ELITE WOMEN IN INSURANCE: Insights from 3 Honan Trailblazers
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This month, three leaders at Honan: Poppy Foxton, Christie Mitsas, and Maja Vujinovic were recognised in the 2022 IB Elite Women awards for their exceptional contributions to shaping the future of the industry. We sat down with each of them to learn more about what drew them to the world of insurance, their proudest career moments, and advice to those entering the industry.
CONGRATULATIONS TO EACH OF YOU ON THIS FABULOUS RECOGNITION! TELL US, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE NAMED A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE IN INSURANCE?
POPPY: I feel very grateful to be recognised alongside many other women that I admire and respect. It’s brilliant to see women carving out their own space in this industry and I absolutely love contributing to it in any way I can.
CHRISTIE: Throughout my career, there have been several female leaders that I have looked towards as examples of the type of career woman I wanted to become. It is a huge honour to be considered a woman of influence in the industry. I hope that through my work and mentoring I will inspire a new generation like these women did for me.
MAJA: Being selected alongside a group of women who I respect and admire is an honour and I feel truly grateful. It’s also exciting to see how well-represented women are in this industry.
WHAT WAS IT THAT ATTRACTED YOU OR KEPT YOU IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
POPPY: Starting in claims over 13 years ago, I loved being at the coal face and achieving a win for our clients on troublesome claims! But it has always been the people that I work with that have kept me in the industry. Insurance attracts a lot of talented, energetic, and driven people, and working with them is a joy. We work hard, but we laugh a lot.
CHRISTIE: Like a lot of my peers, my start in insurance was unintentional. I had just finished my studies, my mum happened to work at Chubb, and I needed full-time work (at her insistence of course!). What has kept me in insurance for over 15 years is my passion for people and that through my work as an advisor and advocate, I can add value and make a difference to my clients’ lives, particularly during challenging periods.
MAJA: There are a few core factors that played a part in my decision to pursue a career in insurance. The first was the clients that I had an opportunity to work with and help. Second, the businesses I have worked for have completely supported my ambitions to grow in the industry. Third, the people! I have lifelong friends in some of my colleagues and industry partners.
CAN YOU SHARE A PARTICULAR ACHIEVEMENT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
POPPY: Stepping into the Head of Corporate Insurance role last year was probably my proudest career moment to date. Being asked to take on this role by our CEO and Chairman was thrilling and it felt like recognition for 13 years of hard work and determination.
CHRISTIE: During my time leading the Private Client Group, I have taken it from a complimentary service for executives of our larger clients, to a key service offering for high net wealth (HNW) individuals. The Private Client Group is now an established and well-respected business unit within Honan and a leader in the Australian broking industry for HNW individuals.
To see the Group grow from one to a team of many as well as the positive outcomes my team delivers every day to our clients makes me extremely proud.
MAJA: It would have to be the promotion to my current role as the Head of Risksmart. Five years ago, when I was working as a Claims Executive at Honan, I would never have guessed I’d be the head of a department by 2022! I definitely gave it my all, and I am proud to be where I am now.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE OVERCOME OR LEARNING YOU HAVE HAD?
POPPY: Learning that things are rarely as bad as they seem. When you’re in the trenches dealing with a challenging issue it can be easy to think negatively or catastrophise. Experience has taught me that there is always a path through any problem if you tackle one thing at a time. This knowledge has made me a more resilient person and it’s a learning I try to pass on to my team.
CHRISTIE: Don’t take it personally! As someone that brings a high degree of passion to everything I do, I have learnt to take a step back, breathe, and not let emotions get the best of me.
MAJA: I think it was overcoming the fear of being the youngest professional in the room. It took time for me to overcome the feeling I had the least experience and therefore my professional opinion was less valuable. Outstanding mentorship and continued interactions with brilliant people who I so strongly admired taught me that it was no coincidence I was finding myself in the same room as individuals who had previously intimidated me.
CONSIDERING YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AND THE IMPRESSIVE CAREER YOU HAVE DEVELOPED WITHIN THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THOSE THAT MAY NOT HAVE CONSIDERED JOINING, OR WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN WHO ARE ENTERING THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
POPPY: Insurance has traditionally been a male-dominated industry with a lot of strong personalities. My advice for women entering the industry is to come prepared to every meeting, do your research, and then don’t be afraid to stand your ground. You will be right more times than you think!
CHRISTIE: Forge ahead in your career with confidence and self-certainty. Be brave, loud, and resilient.
With over 50% of women across all levels of management, the women at Honan are truly driving change in what used to be a male-dominated industry.
MAJA: Don’t limit yourself and recognise your worth. In an industry that is often considered male-dominated and full of experienced insurance professionals, it can often feel intimidating as a young professional woman. Recognising your value can give you the confidence to contribute where needed, and where you don’t know something, the key is having the confidence to ask and learn. We should not let the feeling of intimidation limit us, instead, we should take the opportunity to learn and use the experience to grow.
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