Meet Laura Zoltan
I attended a small liberal arts college; insurance as a career path had never crossed my mind. I got into insurance as a favor to my brother, whose friend worked for a company that paid a bonus to recruit interns. I wasn’t particularly interested in insurance, but my brother convinced me to submit my resume. I got the internship. And I loved it! It was an easy decision to accept their offer to join full-time as an underwriting trainee after graduation.
I got to my current role by taking a bigger chance. As a financial services underwriter for 14 years, I gained responsibility through a natural progression of promotions. Three years ago, I took on a dual role: building Arch’s Private Equity Industry Practice while managing the Northeast Financial Services team. Leading an industry-specific initiative across all insurance lines was new and different, and I enjoyed the challenge of building something from scratch. I was also learning so much about the company and industry, which I knew was important for my continued career growth and success. I could see how my strategic efforts were paying off as we grew our private equity book and improved data and automation. I wanted to do more of that!
So, I took another chance: I created and proposed the role of Industry Practice Lead in Strategy and Distribution to oversee our six Industry Practice Groups: Construction, Energy, Healthcare, Real Estate, Financial Institutions and Private Equity, and to help grow our presence in the industry-specific, specialty middle market.
I didn’t know if I was ready for this change. I did it anyway. Change is hard (and I second-guessed myself a lot) but I think if you ever feel totally ready for a change, then it’s probably already too late — you are likely somewhat checked out and not being challenged. The advice I often give is to ask questions, in every context, whether it is to your manager or team members or people you’ve never worked with before. Clarify everything — concepts that you don’t understand, or key takeaways and next steps after a meeting. Doing this ensures clear expectations, keeps everyone on the same page and shows you are diligent and reliable.
Questions I ask myself to assess my success are: Did I add value? Did my perspective, knowledge, question or idea help clarify our thinking and further our goals? I embody the Arch behavior of being relentless about improvement by asking questions and challenging why we do things in specific ways. This has resulted in creating a new platform that quantifies private equity relationships across the entire company. Now, with the click of a button, we can predict which insureds are a “match” to a specific private equity firm itself, or any portfolio company of that private equity firm. What would have taken us months to figure out, or what we may never even have known, is now at our fingertips and helping us do business better.
It all comes down to people. I’ve had truly authentic managers who were teaching me every step of the way, trusting me and giving me autonomy, even when I was an intern. I had never taken courses related to insurance, yet, my skills and presence were valued. All of this has contributed to my success and the confidence to take a risk in my career — such as moving into my current role.
I aim to do the same with everyone I lead. Two years ago, I took Arch’s IMPACT Leadership Program, which teased out what my core values are and how I exemplify them in my work. I learned that the three things most important to me are: growth and evolution — being open to change, leaving an impact, making a difference; compassion and empathy — treating others with respect, dignity and understanding; and, positive energy — striving for encouraging and fun interactions. I know that if I do these things every day, I am being myself and I am leading in an authentic way. I used to say that insurance isn’t my “dream job.” I would think to myself: I have a rewarding job, but am I really fulfilling my higher purpose or “doing good” in the world? I know now that if I can live my core values every day, then I am living the dream. And, I do have my “dream job,” because I can be myself! Knowing this brings meaning to the work that I do, and an awareness for myself of the value I bring to my team.
SVP, Industry Practice Lead
Arch Insurance | New York, N.Y.