Rising Star Tamarah Holm on Higher Education’s Biggest Risks and a Broker’s Role in Addressing Them

Tamarah Holm, a 2022 Higher Education Power Broker finalist, knows a thing or two about carving a path in insurance. Here she shares some insight into brokering and what young entrants can do to succeed.
By: | September 21, 2022


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 2023.

Here we meet Tamarah Holm, account executive in the higher education practice at Gallagher, and a 2022 Higher Education Power Broker finalist.

Risk & Insurance: What drew you to brokering for higher education?

Tamarah Holm: Higher education has so many moving parts, you can never get bored.

I recently visited a client, and while on a campus tour I said, “It’s really like running your own city.” One university may encounter health care, aviation, research, construction, manufacturing, international operations — just to name a few.

I appreciate the challenge in learning something new; few questions surprise me at this point.

R&I: What are some of the key risks facing the education industry, and how do you make sure you stay knowledgeable of these risks?

TH: Cyber liability continues to be a challenge across all industries, but higher education is a prime target for cyber criminals. This is due to the large quantities of sensitive information collected and stored within university systems, including financial, medical and research data.

Colleges and universities are investing in tools to improve controls like multi-factor authentication and endpoint detection, but cyber criminals continue to get more resourceful. This is leading to more restrictive terms from cyber insurance carriers at higher premium levels.

We have spent more time on cyber insurance than ever before. It is my job to keep clients aware of the ever-changing requirements and to provide regular updates throughout the year so that nobody is caught off guard. This year, we are providing each client a pre-audit of their underwriting applications with a cyber professional detailing areas of perceived deficiency or improvement.

Another key risk facing higher education is sexual misconduct. Over the last five years, the higher education industry has been impacted with several highly-publicized claims or settlements in excess of $100 million. Many carriers have exited the market or have started to exclude this coverage.

We continue to work with our carrier partners to show that not all risks are the same and to differentiate those clients that have gone above and beyond regarding this issue. Other industries have had similar challenges with sexual abuse in years past, and we’ve consulted with experts in those practice groups regarding strategy and carrier partners.

R&I: Describe a typical workday for you. What are some of the tasks others might be surprised you do?

TH: My day starts early. I set aside time each morning to read insurance publications and client news articles over my first cup of coffee.

I then make a list of “must do’s” for the day and hope to get through about half of the list.

I touch base with members on my team at least twice a week to get a rundown of things they may be working on with clients independently. A good part of my day is spent having conversations and developing relationships with carriers and clients on renewal terms or questions relating to coverage.

After renewals, part of my day is spent reviewing insurance policies for accuracy. I take great pride in knowing our clients and negotiated coverage terms, so I feel it is important that I am involved in the policy review.

R&I: What advice would you give to younger entrants into the risk and insurance field?

TH: Don’t get discouraged. Be excited to learn new things. Find a mentor (or two) who is willing to help guide you on your insurance journey.

Ask questions, not only of your coworkers, but also of the carriers and clients you work with; nobody wakes up an expert.

Build relationships both within and outside your company. Insurance is a small world, and I promise, you will cross paths with several people over your long career.

Find a specialty that you are passionate about and lean in. Learn everything you can and become an expert in one coverage line. It will expand from there.

When you are ready, be a mentor to those that come behind you. Build people up by leading from example and show appreciation to those that help you achieve success.

R&I: What is your favorite part of what you do?

TH: That’s easy: I love the people I work with and finding solutions to their challenges.

At its core, the insurance and risk management industry is a relationship business. As a broker, it is my job to provide outstanding service.

I’ve been lucky to work with and for some wonderful and knowledgeable people during my career. After many, many months of virtual meetings, it has been great to get back out and connect with clients in person this year. &

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].

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