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“Promoting women and giving them engaging work that is important to the success of companies is a good approach.” with Joan Lamm-Tennant and Tyler Gallagher

For individuals, supporting and advocating for other women will support the movement to achieve gender parity in finance. Companies should focus on not only hiring, but also retaining more women in their workforces. Promoting women and giving them engaging work that is important to the success of companies is a good approach. Business and society […]

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For individuals, supporting and advocating for other women will support the movement to achieve gender parity in finance. Companies should focus on not only hiring, but also retaining more women in their workforces. Promoting women and giving them engaging work that is important to the success of companies is a good approach. Business and society can give women platforms so that they can be recognized as role models and be more effective in advocating others.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan Lamm-Tennant, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Blue Marble Microinsurance. Joan Lamm-Tennant is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Blue Marble Microinsurance, a startup with a mission of providing socially impactful, commercially viable insurance protection to the underserved. A UK corporation owned by nine insurance entities, Blue Marble incubates and implements microinsurance ventures that advance food security, financial inclusion and microentrepreneurship. Previously, Joan was the Global Chief Economist and Risk Strategist of Guy Carpenter Company LLC, a reinsurance and risk management operating company of Marsh & McLennan, and President of GenRe Capital Consultants, where she led the global advisory arm of General Reinsurance. Before joining industry, Joan had an academic career of over fifteen years. Joan was a tenured Professor of Finance at Villanova University where she held the Thomas Labrecque Chair in Business. Upon joining industry, Joan was an Adjunct Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she held the Laurence and Susan Hirsch Chair in International Business. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Process Center. Joan is the recipient of the 2017 Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2016 Wharton MBA Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2013 APIW Insurance Woman of the Year Award, and the 2012 International Insurance Society Kenneth Black Award for service and commitment to the advancement of the global industry. Joan currently serves on the Boards of Hamilton Insurance Group, Ltd., Element Financial Management Corporation, Ambac Financial Group and The Institutes’ Board of Trustees. Previously, Joan served on the Boards of Selective Insurance Group (from 1994 to 2015) and Ivans, an insurance technology provider (from 2001 to 2013). She was instrumental in the sale of Ivans to Ability, a portfolio company of Bain Capital. Joan holds a Ph.D. in Finance and Investments from the University of Texas. In addition, she holds an M.B.A. in Finance and a B.B.A. with Honors in Accounting from St. Mary’s University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I started my career as an academic in financial economics. I found the mathematical theory of risk and uncertainty particularly intriguing. What brought me into insurance was my realization that derisking individuals and societies by pricing and transferring risk gives way to economic growth.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

We announced Blue Marble at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland in January 2015. The next year, my co-founder, Bilal Mughal, and I showed up for the event in Davos without any entry passes. While the cost for the event was too high for our early-stage startup, we wanted to meet with a few people who were participating in the sessions. Although we felt like wedding crashers, we managed to hold meetings efficiently in the Swiss mountain town during those days because of the concentration of influential people on site. The streets were snowy and slippery, and heels were the only pair of shoes I had. From that experience, I learned that it’s useful to be scrappy. A lot of work can be done on the fringes of the World Economic Forum. Also, always check the weather forecast before you take a trip. If you’re going to a ski village in the winter, pack snow boots.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, while our first few programs have focused on addressing vulnerabilities of smallholder farmers, we are about to launch a program that supports financially underserved women. In India, we have partnered with a local fintech company that helps customers achieve personal goals through providing access to financial services on a digital platform. We have developed a program that helps women in childbearing ages prepare for childbirth, providing insurance protection in the aftermath of complications during pregnancy.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Blue Marble Microinsurance is a startup with a mission of providing socially impactful, commercially viable insurance protection to the underserved. I think Blue Marble stands out because of its unique business model, which brings together nine multinational insurance entities, including AIG and Zurich. These companies provide Blue Marble with guidance, talent and risk capacity, allowing us to operate efficiently and effectively with a global footprint. Many of our owner companies are competitors in the traditional markets.

Blue Marble incubates and implements microinsurance solutions that support the economic advancement of underserved populations. We work in collaboration with our customers and partners to address specific social issues, such as food insecurity and income volatility. Our business advances shared value creation, generating social and economic value together. Through working with a range of organizations across sectors, we have become skilled in stakeholder management.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

I think the evidence-based understanding that diversity drives success in business has led to the diversification of the financial services workforce. More women have joined and stayed in the sector.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

For individuals, supporting and advocating for other women will support the movement to achieve gender parity in finance. Companies should focus on not only hiring, but also retaining more women in their workforces. Promoting women and giving them engaging work that is important to the success of companies is a good approach. Business and society can give women platforms so that they can be recognized as role models and be more effective in advocating others.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, while I’m grateful to many people, I’d like to highlight two individuals in particular. First, Brian Duperreault, Chief Executive Officer of AIG, was an early advocate of Blue Marble. When I worked for Brian at Marsh & McLennan Companies, he encouraged me to write the business plan for Blue Marble and gave me access to resources to do. Second, Alex Moczarski, Chairman of Marsh & McLennan Companies International, hit the road with me to get insurance firms on board. Many companies were not interested in Blue Marble at the time. We had a lot of rejections, and I felt responsible for subjecting Alex to that. Alex told me he would not accept failure and encouraged me to get back out there with him to get Blue Marble over the net, and we did. From that experience, I got tougher skin. I also recognized the power of passion combined with persistence. Grit goes a long way in life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is Nike’s trademark: “just do it.” Once you’ve identified your purpose, you should take action around it. Just take the next step. It’s important to live your values even if you haven’t figured out where they will take you. This idea was key for me in starting Blue Marble. I understood that my purpose was to facilitate the economic growth of financially underserved populations. My academic background is in accounting and financial economics, and I recognize that providing safety nets to individuals, reducing their vulnerability to risks, allows them to make more productive choices. Scarcity reduces our productivity and ability to make choices that will benefit us in the long-term.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would encourage open-mindedness and experimentation. I am an educator, and I spent many years teaching at great universities, including The University of Pennsylvania. I recognize that access to quality education at the undergraduate and graduate levels is not available to the public at large. However, there is an opportunity for every individual to learn from every experience. Life is a social experiment. The world is a laboratory for learning. I would also want society to create opportunities for people to experiment with innovation.

Thank you for these great insights!

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