A Mover and an Underwriter: Morgan Shrubb Shares Her Insurance Journey to Head of Terrorism for AXA XL
Morgan Shrubb, at the age of 33, already leads an important business unit for one of the largest insurance companies in the world. Like many leaders in this industry, she was not very familiar with the profession in college, but once she found her footing, she moved up with impressive speed.
As she began her academic career at the University of Georgia, she knew she wanted to work in business but found the study of accounting, for one, a bit too onerous. True to established form, she pivoted and thrived.
Instead of the study of debits and credits, she moved into international relations.
She studied the history of wars and conflicts. Subjects spanned worldly topics, such as trying to negotiate peace in Rwanda or the hope of building a joint Palestinian-Israeli state.
Her study abroad in her undergraduate years included work helping the Hungarian Department of Education conform to European Union academic standards. She also toured Romania in the study of the human rights challenges faced by the Roma population.
“I decided I found that stuff really interesting and was happy I picked the major I picked,” she said.
She graduated during a recession and was lifeguarding to pick up a paycheck when a sorority sister recommended insurance as a career.
“There’s a bunch of young people who are cool and you don’t have to have any background,” she was told. What wasn’t there to like?
A Start in Insurance
Shrubb, who now plays loads of tennis in her free time, moved from her forehand to her backhand and procured a job as an underwriting assistant in Atlanta with Hiscox, (not a bad place to start).
Underwriting assistants, as we know, don’t make a ton of money. Shrubb was teaching swimming lessons on the side and yet again, made a connection that led to progress. A child she was teaching just happened to be the offspring of the head of terrorism for Hiscox.
“He got to know me, got to know my background, what I went to school for. It turns out he had an underwriting opening in Los Angeles for a terrorism underwriter,” she said.
He convinced her to take a run at a job in his group. She did and she landed it. The move to Los Angeles to take that job led to further opportunities for the opportunistic Shrubb.
“It was fantastic. I lived out there for eight years,” she said. That part of her life included a stint at Ironshore and a lifestyle that eventually included living in the sun-dappled, bougainvillea-draped beachside town of Santa Monica.
She joined AXA XL in 2019 and now heads a team that offers, among other things, stand-alone terrorism insurance, active assailant cover and nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological insurance, known in the industry as NCBR.
“We do terrorism liability, which is the bodily injury aspect of a terrorism event. I also write terrorism and war and political risk for film projects overseas,” she adds.
In her time at AXA XL, Shrubb stepped into a leadership position and has tripled the book of business her group handles.
Shrubb stays very busy, which she likes. She also likes that her career has its roots in a field — international relations — which suits her energy and attention span.
“I find the international news and events and relations fascinating,” Shrubb said.
As an underwriter of war and political risk, she’s happily compelled to pay close attention to international events. She also likes that her job focus can change very quickly.
“You overturn Roe vs. Wade, there are going to be protests and riots, things that I cover,” she said. “There’s a mass shooting in Texas, we start to get calls from brokers.”
Shrubb also pointed to the fact that the insurance products she and her team create and sell need to be nimble and flexible.
As an example, she pointed to the coordinated act of terror at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris where 90 people were slain in 2015.
“There was a need for a product, so a bunch of different markets, at the same time, started developing an active assailant product,” she said.
The film project product she and her team writes is executed exclusively with a brokerage network she has tight relationships with.
Game … Set … ?
These days, Shrubb is back in the Atlanta area, and as we mentioned, keeping her footwork sharp by playing tennis year-round, in addition to her other pursuits. She and her husband play as a mixed doubles team in the summer and the winter. In the spring and fall she is the captain of a women’s team.
“I play in the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association. It’s massive. There are hundreds and hundreds of teams in the city,” she said.
As to her professional success, Shrubb credits hard work and working her connections with helping her to move up.
“Everyone’s connected in this industry,” she said.
“Even if you think the industry’s massive and you’re going to work with someone one day and never see them again, you are going to cross paths with them.”
She has advice for those that would follow in her fleeting footsteps and try to match her accomplishments.
“This industry is way smaller than you think it is,” she said.
She recommends staying in touch with colleagues, present and past.
“Keep your relations up regardless of what city you live in and what line of business you are in or what your job is. I think that’s hugely important. You will work again with people you worked with in the past,” she said. “When you go to client meetings, meet the other underwriters in the room.”
There are so many opportunities in this industry to meet people and make the industry smaller and it’s really important to take advantage of it.” &