Rising Star Kathryn Christensen on Cyber Risk, Mentorship in the Industry and This Year’s Brokerage Challenges

Aon broker Kathryn Christensen shares her perspective on industry trends, how she got her start as a broker and more.
By: | November 14, 2021



Come see the Stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk & Insurance®, with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars, those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokering talent.

Look for these expanded profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds now and continuing into 2022.

We sat down with Kathryn Christensen, senior consultant, risk finance and captive consulting for Aon, and a 2021 Captive Power Broker winner and Rising Star.

R&I: What was your biggest win as a broker in the past year?

I think it comes down to finding solutions for clients. It’s sometimes very hard — no pun intended with the hard market — to find opportunities to create solutions for clients.

So I would say, there’s been a couple of specific standout clients where we were able to restructure their programs, incorporate captive insurance solutions, and create quite material savings within their overall total spend. This solved problems and allowed clients to get back to focusing on their core businesses.  And that’s been the biggest win for sure.

R&I: What do you think the most pressing issue for your clients will be for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022?

It definitely depends on the client and what industry they’re in.  There’s certainly global trends that we’re seeing.

I think a lot of companies are still trying to get ahead of the hard market. You don’t want to be at the mercy of the way that the market is going. You want to try to get ahead of that and take control where possible.

Philosophically, I see this as moving from the position of insurance buyer to risk seller.  The foundation to this is understanding your risk exposures and proactively managing your programs strategically.

Cyber risk is also a very challenging area — as this risk continues to evolve, with ransomware becoming a particular problem in recent quarters.

I work with a lot of clients who are looking for solutions for emerging risks. Risks where maybe the traditional insurance market isn’t as big of an option. So utilizing a captive insurance structure creatively to create solutions where maybe there isn’t one otherwise available is a big part of my job.

R&I: How did you get your start as an insurance broker? When did you realize this career path was for you?

So I had a rather circuitous path. I feel like it’s very binary. Some people knew, right out of college — maybe even in college — and then some people kind of found their way to insurance.

I’m one of the latter. So within my family, my mother is in the insurance industry as an actuary.  I kind of wanted to go on my own path, and so I really started on the research side of the hard sciences doing biomedical research. That transitioned into going into consulting and management consulting which evolved and transitioned into insurance consulting.

And so I found my way to insurance, even though [that] hadn’t been my initial intention. As a side note, my sister actually did the same thing. She always said she didn’t want to do insurance and she found her way into the industry. It’s kind of become a family business.

R&I: Who has been a mentor to you in your career? What advice did they give that stuck with you?

I have been enormously lucky in having a lot of really, really amazing mentors.

There’s so many people that I will continue to look to as mentors. I think by far the most instrumental to me, someone to whom I am eternally grateful is Ward Ching, who is with Aon. He is just a rockstar at what he does and I love working with him because he is so good at what he does. You can learn just by watching him.

He is an amazing teacher and has always been willing to share his knowledge. He actually has been roped into being a university professor as well in his non spare time.  He helped to found the risk management minor at the University of Southern California. And so he’s actually a professor there.

Ward has given amazing, amazing advice from the really technical stuff to how to communicate with clients, which is fundamental to everything we do.

A lot of my job is learning how to ask the right questions to really get a better understanding of a client’s needs, and sometimes you end up identifying things that they didn’t even know they needed at the start of the conversation.

And then Ward has been absolutely amazing in terms of helping me to develop as a professional.

R&I: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to start a career in insurance?

I think that you should be thinking about skills that you’re developing and building and to also be honest with yourself about your weaknesses.

A lot of times that is a great way to identify areas for improvement and growth. I suggest thinking about your own development within the structure of your current role as well as where you want to be in the future so as you’re looking for opportunities to grow it’s both within that role and setting you up for the next role. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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