Jacqueline Beaudet shifted gears when going in-house at Frenkel & Co., but the general counsel and senior vice president gained new perspective on industry trends thanks to her role at the international insurance brokerage firm that was founded in 1878.
With more than a century of experience behind it, the company’s legacy coupled with her own career history enables Beaudet to clearly see how client needs are changing and how data analytics are transforming insurance.
“When you’re in a law firm, you’re trained to take a position on behalf of a client,” Beaudet says. “You educate your client on the various possible outcomes of taking one path or another, but ultimately you are hired to advocate a certain position.”
That’s not to say that Beaudet doesn’t advocate for Frenkel, but she says the position of in-house general counsel definitely requires a different approach.
“You still have a client, but you have to be a little bit more neutral in your positions,” Beaudet says. “The business side of issues becomes a lot more important, so you’ll have a legal side of something and a business side, and those two sides may not always be in concert. I’m trying to be almost a neutral arbitrator of an issue.”
Beaudet says it was unexpected, but she enjoys the new approach that she’s had to take to her job. “That was really interesting when I first came over. I don’t know that I expected it to be so pronounced,” Beaudet says. “But it was, and I think that’s ultimately become what I like most about being in-house: being faced with an issue and looking at it holistically and then helping implement the solution.”
Another aspect that Beaudet has had to conquer in working for an insurance firm is her risk-averse nature. “It’s a little bit of a joke among senior management here,” Beaudet says. “I’m not someone who makes decisions without really, really appreciating the risks associated with what’s in front of me.”
In that sense, working in the insurance industry has challenged Beaudet to grow. “It’s been interesting because I’ve had to let go some of that as I’ve gotten closer to the business and operational side of things,” Beaudet says. “I’ve had to be more willing to take risks, and it’s been education for me to test the boundaries of my comfort zone as issues arise.”
Fortunately for Beaudet, one of the major trends in the insurance industry gives her plenty of information to educate herself about what’s going on and analyze risks. “I think the biggest trend on the insurance front is this whole data analytics concept,” Beaudet says. “Insurance carriers and brokers are sitting on enormous amounts of information and data.”
The next big question in insurance revolves around the most efficient way to harness that data to be better brokers and underwriters going forward, according to Beaudet, who adds that the increase in available data has made pricing less of a guessing game. “Having all this data and being more analytical about risk really enables you to be a better partner,” she says. “It enables people to better understand a particular risk, be more consultative, and be more analytical for a client.”
The result has been a steadier insurance market. “The increase in available data will make pricing less of a guessing game,” Beaudet says. “As insurance carriers are better able to price risk through increased analysis of data, I think we will see the cyclical nature of the industry change. As brokers, we hope that carriers will handle claims more efficiently and develop more creative products and that price will become less of a differentiator.”
“The biggest trend on the insurance front is this whole data analytics concept. Insurance carriers and brokers are sitting on enormous amounts of information and data.”
People often talk about Google and Amazon in the data conversation, according to Beaudet. She recognizes that these major online companies have a ton of data and wonders if they are going to get into the insurance game—but she’s not worried about the competition if they do.
“One way that we’ll differentiate ourselves going forward is to be able to partner with our clients and say, ‘We harnessed all this data. We know your risk. We know how to minimize it, and we have invested in resources to help you manage that risk. We can use what we know to get you the best coverage for the best price,’” Beaudet says. “It’ll give us more of a consultative approach to a client.”
Employment law is another big part of Beaudet’s job, and there’s no doubt technology has also changed the way her team works. “People are accessible all the time, everywhere,” Beaudet says. “So we’re seeing a lot of issues right now with wage and hour laws. If people are nonexempt (meaning they qualify for overtime compensation) and they’re on their phones, or they’re checking e-mails, do we have wage and hour issues? Technology has really changed the dynamic of the workforce, because you don’t have to be tied to your desk anymore.”
Employment law changes almost as much as technology evolves, and Beaudet has found keeping up with new laws takes up quite a bit of her time. “The employment laws are something that we are continuously dealing with,” Beaudet says. “They are different by city, state, and federal, so as a multistate employer, making sure our company is compliant with everything takes up a lot more time than I had expected.” Fortunately, Beaudet is up to the challenge.