In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, Raquel Rendon holds a law degree from Fordham University and an MBA from Columbia University. She is often asked how her background led her to Zurich, where she now works as a Business Development Leader in the Metro New York Area. Here’s what she tells us:
Q: Did you consider practicing law?
A: I didn’t go into law to always be a lawyer. My father is a lawyer in Philadelphia, and when I finished my undergrad degree and was looking at what to do, he said, “Go to law school; it will lay a good foundation for anything you may wish to pursue.” I got my law degree and then went to work as in-house counsel for a supermarket chain based in New York City. There I was exposed to the world of investment banking. The chain was looking to buy another supermarket and I was involved with the due diligence on the deal. I enjoyed the process and working with the bankers. As it was still early in my career, I thought I would like to be an investment banker, so I decided to go back to school and get an MBA.
At Columbia, I concentrated in finance and was on track to do investment banking, and then the tech bubble burst. Jobs were few and far between. I also ended up meeting my husband my last year of business school. I loved living in New York; he did not.
So we came back to Philly. In looking at potential jobs in the area, I saw there were a lot of opportunities in insurance and pharma. I got a job in claims at Ace. As a claims specialist, I used my legal background to handle asbestos claims and then molestation claims. They’re a very different set of facts, but the policies at issue are very similar and are triggered in similar ways.
Q: From Ace, you went to a brokerage?
A: Yes, partly because at Ace I had a pretty long commute to Delaware. I worked at Graham for a short time, because I missed being on the carrier side. Someone from Graham then helped me to go to Chubb as an underwriter handling D&O (Directors and Officers), EPL (Employment Practices Liability) and Fiduciary Crime. There, I used more of my business background, constantly analyzing financials and using that in underwriting analysis.
Q: That led you to Zurich?
A: Yes. I had a friend in claims at Zurich who had worked with me at Chubb. I thought, I’ll get in on the claims side and switch to underwriting later. I came to Zurich and handled Construction Professional Liability and architects’ and engineers’ E&O (Errors and Omissions) claims. My legal background was again very helpful. I enjoyed working with the attorneys and being able to direct the legal strategy of the claim. I found, for me, it was much more enjoyable to work with attorneys than to work for a firm. Further, on the claims side, my law degree helped give me some credibility with the attorneys, which helped me forge successful working relationships. After being with the claims group, the opportunity came to go into underwriting and I took it. I like being on the market-facing side of the company; it’s dynamic and it feels very strategic.
Q: How do your experiences inform your work today?
A: I have substantive experience in the two major sides of insurance – underwriting and claims – and it’s interesting to see how they interplay. Moving from underwriting back into claims, for example, I understood more about the financial impact of a decision on the claims side, how it impacts premiums. It’s helpful to have that perspective.
In terms of my education, having a legal background helps me dissect and pull apart problems and build up solutions in a different way. Having a finance and business background helps me pull back and look at the big picture, and manage something on a book basis, on an enterprise level.
Q: Is insurance a path you would recommend to other lawyers?
A: I always talk to lawyers I meet about going into insurance. It’s one industry that allows you to use your legal background in a variety of conventional and unconventional ways. You can practice law as in-house counsel or use your legal skills and do claims work, regulatory work or even underwriting. It has provided me with a number of challenging and impactful opportunities to learn and grow my skill set and use both the legal and business training. I’m very glad I stumbled into it.
Read more about Raquel’s current role.
Zurich is an Equal Opportunity Employer Disability/Vets