Women in Insurance Leadership 2019—Sandy Ball, Global Bankers Insurance Group
Shortly after Global Bankers Insurance Group opened its doors in the fourth quarter of 2016, Sandy Ball stepped into her role as chief human resources officer and began to help support the firm’s rapid growth and expansion. Her efforts have had a huge material impact on the organization’s business model. Her remarkable ability to find and hire the right talent across disciplines including M&A, legal, actuarial, IT and distribution has helped GBIC get established, grow and thrive.
By building out the insurer’s team from scratch and establishing an exciting corporate culture that keeps associates engaged and productive, Ball has been instrumental in helping the firm grow from $700 million in assets under management in January 2017 to $9 billion by the end of 2018.
Previously, Ball worked at Genworth Financial rising to the position of VP of HR, where she supported Lou Hensley, who was then president of life and annuities. In late 2016, Hensley left Genworth to launch GBIC. Months later, he brought Ball aboard to become the fast-growing startup’s one-person HR team.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to take everything I’ve done in my career and build the entire HR function from scratch,” Ball says. “And when you partner with a good leader, the impact HR can have on the business is endless.”
Her initial responsibilities as a one-person HR show included building traditional activities – recruiting, performance management, employee relations, policies, benefits and payroll. However, with her broad industry knowledge and leadership abilities, Ball also became responsible for GBIC’s marketing and communications, facilities and leadership and development teams. She’s also in charge of the firm’s social media activities.
To Ball, HR goes way beyond the traditional hiring and procedural responsibilities. “I’ve always wanted to re-brand how HR functions in a business because it’s really much more than people realize,” she says. Part of her role has been helping acquire new companies and assimilating them into the GBIC family.
“For me, when I stepped into this role, I really considered the culture and company we are trying to build,” she adds. “We are trying to build a different kind of insurance company through technology.”
For instance, Ball explains that she has intentionally focused on attracting and hiring people right out of school or from outside the industry. Ball believes in investing in employee development and likes to give early-career associates a “stretch assignment” – a project they can own that can help them grow and learn.
“Our culture is to be creative and do things differently, and these assignments encourage that kind of thinking,” Ball explains. “Sometimes associates come up with ideas that aren’t what I’d want to do. But I have to step back and understand that these are the people we’re marketing to, check myself, and remain open to new ideas.”
A sporting chance
Athletic all her life, Ball learned the importance of team dynamics early on. And because her mom was often her coach, she also learned to accept – and give – constructive feedback. She’s quick to coach associates if it will help their growth or their performance. Ball is also forthcoming in her advice to others who want to grow their leadership abilities. For managers, she customized a six-month leadership development program called Managing with Moxie. This effort increased manager effectiveness scores.
“You have to know and be yourself, be open to feedback and figure out where you are likely to be successful and surround yourself with people who will support you,” she advises. “You have to be true to what you really want to do and who you want to be. Weigh in. Have an opinion. Join the broader conversation.”