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2018 Women to Watch: Susan Gildea

Susan Gildea
Chief actuary
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Co.
Boston
Age: 51

A new or younger company can be a challenging environment for an actuary such as Susan Gildea, chief actuary of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Co. in Boston.

“As an actuary, when you don’t have your own company data, you really have to figure out ways to extract data from other sources,” Ms. Gildea said. “That’s something very, very different than at a large, more mature company.”

It’s also something that puts her in less charted — if not uncharted — territory.

“I think my role is different,” Ms. Gildea said. “We’re a new company. I’ve been here 2½ years, and I joined the company at its 3-year birthday.”

She relishes the challenge, however.

“I’ve been given the professional opportunity of a lifetime,” Ms. Gildea said. “The way you can learn and develop in a role like we have here and in a company that is changing and growing.” Her influence on the young specialty insurer is evident.

“Sue has been a close business partner to me as we have been building out Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance around the globe,” said Chris Colahan, president of Europe for BHSI. The “technical skill and intellectual horsepower you would expect of a chief actuary,” coupled with the “passion and energy she brings to our team every day makes Sue a great leader to her global actuarial team, and an invaluable part of the BHSI senior leadership team.”

A strong math and science student, Ms. Gildea started as a chemical engineering major in college but soon switched to math.

After hearing a professor describe the actuarial profession and speaking to someone in the field, “That’s when I realized I wanted to be an actuary. It was using math but being able to work with a business to figure out profitability as opposed to being in a classroom, because to me the classroom was akin to the lab.” The conversation was the genesis of her pursuit of the actuarial exams, she added.

She said that while women are more well-represented among industry leadership, maintaining that momentum is important.

“I think women in insurance have progressed,” Ms. Gildea said. “I’m looking at the organization I am in now versus organizations from earlier in my career, and I definitely see more women in leadership roles.”

“As an industry and as women, we have to make sure the organizations we are in are advocating the correct way,” Ms. Gildea said.

NEXT: Mona Hanna
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