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2018 Women to Watch EMEA: Catherine French

Catherine French
Managing director of risk management placement
Marsh Ltd.
London
Age: 33

Catherine French thought she had a biology career studying cell migration ahead of her after getting her Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, but she quickly realized it was a very lonely world for a people person.

She began researching careers that emphasized face-to-face communication, and insurance broking was one of the top industries she uncovered. “Mine truly is a fall-in,” she said of her journey into the industry, but one she welcomed given “the sheer amount of people you touch.”

“You get to really embed yourself in so many different areas, and the ever-changing industry just makes it so interesting,” Ms. French said.

A major topic of conversation with clients these days is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018, and the intersection with cyber and nondamage business interruption.

But the market has been slow to develop solutions to the evolving risk, and brokers have to make sure policy wordings match the needs of clients who are embracing and investing in technology and automation, Ms. French said.

“Clients are moving with that speed,” she said. “The insurance industry is slower in that regard. We’re trying, but we’re sometimes behind that curve.”

“She always thinks about the customer,” said Lisa Williams, head of casualty lines for Zurich Commercial Insurance U.K. “She always thinks about how their needs translate to what she is asking for from her insurance partners. And as strong as she is — because you have to be in the London market — she never loses who she is.”

“The big thing about Catherine that I really admire is that she works in a really tough environment for women,” said Tracey Skinner, London-based director-insurance for telecommunications company BT Group PLC. “The London insurance market is not a female-friendly place to be.”

Ms. French was recently promoted and now leads a team of 24 people, but Ms. Williams said she does not see a ceiling for her. “One of the things I love about Cat is she doesn’t know how good she is sometimes,” she said.

NEXT: Debbie Hobbs
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