Women in Insurance: Billie Jo Galle, VP of Marketing and Business Development, TRICOR Insurance

Women in Insurance - December 10 2020

In this interview series, we profile women who are shaping the future of insurance. This week, we’re pleased to connect with Billie Jo Galle, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, TRICOR Insurance. Billie Jo shares her career journey in insurance, the importance of diversifying your skills, and her insights on how insurance companies need to pivot their recruitment strategies to attract new talent.

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

I fell into the category of—I did not seek out working in the insurance industry. The right opportunity at the right time, I was proactive about not boxing myself into one sector to work in throughout my career. The path that I took, I believe, in the end, has made me more of an asset to the insurance industry.

I worked in retail at Lands’ End, a large corporate direct merchandiser. I learned a lot about marketing, branding, advertising, consumer behavior, buying patterns, building customer experiences, and the overwhelming importance of data, and using data analytics. I moved to a privately owned company called Omnipress, which creates websites and printed research books for conferences attended by mainly doctors and engineers. I then got my first opportunity working in the insurance industry. I took a position working for CUNA Mutual Group. I first worked within the Lending department, helping data flow between Credit Unions, CUNA Mutual, and Data Processors, building an ecosystem of data sharing for lending and insurance data between companies. I learned a great deal about data sharing and data consistency across a very complex regulated industry. My final role in CUNA Mutual before choosing to go agency side was selling to direct-to-consumer insurance products such as auto, home, life, and health. This role was multi-faceted brand development, direct marketing, direct-to-consumer sales, compliance, data analytics, creative development, and operations related to workflow and process, technology, and data feed.

As I stated before, all the experiences before this helped me build this knowledge and bring it into one role, some of the pieces I had complete ownership in, and some I played a vital role as a subject matter expert. My next move was to TRICOR Insurance, working within their Brand, Marketing, and Insurance Operations department. This was a fantastic opportunity to bring my diverse set of skills to a privately owned company and help them become a high performing agency. Through leadership, my goal is to help build an agency that understands the importance of data, how to use data and technology to provide employees and clients insight into a holistic risk assessment, cross-sell, up-sell, and build a best-in-class customer experience by leveraging automation.

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

I enjoy the daily investment of learning new things and building expertise to be successful in a highly regulated environment. Not a single day is the same, and you are continually innovating and problem-solving on behalf of your colleagues and clients.

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

I think you will see the same revolution you have seen in other industries. You will see efficiencies related to data sharing interlaced with technology to make the customer’s experience of gathering and keeping their data up to date. You’ll see how data can create an expanded view of clients and their risk. You’ll see agencies claim their throne of being Risk Advisors by using niche industry trends, claims data, smart technology in homes, cars, businesses to advise clients more holistically on their insurance and risk management programs.

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

The real transformative moment will be when technology and data integration happens across the entire industry, cohesively building a customer experience from onboarding at an agency to working with a carrier. It feels disjointed from a customer’s perspective, and successful transformation can only happen when you’re building something your end customer values.

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?

I think the entire Financial Services industry faces this challenge, not just the insurance industry. The financial services industries also face race and gender diversity challenges. Recruitment will need to pivot from traditionally a reactive process into more proactive talent strategy development and recruitment. The insurance industry will need to become experts in understanding other sectors and leverage other industry's desired skillsets to help the insurance industry innovate and build more diversity. For example, insurance carriers in the future would benefit from proactive recruiting from the retail sector. Retail has some of the most skilled workforces related to predictive analytics, AI, etc., why not recruit those people into insurance?

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?

I don't think there is one right answer. It's a recipe for many ideas. Look at the data on how a person "becomes" top corporate officers. Most people who make it to C-suite offices hold positions with profit-generating responsibility as they move up the corporate ladder. Women, historically, have not held the steppingstones roles that connect to C-suite roles. Companies themselves need to hold themselves accountable to add more women to the senior ranks and the stepping stones that get people to those levels. Women tend to develop deep expertise in one area like marketing and box themselves into just that niche of knowledge, while men are more likely to move into a role they are only 45% qualified for. A final thought is sponsorship. Men are more likely to have mentors who help them "step outside their box." We need more men and women to take that sponsorship role inside companies to create a more diverse set of C-suites, managers, etc.

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

They have to create a conscious effort in diversifying not only their leadership but all roles. We must ensure that more women and women of color are proactively recruited, mentored, and sponsored. Study after study shows that companies with women in leadership are better off.

International Finance Corporation has a research study that shows companies need to make a 30 percent or higher representation of women in any group setting to be considered "critical mass" to help normalize women's presence as leaders and create real change. So having one woman in a seat is not enough.

Women make up almost 50% of the workforce today. For the industry to succeed—it must build a strategy that includes women and includes plans to advance them.

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

Diversify your skillset, don't be excellent at one thing and stay there. For example, if your career path started in marketing, and you're good at that, don't stay in that position because you're good at that, push yourself to take on roles that make you step outside your comfort zone. Learn how to interpret and build strategies around data that C-suite executives care about. Business analytics, sales analytics, and operations analytics are key stepping stones to learn for anyone who wants to help lead a business to success no matter what level you are at within a company.

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

The choices companies make today will have consequences on diversity for decades to come. Our Human Resources team started with job descriptions and job requirements, auditing each to help ensure one gender was not favored. We assess applicants exclusively for on-the-job requirements. We recently built roles that are entry-level managers, one of the first stepping stones on the road to higher leadership roles. But any organization's goals shouldn't end with those foundational things. Proactively building recruitment strategies and setting recruitment goals to support diversity within our workforce should be on any business's one to three year recruiting goals.

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

Women are unwinding years of painful progress towards getting a seat at the table. It will take progress over generations of women to have equal opportunity in achieving their professional goals.

Getting a seat at the table is one thing, having influence and a voice within that seat is where I see positive change. At the start of my career, I saw small amounts of women get a seat at the table. Still, I see a positive trend in leadership teams where both men and women have influence, ideas. Women are building strategies, looking at data together, and drawing conclusions with more equality. That said, the insurance industry, as a whole, has a long way to go. It will take focused effort and strategies to make progress faster.

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

Choose both women and men within your workforce that is a part of a generation ahead of you, that you know would challenge you, share tidbits, ask them to sponsor you, mentor you—be proactive. They will have useful advice if you listen. Don’t box yourself into a single role. If you start your career as an underwriter, you could end in human resources, don’t box yourself in—many skills are transferable.

Billie Jo GalleBillie Jo Galle is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at TRICOR Insurance. She has consistently recognized as a thought-leader with a solid track record of executing large scale initiatives. She has built her reputation on quickly translating business goals from the strategy inputs, through being able to foresee execution detail across omnichannel deliverables. Outside of work, she spends time with her husband, three children, friends, and family enjoying the outdoors and at school sporting events.

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