How connecting with people led to an industry veteran’s success

How connecting with people led to an industry veteran’s success

What does it take to be regarded as an outstanding industry veteran? For the most recent inductees into Insurance Business America’s Hall of Fame, the main criteria are at least 35 years of experience in their business domain, leadership ability, and contributions toward industry innovation and the development of future entrepreneurs and professionals.

Jack Kuhn, president of Westfield Specialty, went through this time-tested path to earn a place among the industry’s high achievers. His career has been filled with interesting milestones – from underwriter, to board member, to chief executive of well-established companies.

Kuhn initially considered going into finance, but “fell into the insurance industry” through friends, he told Insurance Business. A crucial part of his career was being “a student of the underwriting aspect of the business” for 13 years at Chubb, and then forming a new professional liability operation for Kemper in Illinois.

“That was my first experience with doing a startup. What goes into it? I would tell you it was very evident that there’s a lot of stuff that you don’t necessarily appreciate that makes things work, that you then have to start figuring out how to put that stuff in place,” he said. “So, that first startup was very interesting, very informative, and very educational in the sense of how to build a successful operation.”

After 10 years at Axis, followed by Endurance, he had the opportunity in 2021 to become president of a new business unit called Westfield Specialty. He said establishing this unit needed “the right vision and culture,” which goes a long way in attracting, retaining, and developing talent.

“Culture really sets the tone for everyone. … It’s something that has to be lived and breathed every single day,” he said. “For me, it’s about making sure I stay very well connected to the staff and to the different business units. So, I feel like I understand the challenges, the successes that each one is having, and [I’m] able to celebrate or also provide guidance or mentoring on how to navigate through some of the challenging events they might be experiencing.”

In this sense, creating a “deep connection” with employees has been a key factor behind his success as an executive.

Despite obstacles that Westfield faced in recent years, its strong brand and significant financial resources kept the company in a “strong, robust marketplace for a number of different lines of coverages.” Kuhn said he was excited about Westfield Specialty’s accomplishments during its first 16 months, as well as its planned acquisition of Lloyd’s Syndicate 1200.

He emphasized that the company needs “to be really on top of [its] game to be able to assess, advise, and come up with the right products” to serve clients who have fast-evolving risk exposures.

Watch the full interview here

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