Celebrating Women’s History Month with Past PLUS Presidents Heather Fox and Debbie Schaffel

In honor of Women’s History Month, PLUS would like recognizes its past women Presidents. PLUS has had three female Presidents in its history, with two of them, Heather Fox (2016) and Debbie Schaffel (2018) serving as President within the last four years. Additionally, moving forward PLUS will have female Presidents in 2021 – Susan Angelo, and 2022 – Jennifer O’Neill. Michelle Romano, who the first female PLUS President in 2002, has retired from the Industry. We took a few moments recently to catch up with Heather and Debbie about their experience in the industry and with PLUS.

Heather FoxSchaffel, Debbie

What is your current role?

Fox:  I serve three roles.  I am the General Counsel, managing ARC Excess and Surplus, LLC’s (ARC’s) legal department.  I also manage ARC’s Claims Department, advocating with carriers on behalf of ARC’s clients.  Finally, in my role as Chief Broking Officer, I act as a resource to all of ARC’s brokers with respect to complex placements and I provide support on emerging coverage trends.  I love the varied role because I am involved on the front end with the placement, as well as in the claims, making me stronger in both roles.

Schaffel: I joined Aon in 2003 as a manager in our private and nonprofit practice group and have been the national manager of that group since 2008.  I am responsible for a team of 42 people who handle all the management liability needs for Aon’s private and nonprofit clients.

How did you get started in the industry?

Fox:  I was practicing law in Boston and wanted to move back to NY.  One of my good friends from high school was working at AIG at the time and got me an interview.  I knew nothing about insurance at all and didn’t plan to stay in insurance, but I met a great crew of people at AIG and grew to love our business.  And here I am over 20 years later still passionate about our business!

Schaffel:  I needed a job.  When I was a senior in college, I spent most of my non-class time as editor of the Cornell yearbook which was pretty much a full-time job.  As a result, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to on-campus recruiting so missed a lot of on campus interview possibilities.  The ones I did attend convinced me that my original thought of being a financial analyst was a terrible idea and I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated.  As it got closer and closer to graduation, my father told me that I WOULD have a job when I graduated.  He knew someone who knew someone at AIG, and I interviewed with them.  I interviewed with their construction group and with their management liability group.  Luckily for me, the management liability group offered me a job first.  Of course, the day I started was the day that the person who was supposed to be my boss quit so it was an interesting start to my career in insurance.

How has the industry advanced in providing opportunities for women and what more needs to be done to open-up opportunities in the future? 

Fox:  The financial lines industry has made good strides in terms of the number of women with roles in middle management.  I think we need to work with women at the start of their careers to support them so that they have the same opportunities as their male colleagues at the critical early stages of their careers. Ultimately, women need more formalized support to achieve equity.  There are organizations, such as the PLUS Women’s Foundation and The Bridge that are offering this more formalized support through the efforts of both male and female industry colleagues.

Schaffel:  I think that having more women in leadership positions now has definitely helped open up the opportunities for other women who are joining or are newer to the industry.  When I was first coming up in insurance it was normal for me to be the only woman in a meeting.  While that still happens more often than it should, it is also gratifying to see that there are more and more meetings where the women actually outnumber the men.  I’m lucky to work at an organization now where many of our senior roles are held by women and advancement decisions are based on merit rather than gender. 

Do you have any advice for women newer in the industry? 

Fox:  Work hard and network, network, network. Look at every opportunity to strategically expand your network.  Don’t just network with other women.  Get outside your comfort zone at events by trying to move beyond talking with people you already know.  Ask the people you already know to introduce you to others.  Pay it forward.  Introduce others within your own network.

Schaffel:  Be yourself.  Don’t try to become someone you’re not.  Let your skills speak for themselves.

As busy professionals how did you fit it in and why did you feel it was important to volunteer with PLUS? 

Fox:  My early involvement in PLUS was important to me mainly for networking and education.  As I started to volunteer later in my career, as a co-chair of the D&O Symposium and then as a Trustee and President, I was more focused on giving back to our professional liability community and working to continue to evolve the amazing PLUS organization.  I pushed myself to accept the role of President (in addition to my day job) because I knew how important it was for a woman to have the President role, given that only one other woman had been President in PLUS’s almost 30 year history at that time.

Schaffel:  Honestly, I volunteered because I thought it would be fun.  And a great opportunity for me to meet other people and expand my network in the industry.  Both of which were true.  I think anyone can find the time for things if they think they are important enough to them to put forth the effort.  I spent a lot of time outside of normal work hours catching up on my “real” job because of the hours that I spent volunteering with PLUS and I don’t regret a minute of it.  It’s all about finding the right balance for yourself.

What was your favorite part of being the President of PLUS?

Fox:  I feel so fortunate to have worked with such a fantastic Board of Trustees and PLUS staff.  Some of my favorite memories are the laughs we had at our board meetings and especially our board dinners!

Schaffel:  Well, other than working with Robbie and the rest of the PLUS staff (who are all fantastic at what they do), my favorite part was actually the year before I was President when I was President Elect and Conference chair.  While I was petrified about getting up in front of a room full of people and giving a prepared speech, the ability to contribute to putting together our signature event was immensely rewarding and a ton of fun.  Filming the opening video for the conference took me way outside my comfort zone but, once I did it, it proved to me that I am capable of more than I previously thought I could do.  Once I moved on to President, being able to lead our organization forward and have a lasting contribution to our industry was equally rewarding and significant.

EPL Perspectives on Coronavirus

As part of our continuing series of PL Perspectives on Coronavirus, we’re focusing in on EPL business lines. We have three EPL experts discussing the possible effects of COVID-19 from underwriting, risk management, and legal perspectives. Thank you to the speakers for their time and expertise!

Listen here to the EPL Perspectives on Coronavirus discussion:

Herman.SarahSarah Goldstein, Managing Partner & Partner in Employment Litigation practice at O’Hagan Meyer

Sarah represents organizations of all sizes in employment-related matters and advises companies on proactive compliance with employment and wage and hour laws. Sarah is an experienced trial lawyer in both the Federal and California Superior Courts, with a focus on harassment, whistle-blower, wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, PAGA and wage and hour matters.

Her litigation practice includes defending employment actions under the Fair Employment and Housing Act including gender, pregnancy, race, ancestry, color, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, wrongful termination claims, whistleblower claims, wage and hour claims, and retaliation matters. Sarah also represents employers in administrative actions before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

In 1998, Sarah received the Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services. An active member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS), Sarah currently serves on the Board of Trustees and is the current board liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  She chaired the Women’s Leadership Network event in Los Angeles in September 2012 and from 2009 to 2011, she served as Southern California Chapter Chairperson.

sgnilek-matt-webMatthew Sgnilek, Partner in the Employment practice at O’Hagan Meyer

Matthew represents employers in a variety of employment cases and administrative actions, including claims for civil rights violations, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination,  American Disabilities Act (ADA) violations, unfair business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, as well as Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA), individual and class action wage & hour  disputes. Matt represents employers in both state and federal courts, in arbitration, and before state and federal agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Matt conducts employee classification audits, payroll audits, HR best practices audits, and workplace investigations.  Matt also provides preventive counseling to his clients and works with them to ensure compliant HR policies and documents are in place..  Matt is a frequent speaker providing seminars and workshops on employment issues, including Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Training to executives, supervisors, managers and human resources professionals.

Kelly ThoerigKelly Thoerig, Managing Director, Employment Practices Liability Coverage Leader at Marsh

Kelly is Marsh’s U.S. Employment Practices Liability and Wage and Hour Coverage Leader and is primarily responsible for manuscripting EPL and W&H policies, leading policy and insurer new product reviews, and drafting endorsements. In addition, Kelly is a claims advocate for Marsh’s FINPRO practice, specializing in complex coverage and claims issues concerning EPL, W&H, D&O, professional liability, crime, and cyber insurance, where she calls upon her prior law firm experience representing insurance carriers in coverage disputes. Kelly frequently presents at industry seminars nationwide on various insurance coverage topics.

The Transitioning London Market

Four insurance leaders discuss the latest trends in the London market and abroad in this podcast. Listen to these experienced practitioners as they talk about changing London market rates, social inflation, healthcare and more.

With perspectives from all across the industry, this recording provides an excellent look at the various factors impacting the London market as well as a discussion on global trends and how markets across the world are faring as we head into 2020.

Hear from these expert speakers:

  • Winsee Chung, Managing Director, Marsh
  • Chris Warrior, Head of Management Liability UK and Ireland, Berkshire Hathaway
  • Jason Collins, Wholesale Co-Head, Tysers
  • Rachel Turk, Head of Corporate Development, Beazley
  • David Nicholson, Specialist Lawyers Underwriter, Beazley (Moderator)

Listen below: