LexPro’s Julia Keenan Discusses Financial Lines and Empowering Women in Insurance
Do the right thing.
That simple advice from her parents has guided Julia Keenan throughout her career. As an insurance executive, there are decisions to be made everyday. Taking the moral path will typically yield solid results.
Keenan is head of LexPro, the financial lines division of Lexington Specialty Insurance Agency launched in early 2021. Keenan is focused on turning LexPro into the go-to market for excess and surplus insurance. It’s no easy task but Keenan hopes her positivity and moral compass will help get the job done.
We sat down with Julia to discuss her plans for LexPro, learn about the biggest risks facing small- and medium-sized enterprises, and her thoughts on how the insurance industry can get more women in top positions.
Risk & Insurance: You seem to have an entrepreneurial spirit. After working with two traditional insurance companies, you joined Validus Specialty, which had only launched months earlier. Now you’re launching LexPro. Does the insurance industry need more fresh ideas and entrepreneurial energy?
Julia Keenan: I think any vibrant industry needs a constant flow of new ideas and energy. There’s no doubt it’s happening in insurance.
I’ve been really impressed with underwriter training classes I’ve worked with. The underwriters who come out of these programs are so smart, well-rounded and professional. It’s really neat to watch them develop.
R&I: What are your main goals for LexPro?
JK: Right now the main goal is foundation building.
We want LexPro to be the go-to market in the E&S financial lines space. We will continue to build a diversified portfolio and a sustainable business, which we can grow within the Lexington organization.
We pride ourselves on the service we provide to our clients and business partners and to delivering quick turnaround times to our brokers.
Often in the SME space, the first quote is the one brokers need to win the deal. Our underwriters can be counted on to respond to their brokers quickly. We are constantly working with our operations teams to ensure that as we grow, we do not lose our ability to service our business.
R&I: Tell us about the progress so far?
JK: Our submission flow has been off the charts in the first two months of this year and new business has been really strong.
R&I: Does the insurance industry need more women holding top positions?
JK: The industry needs more diversity in top positions across the board.
There are a lot of women in middle management jobs. We need to work hard as an industry to get more women and minorities into C-suite positions.
R&I: How can the industry do that?
JK: We, as an industry, need to make sure that our people feel supported and have access to sponsors and mentors.
These relationships can be formal or informal.
I have benefited, and continue to benefit, from both sponsors and mentors over the course of my career. These people have been my sounding board when making career decisions, and their support has encouraged me to take risks.
It is so important everyone has a person outside of their direct line of reporting that can support them throughout their career, and it is important to us as leaders to step into these roles and help connect our employees to potential mentors and sponsors.
R&I: How do you see the financial lines market shaping up in the remainder of the year?
JK: I expect the market to remain firm. We continue to monitor the discipline of all new capacity to ensure that the terms, conditions and pricing remain responsible.
Right now, capacity still remains a bit tight in financial lines across the industry. At Lexington, we’ve seen a lot more SME business flow through the wholesale channel as we position LexPro to fully support this business and our brokers.
R&I: Why do you think the financial lines market will remain firm?
JK: Although many carriers have pushed rate over the past couple of years, more rate is still needed in certain areas, and capacity remains constrained. New players will help fill in some gaps, but primary directors & officers (D&O) continues to be challenging from a capacity perspective, and new risks have emerged in ancillary lines such as employment practices liability (EPL) and fiduciary.
It is important that we, as underwriters, remain disciplined, and continue to evaluate our business on a risk-by-risk basis. This includes focusing not just on pricing but terms, deductibles and limit management.
R&I: What are the biggest risks facing SME’s today — and how can LexPro help?
JK: Due to their size, SMEs tend not to have human resources or risk management teams. Without these internal services, the likelihood of an employment practices incident increases.
For example, SMEs face challenges determining appropriate return-to-work policies as the economy opens up.
LexPro works to provide clients access to vendors that will help with employment-related services. We also make sure that we are speaking to our insureds about these policies and underwriting to risks accordingly.
R&I: Why is the market ripe for a wholesale market offering for financial lines for SMEs?
JK: The public D&O market has been hard for the past couple of years, and retail brokers are spending much more time on complex, public company renewals.
This has caused a lot of SME private and nonprofit business to flow into the wholesale channel.
Additionally, there are still many tough-to-place risks that find their way into wholesale channels, and wholesale brokers have the relationships and skill to find a carrier to support these, often within a very tight time frame. LexPro has an extremely broad appetite in the SME space, and we continue to see increased submission flow across all industry segments from our wholesale partners.
We are a wholesale-only market. We have the ability to turn around business quickly and also have the underwriting expertise to handle very tough, complex risks.
R&I: Do you have a certain management style you’ve brought to LexPro?
JK: I have had the opportunity over my career to work under some very strong leaders, like Lou Levinson, who brings enthusiasm and passion to work every day.
These people always show up, and they understand that the key to success is an empowered and engaged team.
It is up to me as a manager to ensure that my team is supported and believes in what they are doing. My team is made up of some of the smartest and most talented people I know. It is so important that I ensure they are able to have a voice in the direction of the group. &