Former Aon Executive Nina Boone Says Strong Mentors Were the Key to Her Success
One of Nina Boone’s earliest mentors taught her a very important lesson: There is only one key to success — results.
“She told me no one would ever give me a pass in business, especially sales, without results,” Boone explained.
As she began climbing the corporate ladder, however, Boone learned that her key had access to countless other locks, and the greatest doors were the ones she couldn’t open by herself. “Winning is never fun alone,” she learned.
While growing professionally — she is the former U.S. leader of sales and acquisitions for Aon — Boone found satisfaction in being a mentor for others and helping them succeed, just as her mentors did for her.
“Always reach behind and pull people with you and help them grow and develop: That,” she said, “would let me look back on a ‘career well done,’ ” recalled Boone.
“I have never forgotten her or that conversation.”
Her positive outlook on life and drive in business ventures came from the foundation that her teachers and mentors laid before she began her career 25 years ago.
Despite this, business is not what fulfilled her and drove her passion; it was the realization that the industry provided her with the tools she needed to help people.
“I started my career in behavioral health direct service and had to learn about the insurance side of things to get patients claims paid,” says Boone. “I did not dip my toe in the risk insurance space until I came to Aon where I took a sales leadership position within their Greater New York office”.
Upon joining Aon, Boone set out to do what the industry was designed for; to act as a safety net in times of uncertainty.
“I am always proud when the industry does what it was meant to do,” she says of the hand insurance companies can lend in the healing process.
Especially after a catastrophe, the industry can play major roles in anything from helping families restore their home after a fire to ensuring financial security after the loss of a loved one.
Boone acknowledges the fact that within the industry the goal is the same; to mitigate risk, but the ways to achieve it are changing.
“The depth of history with this industry is one of the great things about it and also one of the things that holds us back. Holding onto the ‘old ways’ is just not something that is an option in today’s global, technology-driven economy”.
One of the most important ways Boone is looking to modernize the industry is with diversity and young minds. Her excitement comes from her commitment and focus to diverse and female founded private equity, venture capital and asset management.
“The players in this space are larger and more active,” she says. “We must find and attract the best talent — and that means diverse talent — for us to remain the innovative visionaries that our clients expect.”
Boone’s search for new talent is active, beginning with her leadership of Aon’s intern program every year. During her leadership, she has noticed patterns in the classes.
When considering a career with Aon, young professionals tend to develop ‘tunnel vision.’ They become attracted to the parts of the industry that are wildly exciting on the surface but realistically, they don’t know anything about them.
“As our interns research Aon and what we do, they always highlight Kidnap and Ransom, but all of our solutions become very interesting and differentiating when our clients need us – ask any client who has property damage after a hurricane. It is a great feeling to help a client or an individual get back from a loss.”
Boone is also working with fervor to change the misconception that insurance is boring. And that intended change comes with good reason—it’s not only exciting, it’s secure.
“You don’t have to ‘major’ in an industry or geography,” said Boone. Not only is a career in insurance sustainable due to the constant need for it, but there is a job to match everyone’s skill set. “The client base is broad and diverse, the problems are broad and diverse and the ability to make a difference is so outstanding that it is really exciting.”
“Education about what we do and how we make a difference is really all it takes to create interest and excitement … all of a sudden it is really alive with real life and real examples of what we do for our clients and the enormous difference we make when they need us.”
Considering client solutions are never consistent, the field presents endless challenges. It’s also an industry, like many other industries, that is being revolutionized by technology. That, according to Boone, is going to be the biggest influence when it comes to projecting the future of the field.
“I think that technology will change the industry more than anything else. The speed and intensity in which we work, the global nature and closeness we will feel even though we are continents away, and the way we will collaborate using technology with clients and colleagues,” she said.
But with the opportunities presented by technology comes the presentation of risk. As the industry becomes more cyber-based, the risk of data breeches becomes more prolific. This is causing a major shift in client’s risk profiles and the lengths that insurance companies must go to protect them.
And as someone who spent a quarter of a decade in sales, she knows better than anyone that there is no telling what tomorrow’s industry will bring, and she doesn’t have much time for guessing. “If only we all had a looking glass.” &
Ed’s Note: Nina Boone left Aon in September, 2019 to found her own business.