Risk Placement Services’ Lisa Duncan Dishes on Diversity and Her Insurance Brokerage Journey

Risk Placement Services’ senior property broker Lisa Duncan shares her introduction to the industry, her thoughts on its future and what’s kept her motivated day in and day out.
By: | June 15, 2021

Many insurance and risk management professionals can attest that their introduction to the industry was either by happy accident or a wonderful stroke of luck.

Lisa Duncan experienced the latter.

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Duncan was working at Nordstrom part-time while pursuing her undergraduate degree when a customer’s husband offered her a job to work for him as a client representative. He worked for Marsh in its Pittsburgh office.

“It was a lot, but that’s how I got into it,” she said with a laugh.

From there, her career bloomed. After gaining experience in and knowledge of several lines, Duncan found a real interest in private equity risk management. She then was approached by Aon to join as a private equity broker.

Now, Duncan works with Risk Placement Services as a senior property broker. She has also been named a 2021 M&A Power Broker® and a 2021 Power Broker® Rising Star, a special designation for brokers under 40 who earn the Power Broker® award, or are noted as finalists.

Her experiences with multiple firms have not only provided her with an understanding of the industry but also enabled her to find value in her own contributions.

“When I look back on my career and I think about what I have enjoyed about each of these jobs, the ones that resonate are the jobs where I was able to create or be a part of something that had capital. It’s the ability to contribute to a project where my voice is actually heard.”

Bettering the Industry

The need for diversity and inclusion in the insurance space is urgently needed. And while the industry is seeking to diversify its workforce, the initiative is moving slowly.

Duncan understands where the lack of diversity stems from: very little exposure to a career in insurance or risk management. Few schools have risk management and insurance programs, and those that do tend to attract people who are already familiar with the industry.

“There is a lack of race, gender and geographical diversity at these schools, because students who enter these programs likely enroll because they’ve seen someone in their lives within the insurance and risk management industry. If you’ve never seen that, then why would you go?” she said.

“We’ve all seen a doctor or a lawyer, whether it be from media or knowing them personally. It’s a part of the casual lexicon of careers you can choose from, and insurance [industry jobs are] just not, unless it’s in your life.”

Young professionals desire working in an industry, and specifically with a company, whose mission and actions align with who they are personally. Duncan also noted that this could be integral in why many now shy away from a career in insurance.

And while Duncan is unsure about how to solve the issue, she knows that it will only continue to create problems for the future of the industry.

She believes the diversity and inclusion shortcoming will only add to the industry’s growing talent gap as the rate of incoming professionals is not matching the number of outgoing, retiring executives.

This reality will likely come to pass sooner rather than later due to a high volume of retirements amid the pandemic.

Duncan wants young and perhaps curious professionals to know that the industry is an exciting place to immerse oneself. Though she isn’t entirely new to the industry now, Duncan still finds learning opportunities every day.

“There have been so many past and even current clients, where I think ‘Wow, this is so interesting and I’ve learned something completely new that I would have never known anything about,’ ” she said.

“And we don’t sell that side of the industry either. It really is a hidden gem.”

Bettering Herself

Many Power Brokers prove themselves by having a strong work ethic.

Duncan is no exception. She finds her proudest moments in her career are when she can successfully explain something to a client and visibly see their faces light up in understanding. This pride stems from a deep-rooted desire to simply help others.

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Part of why Duncan feels she has been able to be so successful in her career at an early age is that she wants her clients to think highly of her.

“I never want my clients to think I was uninterested or unhelpful, because the work you do is a reflection of who you are,” she said.

But Duncan knows that no matter who you are, your work ethic must be up to the task in the industry. Not working hard is not an option.

In terms of what comes next for Duncan, her goal is simple: to keep driving and bettering herself.

“I’m in a competition with others, but I’m always in a competition with myself,” she said.

“The ability to look in the mirror and know that I delivered on a creative solution or I scoured the marketplace and know that I completed that with marketing effort earnestly … I can sleep at night.” &

Emma Brenner is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]