From Recession to Pandemic, This Marsh Broker’s Journey in Making Success Her Mantra
Navigating the insurance world right out of college can be daunting, especially for those who may not have been looking for a career in the industry to begin with.
Sarah Griffith graduated in December 2007 with a degree in communications but soon found her job prospects were at the mercy of a turning economy. Instead, after some searching and a little help from her aunt, she found herself at AIG, working in the company’s executive liability practice.
“As you might imagine, being at AIG in 2008 was a pretty interesting time,” she said.
Certainly, navigating insurance first thing out of college can be daunting; but entering into the business right around the start of the 2008 financial crisis was a whole other ballgame.
Luckily, Griffith’s can-do attitude was there to help her succeed.
“I didn’t know where AIG was going to go or what that would mean for my career, but I stuck it out.”
Ultimately, she said, working through that experience taught her a lot about the corporate world — and about herself and her own career goals. She moved to brokering a few years later taking on a role in Wells Fargo’s insurance department, where she was introduced to this whole other side of the business.
For Griffith, it stuck.
Today, she acts as a senior vice president and account executive at Marsh after spending several years brokering for Beecher Carlson. In that time, she said the piece of the insurance puzzle that’s made it all click is working through the complex challenges clients present and finding them solutions.
Applying Philosophy to Suit Clients’ Needs
Griffith is driven by what she does, which is reflected not only in her career accomplishments — being a 2021 Transportation Power Broker for one thing — but also in how she approaches her job.
“It’s so important to put yourself into your client’s shoes and really feel like you’re sitting on the same side of the table as them,” she said. “[Brokers and other insurance partners] should be viewing ourselves as an extension of the risk management team.”
This philosophy to brokering especially aided Griffith in putting solutions into place for her clients this last year. It goes without saying that brokering has its challenging times; but brokering through a pandemic?
“That’s the unknown unknown,” Griffith said.
2020 put every insurance partner to the test. No one knew when the world would be back to “normal,” which is even true today as restrictions and guidelines continue to update regularly. Taking that one step further, few can truly predict the full impact of COVID-19 on individual businesses long-term.
“That has made it really challenging for us to be brokering in the market on clients’ behalf,” Griffith said.
Luckily, Griffith was able to put herself into her clients’ shoes during the brunt of the COVID-19 storm.
With one client, she helped navigate a difficult D&O renewal in spite of a security class action being filed against the client 45 days before the renewal date. She said the team had to completely pivot its strategy to deliver a program that would work for the client, utilizing strong relationships within the market along the way.
Another client faced an investigation from the Department of Justice following allegations against one of its employees. Upon further internal investigation, the company uncovered several other issues that led them to a trying renewal process. In what can only be called a Herculean feat, Griffith and her old team at Beecher Carlson delivered.
“These clients were some of my proudest successes,” she said. That’s because not only were the challenges presented met with solutions that fit, but also because Griffith was able to put in the work needed.
“One of the most important things a broker can do is not be afraid to put in the work,” she said. “I have such an appreciation for what goes into even the most tedious parts of our job.”
Working Hard Beyond the Pandemic
In addition to putting in the work, Griffith strives to be curious and resourceful — both of which she believes are key qualities in a broker.
“That’s not just in receiving information but also in processing it and asking questions.”
“It’s so important to put yourself into your client’s shoes and really feel like you’re sitting on the same side of the table as them. We should be viewing ourselves as an extension of the risk management team.” — Sarah Griffith, senior vice president, account executive, Marsh
Her desire to know more about the industry and find answers aids Griffith in addressing some of the other pressing risks facing her clients outside the pandemic.
Ransomware and cyber security, she said, are top of mind when it comes to monitoring market trends.
One doesn’t have to venture too far to find cyber in the news. In just the last few months alone, ransomware attacks have topped headlines, from a breach that poisoned Florida residents’ drinking water to hackers shutting down the Colonial Pipeline.
“We’re keeping an eye on what’s happening with ransomware and how that’s going to impact the cyber market,” said Griffith. “This is critical for our clients right now.”
The power of data is another trend Griffith’s watching.
“You hear all these things about machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’re looking at what does that mean for our clients and how can we, as their brokers, help them leverage the data that we have to make them a better risk as well as help them figure out how to better finance their risks,” she said.
Carving Out Space for the Working Woman
Through it all, Griffith’s drive and perseverance to find success for clients and herself alike have been at the core of her brokering approach. Digging in to find the answers to tough questions has always been a key practice of hers.
But in addition to working hard and getting her clients what they need, Griffith is also striving to carve out a space for the working woman.
“Something that was in the back of my mind early in my career was that I didn’t see very many women in the industry,” she said. “The workforce didn’t always model what I envisioned for myself for my future.”
She wanted to find a place that suited her career goals as well as supported her desire to have a family and garner success in other aspects of her life in addition to her role as a broker.
“It’s one of the reasons I was so attracted to Marsh,” she said, reflecting on where she is today. “It’s an empowering place for the working woman and the working mom.” &