Sometimes second acts can steal the show.
That’s the case for Lindy Harlow, who was named underwriting manager for Colony Specialty Contract P&C’s newly formed Southeast Region earlier this year.
Insurance wasn’t Harlow’s first career choice. She started out as a mortgage underwriter.
Finding the right fit in insurance
After her branch closed in 2007 during the subprime mortgage crisis, Harlow began searching for a second career well-suited to her experience.
“I looked for jobs in insurance because I felt those skills were transferable,” she said. “Both jobs involve assessing risk, but instead of analyzing home loans, I was analyzing commercial insurance.”
When she started working as an assistant underwriter, everything fell into place. Now after 11 years in insurance underwriting, Scottsdale-based Harlow views her role leading the Southeast Region as an opportunity to identify and nurture long-term partnerships.
Understanding agencies’ stories
“My current challenge is growing a territory that has been underdeveloped for several different reasons. Each agency has a story; I need to unravel that story and help overcome the obstacles,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the positive shift starting to happen and where we go next. Hard, but exciting.”
Challenges affect the insurance industry as a whole, she noted, explaining that with change as the only constant, insurance carriers must be nimble to stay relevant. That means delivering the right mix of technology, experience, products and pricing at the fast speed customers expect.
Developing close relationships means some events hit home more directly. During Hurricane Irma last year, Harlow worried over agents in Florida who had become close friends and were texting her updates.
“It made me feel proud to know we are in the business of paying claims and getting our insureds back to business,” she said. “It also made me aware of how many work colleagues have turned into dear friends of mine.”
Finding inspiration and offering advice
Harlow counts women leaders in insurance among those who inspire her.
“On marketing visits, walking in as a younger female in a male-dominated office can be intimidating,” she said. “I felt I had to work harder to prove myself and earn respect.”
Harlow believes the industry has become more welcoming to younger generations, and she has advice for those just starting out.
“All the people you meet along the way in your career make all the difference in the world,” she said. “A lot of younger people think their mentor has to be their immediate boss. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes.”
And Harlow means every person, from peer to competitor.
“Surround yourself with smart people – and people who are different from you.”
Valuing simple pleasures and time with loved ones
Harlow was born in Minnesota, the daughter of a construction worker and an executive administrative assistant.
“They were tired of the cold weather and looking for more opportunity,” she said of her parents, who pulled out a map one day and started to dream. “They said, ‘Let’s go to California.’”
Her family’s move when she was 7 changed the trajectory of Harlow’s life.
“I just don’t think I would be where I am today if my parents hadn’t made that choice,” she said.
Harlow is close to her family, who all live nearby in Arizona, and she relishes getting together with friends, traveling to warm climates and walking Scooter, her miniature Australian shepherd. And just like most people, she has a few little-known talents.
“I can Hula-Hoop forever,” she said.