Women in Insurance: Dymphna Menéndez, Assistant VP, Excess Workers Comp, Arch Insurance Group Inc.

Women in Insurance - March 8 2021

In this interview series, we profile women who are shaping the future of insurance. This week, we speak with Dymphna Menéndez, Assistant Vice President, Excess Workers Comp, Arch Insurance Group Inc. Dymphna shares the career journey that led to insurance and discusses what the industry can do to attract new talent and ensure inclusivity and diversity in insurance leadership.

Dymphna, tell us about your path to insurance. What attracted you to the profession?

I was lucky enough to get on this crazy train while in college. As a student I joined the Beta Gamma Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma. Like a lot of students in the second half of their college career, you start wondering about what path you want to take after you graduate. I wanted to cast a bit of a wide net, and so I joined a lot of the different clubs on campus. For me, what made me want to commit to this industry was the people. From the student leaders, to professors, and industry partners, everyone was so welcoming and eager to help me find my way. That’s what started it all for me.

What do you find most fulfilling about the work you do?

Helping others. This industry is like a tribe, and everyone is looking for a way to do something better or easier. We all want solutions and we all want to help each other accomplish that.

The insurance industry is in the midst of massive change, and the pace of change is accelerating. If you had to pick one technology trend that will fundamentally transform insurance over the next 5-10 years, what would it be?

I think there are two sides to this coin. That would be the personal lines side of the market and the commercial. For personal lines, hands down it’s going to be the rise of insurtech organizations like Lemonade. For the commercial side, which I can speak more closely about, it is definitely going to be automation. We are a service industry, and our ability to provide excellent service is really on the shoulders of outdated processes. I believe the pandemic was a wakeup call for the industry to push for more efficient improvements in technology to better serve our partners.

The pandemic has disrupted the entire insurance value chain including traditional distribution channels and producers – and some of the changes are likely to be permanent. How are insurance carriers coping with the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and a hardening market?

I believe in a silver lining. Speaking from the carrier side, the hardening market will allow for improvements in the marketplace. With interest rates at such low levels, and for a prolonged period of time, increases in rates will allow carriers to improve not only their profitability, but it will give them a sense of confidence to expand their services or improve their processes. COVID-19 has absolutely changed the way we build relationships in this industry. Communication is key to any good relationship, and the pandemic forced us to brush up on our people skills and find different ways to connect.

Insurance carriers and brokers collect mountains of data, but they still struggle to gain the insights needed to accurately assess and price complex risks. If you had to give the industry a report card, how well do insurers manage risk today?

I would say the industry as a whole gets a C++ (yes, that was a total nerd joke). In honesty, I believe a lot of carriers are trying to improve how they digest data. Actuaries now have support from data scientists or consulting firms that can provide more comprehensive tools, and so we are getting better, but where we probably need to improve the most is how well we collect data. I think as we see more refinement in the tools we use, we can better improve our insights. I’m curious to see how Google tackles this as they start their new insurance initiatives.

The insurance industry faces a recruitment challenge with millennials choosing professions they deem to be more progressive, challenging and fun. What can insurers do to entice new talent?

A lot of millennials want to make sure they find a rewarding career that really makes an impact. I think they overlook insurance because of the poor reputation and image it has to many people. What we as an industry really need to do is provide better awareness of how this industry can meet all the things millennials dream of. We are progressive, challenging, and fun. The problem is no one really knows that. Which is why I work with Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS). Their focus is not only on preparing the next generation of insurance professionals, but they help spread the awareness and good reputation that this industry deserves.

Carly Burnham of Insurance Nerds believes that the insurance industry has “earned the reputation of the being pale, male, and stale through the image that we portray and the leaders that we promote.” Do you agree, and if so, what has to happen to change this image?

It’s true! But that’s why we have to change that image. Be it through organizations like GIS, or just through better promotion of diverse individuals to higher positions. We need to spread awareness to students and then, for those in the industry, we need to support and sponsor diverse individuals so they can change that image.

What can insurance companies do to ensure that women not only stay in the profession but advance in their careers?

I think the best thing any organization can do is recognize the unconscious basis that women face in the work place, and create an inclusive culture. Women need flexibility. Far too often, society imposes a standard that women are the ones who have to sacrifice their career to have children, to be care givers, and much more. This is where unconscious biases run rampant. Leaders need to be aware that work life and home life sometimes cross over, and when that happens, it’s women who face a fork in the road. So, by having a more inclusive work culture, women can gain better resources and support to allow them to continue their careers.

What programs and initiatives does Arch Insurance Group have in place to encourage inclusivity and diversity?

One of the core values we have at Arch is that we strive to make a difference. We do that by having an inclusive culture, where we welcome each other’s differences and ensure people feel comfortable in being their authentic selves. In 2020, we made a commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, by creating employee resource groups. These groups will allow employees to build grassroots and support inclusivity and diversity. We also had leadership initiatives where we had learning sessions led by leaders in D&I to help increase awareness among managers so they can better empower their teams.

What positive changes have you seen since you began in your career?

I remember when I first began my career and raising my hand to help start an LGBT employee resource group. Starting the group was challenging, and we faced a lot of hurdles. But now years later, I can say that there has been a lot of progress in how D&I is seen in the workplace, and that people are becoming more open and welcoming to sharing who they are at work. And seeing the championing of D&I being led by the executive leaders in our industry is amazing. Their support allows for grassroots efforts to spread faster and take a strong hold.

What advice would you give the next generation of women considering a career in insurance?

Be bold. Always remember who you are and why you matter. The workplace is still a maze of stereotypes, biases, and ghosts and ghouls. Be sure to find a mentor, and be proactive in learning as much as you can. Build your tribe and have people who you can go to for advice.

profile picDymphna Menéndez, AU-M, MBA is the Assistant Vice President for the Excess Work Comp team at Arch. She is based in Los Angeles and manages the western region. Prior to Arch, Dymphna was an underwriter at AIG, where she not only gained experience in underwriting primary and excess casualty for a wide array of clients and program structures, but she also worked with senior leaders to promote Diversity and Inclusion through employee resource groups. Before working in the insurance industry, Dymphna worked with economist at various public agencies both in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Dymphna is also an active member of the Alumni Council for Gamma Iota Sigma, where she helps with alumni networking for professionals and students.

Dymphna has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance & Economics with a minor in Women’s Studies from Cal State Fullerton and an M.B.A in Finance from the University of Redlands. She also has an Associate in Underwriting designation and is currently pursuing her CPCU.

Dymphna describes her three core values as Faith, Service, and Excellence. When she’s not at the underwriting desk or helping with GIS, Dymphna and her partner are at home being foster parents.

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