be the hardest part of communicating but a good listener will connect with others so much more quickly than a talking head. Knowing when to communicate and how much to communicate is also a delicate balance. But if the communication is honest and sincere, I think people usually respond favorably. I've seen teams accomplish great things through effective and open communication.
INN: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders in the insurance industry today?
Wilson: Every organization needs leaders to achieve business goals and results. In our ever-changing environment, insurance leaders must also balance the need to develop people and tools for the future. Understanding emerging trends and projecting the impact of those issues into the future requires strong technical skills and new tools. We have an opportunity to train and develop future generations of decision makers. By increasing the skill level in the industry, we will be better able to handle these future events. New tools and technology enhancements will really have an impact on how future insurance professionals will do their jobs. Driving this change effectively will ensure the industry stays healthy and relevant.
Want to nominate yourself or nominate a leader for the September Leader of the Month? Click here to learn more.
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