Rising Star Rachel Dawes on Pioneering Retail Solutions and Advocating for Mentorship in the Insurance Sector
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 throughout 2023.
Here’s our conversation with Rachel Dawes, casualty team leader at Aon and a 2023 Retail Power Broker winner and 2023 Rising Star.
Risk & Insurance: Can you tell us about the trajectory of your career in the insurance industry? What enticed you to consider this career?
Rachel Dawes: Like many in our industry, I didn’t plan on going into insurance.
I am UK-based, and took part in something that is similar to an apprenticeship program with the local chamber of commerce. This program included a placement at a local insurance broker. I knew this was my future. After completing the program, I began studying for the Associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII).
I had a goal to work within the London market, and my next step on the path to achieve this was to accept a reinsurance premium technician role at Guy Carpenter, locally, before moving to Gallagher Re in London.
At Gallagher Re, I continued to work on the premium processing side of treaty business. After nearly two years, Gallagher Re was acquired by Aon.
After I had sought new employment at an underwriter, my team leader from Gallagher relocated within Aon from U.S. casualty to another team and contacted me to see if I was interested in accepting a role within Aon. This was a great opportunity for me, and I accepted the role as a broker backup technician.
Since joining Aon over 13 years ago, I have been given fantastic opportunities to get involved with various projects across the global business company (GBC) and also to lead the technical team before moving on to broking and, now, leading a highly competent broking team within U.S. casualty.
R&I: What do you think are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
RD: Continuing to adapt the way I and we work to be fit for the future. This will include balancing the face-to-face interactions that are so crucial to the business we do with working remotely at times and continuing to use data and technology to build solutions that meet the needs of the client whilst not losing the subject matter expertise, which sets us apart.
R&I: What are your retail clients looking for?
RD: I believe our clients are looking to partner with an organization such as Aon, which can provide them with innovative advice and high-quality solutions through collaboration across not only geographies for U.S. casualty but also across industry solution lines. Also, the ability to call upon the significant data to guide placements such as Aon’s benchmarking capabilities and its knowledge of the market to [create] bespoke placements to meet a client’s present — as well as future — business model.
R&I: It appears that you take continuous education seriously. Can you explain more about the mentorship program that you are involved in? Who are your mentors and what have you gained from this experience?
RD: I have had different mentors during my career at Aon, having been given the flexibility to adjust as I progress along my career path. My current mentor is a well-respected member of the national casualty practice who has many years’ experience in the industry.
Through the years, being able to connect with a mentor has given me the opportunity to be coached through different scenarios and to gain a viewpoint from someone with experience who is not directly involved with my day-to-day role, therefore receiving impartial advice or guidance.
Aon very much encourages mentors to be in place for colleagues who wish to have one, and how you interact with mentors can be tailored to an individual’s need.
R&I: What do you enjoy most about your role at Aon?
RD: Aon provides colleagues with opportunities to develop and learn in a way that is tailored to the individual’s development plan versus being just focused on an industry line. This is supported by the ability to network across not just industries but also geographies, connecting with subject matter experts in the relevant fields.
With regards to U.S. casualty specifically, having a strong and supportive team is one of the key contributing factors that make my role enjoyable.
R&I: How do you set yourself apart in the minds of your clients?
RD: I always do my best to learn the needs and wants of our clients, expanding beyond direct insurance needs, as well as engaging with them as much as possible. I liaise with the wider Aon team and also our underwriting partners to build out a solution fit for purpose. &