Originally published on March 2, 2020
By: Courtney DuChene
For MAPTYCS founder and CEO Jacqueline LeGrand, the best career advice she ever received was to “take advantage of every opportunity.”
“It gave me the confidence to move from technology to insurance (and back to technology with a vertical industry expertise), from Paris to New York via Porto and Sao Paulo, from the field to senior management positions in various companies,” she said.
“Altogether, it gave me the opportunity to approach the industry from different perspectives and to appreciate the importance of risk management and insurance in society.”
This advice gave LeGrand the courage to leave a tech job at IBM, take on positions in countries from Malta to to Brazil, and eventually it pushed her to start her own insurtech company.
Throughout it all, she’s kept her career focused on keeping her clients safe as they navigate for the insurance landscape of tomorrow and she’s helping prepare future leaders in the risk management and insurance industries to take on those challenges.
“Insurance and risk management are at the heart of much more than we often imagine,” she said.
“It is definitely not a dusty and outdated industry as many outsiders tend to think, on the contrary, it is a profession that echoes the heartbeat of our society, and I feel blessed to be part of it.”
Working from the Bottom Up
LeGrand’s insurance career began at a brokerage firm in Paris over two decades ago. After working in technology for a number of years at IBM, she decided she wanted to try something a bit different and when the brokerage opportunity presented itself, she knew she had to take it.
“I didn’t choose the insurance industry, it was more of a coincidence like it is the case, I believe, for most insurance executives,” she said. “I have enjoyed my work ever since.”
From that initial job at a brokerage in Paris, LeGrand launched a career placing and managing complex property and casualty programs for large multinational corporations. Most recently, she led a European-based brokerage group, a captive in Malta and Brokerslink, a global network of independent brokers.
“I have had the opportunity to work and live in various countries, with people from many different cultural and professional backgrounds, which taught me to always learn and adjust fast, and to be fearless, humble and confident,” she said.
Her career path wasn’t necessarily straightforward, however.
After moving with her family from Paris to the United States, LeGrand had to leave behind a job where she was head of the national account department and a member of the company’s board for an entry level position as an account executive at Crystal & Company in New York.
“Coming to a new country and starting a new career was a challenge,” she said. “Besides the language, the main challenge was the different business cultures.”
LeGrand remained confident, however, that this risk, like the others she had taken in her career, would pay off. By the time she left, she had worked her way up to become managing director of Crystal, managed the international department of the company and received the company’s Chairman Award for best employee in 2009.
“By the time I left, we had built a solid international organization and I even started to enjoy American football,” she said. “I’d say it was a challenging yet ultimately successful transition.”
Bridging Insurance and Technology
In 2016, LeGrand decided to bridge her love of the risk management and insurance industries with her background in the tech world by founding MAPTYCS, an insurtech company that provides businesses with an advanced risk analytics platform to help risk managers and insurance professionals visualize risk exposure and map their assets portfolio against perils.
“It is the perfect storm for us: the risk landscape has dramatically transformed because of globalization, climate change and technology. Natural threats and man threats are more complex and pervasive than ever. With the growing complexity of risks and the explosion of external data, technology is the only way for risk professionals to make better decisions,” she said.
“The market is moving fast from IT: Information Technology to IT: Insight Technology… and nobody will look back.”
MAPTYCS uses expertise from risk and insurance professionals, big data technology and a cloud-based geographic information system to allow risk managers to draw strategic insights about CAT risk zones, real time weather data and even political risks.
The platform draws data not just from a company’s portfolio, but also from government agencies and emergency response organizations, FEMA flood risk zones, fire stations and other sources.
“I feel that I am working with different generations both within MAPTYCS and in the insurance industry, digital natives and seasoned tech and risk professionals,” LeGrand said.
“It is fascinating and refreshing as I can contribute to the transformation of the risk industry, which will more and more rely on high tech and high touch. Technology will also be more attractive to young talents in our industry.”
Currently, LeGrand is focused on raising the profile of her company within the risk management and insurance industries and accelerating it’s development.
MAPTYCS has been working with companies, including AXA U.S. and Revlon, for the past three years while developing partnership with major data providers including IBM and The Weather Company.
LeGrand says company leaders want the platform to make it easy for risk managers to transition to using new technology solutions while also meeting the expectations of the risk management industry.
“Nobody would dispute the importance of technology but it involves changing behaviors, sometimes drastically, and companies wrestle unsuccessfully with their staff and this well-kept secret, because it is easier said than done,” she said.
“We are constantly evolving the platform to meet the expectations of today’s risk management industry, whether it’s predicting CAT events like floods and fires, or even political risks.”
Looking Towards Future Generations
As she’s grown in her career, LeGrand has looked for ways to support future generations of risk and insurance professionals.
In 2014, she founded the non-profit the Women Leadership Team which helps young women interested in the insurance industry find female executives to mentor them. The launch event for this organization was attended by executives from around the world and included speeches from World Economic Forum leaders.
Helping women go from entry-level positions to leadership roles will be key to closing insurance’s gender gap. A 2018 McKinsey & Company report found that while women make up 56% of entry level positions in the insurance industry, they only make up 30% of vice president positions and 18% of the C-suite.
Closing this gap will be critical if the industry has any chance of fending off the impending talent crisis. A Risk Management Society Study found that only 16% of insurance professionals think there will be enough talent to serve the industry’s needs by 2025.
With the U.S. Census Bureau predicting that by 2024 there will be 173.9 million women and 167.08 million men in the U.S., women will play a key role in closing that gap.
“We need to attract your talents in our industry, and it is critical that the industry better communicate on its positive contribution to the society and economy, invest in new technologies, and embrace diversity,” she said.
“Inclusion is the basis of a livelier and more collaborative environment that combines different perspectives with new ideas to solve complex problems, innovate more or make difficult decisions for business.”
Investing in diversity is a personal issue for her. She’s married to a Euro-Asian man and is raising two American daughters of French and Asian heritage.
“You can imagine how we were immersed in a diverse environment at home,” she said.
“I didn’t realize how unique that was, but looking back I appreciate how this has shaped all of us to enjoy an ever changing world and develop empathy for the people we engage with.
“In my experience, I find it very enriching to work with colleagues from different cultures, different genders and different generations. It broadens our discussions and always brings new perspectives to the table,” she added.
She offers the young women she mentors the same advice that has guided her throughout her career.
“Be bold, be bright. Be brave, be great,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to take the opportunities when they arise and make the best out of them.” &