How Karen Griswold Found Her Path in Chubb Marine Insurance

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

When Karen Griswold graduated with a B.S. in marketing from Penn State University, her first foray into the business world was to become an executive retail buyer in a large department store.  It didn’t take long before she realized it wasn’t a path for her.

She took an informational interview with someone she knew at the Marine Office of America Corp. who suggested she consider participating in their marine insurance training program. 

“I didn’t have a maritime background, my family didn’t even own a boat, what did I know about marine insurance?” Griswold said.  

“I started as an underwriting trainee assigned to the marine unit,” she explained.  “I did 18 months rotating in inland marine, cargo, hull and marine liability and then generalized insurance training through their professional training program and was assigned to a cargo unit in New York as an ocean cargo underwriter.”

It was a fascinating journey, according to Griswold. 

“As part of the training I learned about mechanical supplies, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and livestock.  There was no box you could put yourself in, it was changing all the time.”

Cargo itself was different, Griswold found she had to have a geopolitical sense. 

“One day China, another day Brazil, and I had to look at how cargo was shipped weighing variables, such as the value of freight, the price of the boat, whether it will operate inland or on the ocean, and the laws and regulations of countries where the vessel might travel,” she said. “It was fascinating.”

Her career spanned everything from cargo to hull and liability to tugboat and marine facilities.  She learned about different classes of marine business, too. 

Thirty years later, Griswold is an executive vice president in Chubb’s Ocean Marine Division, and she still finds she learns something new every day. 

“It’s a vast insurance world, that’s what I find so exciting and interesting, whether it’s the political impacts of shipping, to global trade laws, different issues in distinct ports, it’s constantly changing and evolving,” she said.

In her current role, Griswold overseas it all: ocean marine, hull, cargo, liabilities, and marinas business.  Depending on the day, one might be more interesting than the other. 

“That’s one of the things that challenges me the most in my position.  “I pick up the paper and find out what’s happening in the world, the political complexities, and how that impacts the way we transact business.”

Education is very important to Griswold, which is why she has been involved with the American Institute of Marine Underwriters (AIMU) since the beginning of her career.  She started attending their educational programs as a trainee.  Over the years, she has sat on the hull and finance committees and currently serves as AIMU’s Director of Finances.

“AIMU’s President John Miklus has been a great champion of women, and for the industry in general,” she said.

Griswold also is involved with the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and sits on their policy forum committee that monitors all the global marine issues impacting the industry. 

“I believe it is a great privilege to be a woman in the maritime industry; there are not a lot of us,” she explained.  “There’s a natural camaraderie between us.  For a while, I was the only woman at various events, different organizations, and committees.  That has changed throughout my career.  It’s an incredible field for people.  The gender diversity has increased over the last couple of years and has been encouraging to see.”

Griswold, who celebrated her twenty-fifth anniversary with Chubb, attributes her success to the mentors and sponsors throughout her career – both men and women. 

“We need to raise women, not only in the marine industry but in business overall,” she said. “Just being a female in a heavily male-dominated group is a challenge.  I’ve been lucky; I’ve been treated fairly, and my experience has largely been positive.  Though it has been challenging as a mother, raising children in a male-driven industry, finding that balance.  But I’ve had a tremendous amount of support.”

Griswold, who spends a fair amount of time sponsoring women inside and outside the industry, noted that more diversity is needed.

“Being a champion is important, to showcase some of that talent,” she said.  “When women see others like them, it’s more empowering to have that bond, that ability to see people like themselves and develop and grow and consider safe spaces.  It’s important to showcase those women and their talent.”

While Griswold didn’t have the benefit of sponsorship among senior women, she did have great male sponsors along the way. 

“Those men helped me find my voice and my path forward,” she said.  “We must help other women to find their voices.  We must help each other, empower ourselves, and not create a competitive environment.”

Griswold pointed to the value of Chubb’s business roundtables, which are employee resource groups that offer mentoring and networking.

“We need to find compatibility, friendship, mentoring groups,” she said. “Women need to forge their career paths and find their niche in this field.  There is strength in numbers.”

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