Women in Insurance: Q&A with Olivia Schmitt, Total CSR

Digital Transformation, Women in Insurance - April 1 2020

In this interview series, we profile women who are shaping the future of insurance. By highlighting their achievements and sharing their insights, we aim to have an open dialogue about what carriers, brokers and InsurTechs can do to promote greater gender parity and diversity in the world of insurance and increase the number of women in leadership positions. This week, we’re excited to sit down with Olivia Schmitt, Director of Marketing and Communications at Total CSR and host of the You Don’t Know Schmitt! Podcast.” Olivia shares why she loves working in insurance and the opportunity that exists for more strong women to join the industry.

Tell us about your path to insurance. What attracted you to the profession?

Like many people, I found my way in insurance very much by accident. I had been working as a massage therapist and really wanted something more consistent and stable. A friend of a friend asked if I would be interested in applying for an open position at the agency where she worked, and I was fortunate enough to be hired for the position. 15 years later, my love of the industry has only grown. There’s so much to learn, so many great people to connect with and it’s fascinating to watch the insurance industry evolve.

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

I recently switched from the agency to Total CSR which provides training and onboarding for individuals coming into insurance. The switch from the independent agency world to insurtech is intimidating and exciting. The best part is the people. Insurance – no matter what part of it you’re in – is based on helping people. It doesn’t get better than that.

The insurance industry is in the midst of massive change. What do you think the insurance business will look like in five years?

The insurance industry is seeing a surge as far as technology and automation. I think there are a few key players now, but they will push some of the larger, well-known entities to advance faster which means the entire insurance community will benefit. 

I think we will see better, faster and more integrated technology with true, transparent real-time data reporting tied to automation that provides the agent a full view on its metrics and an opportunity to proactively run their operations.

If you had to pick one technology trend that will fundamentally transform insurance over the next 5-10 years, what would it be?

Fully integrated systems. Systems that allow an agency to manage everything in one place. The creation of what I would call a “true” agency management system is going to be a major game changer. When an agency can look at growth, retention, customer satisfaction, pipeline management, carrier success, loss ratios and not just the basic client data, it is incredibly powerful. 

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?

We hear it all the time – “Insurance is not sexy.” However, it is an exciting profession with an ever-changing landscape. The opportunities are endless. I think getting in front of high school students is key.  Providing them information not only on what insurance is, but how it can become a career is critical. 

There also needs to be an effort to get out ahead of the perceived culture in insurance, but this requires deliberate action to generate real change.

According to a 2017 study, just 12 percent of insurance companies’ top corporate officers are women. Why do you think there are so few women in senior leadership roles in the insurance industry?

The glass ceiling is still very much a real thing. And according to the latest McKinsey study on Women in Business, there’s also the “broken rung” which has been used to describe where women are being passed over for promotions into their first leadership role (most of these are still going to men).  They aren’t even making it to an initial management position which makes getting into a c-suite position an even longer, or impossible, road. There have been improvements, but there’s still a lot of work to do as far as promoting gender diversity, especially in leadership.    

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

There has to be a concerted and strategic effort to turn that tide. Conversations need to be had about workplace diversity, career pathing, and promoting high performing females within their company into leadership positions. 

What recommendations do you have for young female professionals entering into the insurance on how to find a mentor and develop the relationship?

Mentors are critical. I would not be where I am without them. Know that the mentor relationship will change. As my roles have changed, I have needed mentors with different backgrounds and skills to really be able to coach me in whatever I was doing. 

Does your firm have initiatives in place to encourage gender parity and diversity?

No, not at this time, but I am very lucky to work with 3 other incredible women and everyone comes to the table as equals at Total CSR.

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

I have watched women create the insurance career they want. They have just gone for it, pushed past the glass ceiling and been incredibly successful. They have inspired me in my own journey. 

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

If you have any interest in insurance know that the sky is the limit. There is so much opportunity and the more strong women we have join the industry, and the better we are the faster we can continue to push forward with creating the next generation of leading women. 

podcast posting

As Director of Marketing and Communications, Olivia Schmitt brings her vast insurance industry knowledge, strong leadership track record and small business expertise to the Total CSR team. 

Olivia started her insurance career over 15 years ago when she joined TRICOR Insurance as a customer service representative. In 2013 she was selected to lead the company’s development of a division geared towards small business growth. The role allowed Olivia to hone her skills creating a strategic development plan for the department, overseeing operations and hiring a team—experiences she continually draws on today.

Olivia recently launched the “You Don’t Know Schmitt! Podcast” with the goal of creating a show that holds space for other women in insurance to discuss their struggles, seek advice and discover new opportunities within the industry.

Olivia Schmitt is a proud wife and mom of three children. When she’s not making her mark in the insurance world, she can be spotted training for her next marathon. Olivia also enjoys vegan cooking and rocking out to good music—sometimes to the embarrassment of her children. 

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